Saturday, 25 January 2020
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Schiffner: 25 years in the service of standardisation

It is a very special anniversary: the career of Dr Gerhard Schiffner as international standardisation expert began 25 years ago.

Dr. Gerhard Schiffner. (Photo: © thyssenkrupp Elevator)

Moreover, the mechanical engineer has been a member of the VDMA (Mechanical Engineering Industry Association) Committee Lifts/Technology for 20 years. This anniversary was reason enough to discuss over 25 years of experience, highlights and expert opinions in the world of lift standards.

VDMA: Dr Schiffner, you began your career in the standardisation world 25 years ago. What was this start like?
Schiffner: On 18 January 1994, I joined CEN/TC 10/WG 1 as a new member. This marked the beginning of my commitment to European, national and international standardisation committees for lifts and escalators. At that time, I replaced Jürgen Kühn from Otis as the manufacturer representative on the behalf of DIN and the VDMA. Claus Gareis, as the representative of the technical inspection organisations was active in WG1 at this time as the second German delegate.

VDMA: Can you still recall your first "baby steps" in the standardisation world?
Schiffner: As the youngster in the WG1, I listened in awe to the older, experienced members in the first one to two years and tried to understand what the technical ramifications were and how standardisation work operated. I learnt a lot from Claus Gareis in particular, who was always a strong advocate of German interests.

VDMA: In 25 years of national and international standardisation, you must have met a lot of interesting personalities?
Schiffner: I did in fact love working with experts from other countries from the start. Some of the experts from other countries who took part in the standardisation group were Luigi Sturchio from Italy, Ruben Karnfält from Sweden, Hans Larsen from Denmark, Roger Bedford from the United Kingdom and of course the long-standing chairman of CEN/TC10, Pierre Bianchini.

Interesting and eventful time

VDMA: Apart from that, there must have been technical highlights too. What were they?
Schiffner: 1994 and the years following it were an especially interesting, eventful time for standardisation work. The first Lift Directive 95/16/EC was on the brink of completion and standardisation experts were eager to see the technical content, which had to be implemented at short notice into the current EN 81-1 and EN 81-2. Two examples of the supplements then added to the standards were the overload installation and the overspeed governor to prevent ascending lift cars from moving too fast.

The overload installation was included in Annex 1 of the Lift Directive among the essential health and safety requirements because a Commission representative, who had worked on the draft of the Lift Directive, travelled in a lift in his administrative building with such a device and thought it played a vital role in guaranteeing lift safety.

VDMA: In other words, without this Commission representative, the overload installation wouldn't even have been included in the Lift Directive?
Schiffner: At the time, the lift experts in WG1 didn’t really consider the overload installation to be a necessary protective device. However, it had to be inserted as a requirement to ensure the standards could be used to meet the Directive requirements.

Deal with this risk

VDMA: Was there a similar reason for the inclusion of the "overspeed governor for an ascending lift car" in Annex 1 of the Lift Directive?
Schiffner: The protective installation for the ascending lift car against overspeed came about due to another requirement in Annex I of the Lift Directive, which required equipment to prevent free fall and uncontrolled upward movement. There was a lengthy discussion in WG1 whether this requirement should only apply to overspeed upwards and downwards or also to leaving the stop. At that time, a German accident analysis had revealed that about 1/3 of incidents with uncontrolled movements were attributable to malfunctions of the lift car at the stop with open doors.

Consequently, the German delegation had already urged action be taken to deal with this risk at the time, but this was rejected by the majority of the other countries. Only with the A3 amendment in 2009 was the protective installation against unintentional car movement adopted in the standard. However, in my view, they went a bit too far with the requirements, which are meant to cover both mechanical as well as electrical errors.

VDMA: Was standardisation always the focus of your professional activity?
Schiffner: No, not really. Initially, the standardisation work was just a side-line apart from my development work. But I was enthusiastic about the interesting and instructive cooperation with experts from other countries right from the start. After a few years, this became the main focus of my work.

VDMA: I believe there isn’t any other expert in Europe, who has taken an active part in the committees for so long, is there? What committees are you working in now?
Schiffner: That’s right. Currently, I’m an active member in the most important working groups of ISO/TC 178 and CEN/TC 10 as well as the DIN Working Committee Lifts (national advisory committee); in three of these working groups I currently also hold the chair.

Extensive experience

VDMA: One could call you currently the "leading standardisation expert" in lift standardisation in Germany. What do you think of being called this?
Schiffner: It’s an honour and it’s probably also true to an extent. After what is now 25 years of active participation in over 100 meetings of WG1 and in many other standardisation and manufacturer committees, I can look back on extensive experience in standardisation and association work. In addition, thanks to my many years of working to develop lift components and systems, I contribute well-founded technical knowledge for helping to configure the standards in the most user- and practice-friendly manner possible.

VDMA: Dr Schiffner, in the name of the entire VDMA Technical Association Lifts and Escalators - thank you very much for 25 years of representing German interests and those of the VDMA as well as for 20 years of membership in the Committee Lifts/Technology.

Ebru Gemici-Loukas, VDMA, conducted the interview

Dr Gerhard Schiffner studied mechanical engineering at the University of Stuttgart. He then worked as an academic assistant at the Institute for Mechanical Handling and Logistics, where he received a doctorate in 1986 in the field of wire ropes. From 1986 to 2004, he worked for ThyssenKrupp Aufzüge in research and development, international product coordination and technical regulations.

From mid-2004 to the end of 2007, Schiffner had his own consultancy for product safety, lift technology and lift regulations. From 2008, he was once again employed at thyssenkrupp Elevator and responsible for technical lift regulations and product safety. Schiffner is a member of various national, European and international standardisation committees.

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