TÜV Rheinland: Pursuing Technical Progress
Whether you’re flying over the Atlantic, taking the elevator, or shopping on the Internet, you have to rely on technology. But just how safe are the products, systems, and processes involved? As an economically and professionally independent testing service provider, TÜV Rheinland offers answers to this question since the company was founded almost 150 years ago. Our experts check whether existing safety standards are complied with in all major spheres of work and everyday life – and also bring their own standards to bear to ensure the responsible development of technical innovations.
The roots of TÜV Rheinland date back to the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. In the 19th century, steam engines were increasingly replacing manual labor, including in Germany. This automation fueled the economic boom and enabled production to skyrocket. At the same time, industrial production also carried the risk of serious accidents. The newer the technology, the more inexperienced the operators. Although government-imposed controls were put in place early on, the responsible officials in Prussia and other German states were not specially trained to enforce these. The industrial companies themselves therefore took the initiative to set up the first technical inspection associations at the regional level.
Pionieering work for the economy
1872 saw the birth of the Verein zur Überwachung der Dampfkessel (an organization to inspect steam boilers) in the districts of Elberfeld and Barmen, Germany, an association that would one day grow into TÜV Rheinland. Fittingly, the general nature of the association’s work is similar to that of TÜV Rheinland’s work today: Economically and technically independent tests performed by specially trained engineers to increase plant safety and allow companies to keep pace with technological developments. These additional private-sector controls also relieved government authorities of some of their burden (and continue to do so today). After 1872, private technical inspection associations were officially entrusted with the implementation of state control tasks; to use the jargon of the sector, these tasks are ‘loaned out’ (i. e., outsourced). This led to increasing success – the number of boiler explosions dropped drastically, which also coincided with an increase in production output.
Making people’s lives safer is a principle that has permeated the entire development of TÜV Rheinland from regional auditor to international group. The advance of industrialization made the reliable and responsible use of innovative processes, products, and production facilities increasingly important. Accordingly, the scope of the testers’ tasks rapidly expanded. Alongside steam boilers, the focus in the 20th century would turn to power plants, tank facilities, elevators, and motor vehicles. Consequently, the Rheinish Boiler Inspection Association (DÜV) developed into the Technical Inspection Association of Cologne, and, finally, TÜV Rheinland. It then expanded to assume a Germany-wide presence – and an increasing international focus.
Remaining constant in changing times
As the economy has globalized, so too has TÜV Rheinland has expanded its scope of action. The challenge is to ensure quality and safety for more and more new products and technologies in more and more new markets. The Group is committed to that aim, currently engaging more than 20,500 employees, numerous subsidiaries in Germany and many other countries around the world, and a global network of testing centers and laboratories to ensure it is met. Now that we are at the threshold of the fourth industrial revolution, we are faced with fascinating questions: How can self-controlling industrial systems and the Internet of Things be inspected? What do privacy and information security mean in today’s digitally networked world? How can new forms of energy supply and mobility be implemented in an environmentally and consumer-friendly way?
Global standards for new technologies are needed to minimize the risks inherent to using innovative products and processes. 150 years ago, steam engines were made safer through the work of TÜV Rheinland; today, the Group ensures greater safety and security for renewable energy storage, autonomous driving, networked industrial plants or artificial intelligence, to name a few examples. However, TÜV Rheinland not only conducts individual tests, but also oversees complex processes and projects. Industrial plant or hospital planning, or occupational health management within companies are examples for such comprehensive operations.
Responsibility towards people and the environment
As a technical partner of businesses, government agencies, and organizations, TÜV Rheinland currently provides quality and safety control in nearly every sphere of economic and personal activity, from the energy industry, to environmental engineering, rail engineering, and IT, to the consumer goods sector. This task entails a special responsibility, one that the Group takes very seriously. The entire test system itself is therefore subject to strict rules and controls. It rests, among other things, upon the high level of education and personal skills of our employees and the independence of the tests. People or companies pay for TÜV Rheinland’s testing services. However, the test results remain impartial and cannot be purchased. This goes for driver’s licenses and vehicle inspections, as well as for product testing and industrial plant monitoring. Our impartiality is ensured through the organization of our company and strict government oversight, among other things. In Germany, TÜV Rheinland’s work is monitored by state and federal authorities, among others. The Group holds over 780 accreditations worldwide (also known as ‘licenses to test’), which are issued by third parties – in most cases, public authorities.
As of June 2021