In 2020 the European Organisation for Technical Assessment (EOTA) will celebrate its 30th anniversary. Ahead of this milestone, we caught up with Sergio Vazquez Jimenez, secretary general of EOTA, to see how the organisation is still aiding the fastener and fixing industry today.
What is EOTA and what are the organisation’s core activities? How is this relevant to the fastening industry?
“EOTA is a non-profit organisation which – for the last thirty years – has used the scientific and technological expertise of its members – the Technical Assessment Bodies (TABs) – to develop and adopt harmonised technical specifications. In other words, EOTA offers companies the opportunity to add CE Marking to construction products that are not, or not fully, covered by a harmonised standard – formerly according to the Construction Products Directive (CPD) and now according to the Construction Products Regulation (CPR).
EOTA coordinates the procedures for the request of a European Technical Assessment (ETA) and for adopting European Assessment Documents (EAD). EOTA also informs the European Commission (EC) and the Standing Committee on Construction of any questions related to the preparation of EADs and suggests improvements to the EC based on its vast experience.
We also ensure examples of best practices are shared between our members to promote greater efficiency and provide a better service to the industry, and we make sure that adopted EADs and references to ETAs are kept publicly available.
We really believe that the ETA route is a wonderful tool not only for large companies but also for SMEs. Our goal, mission, and task, is to support the access of manufacturers, including small and medium enterprises, to the European market.
The fastener industry is not only a core industry for the construction sector, but also one of EOTA’s most important and long-standing partners. Almost 15% of the European Assessment Documents that have been developed by EOTA are for the fastening industry and more than 30% of all ETAs have been issued within this product area.”
What does your role at EOTA involve?
“The EOTA secretariat monitors the EAD development and once they have been cited in the Official Journal of the European Union we make them publicly available on our website. My work day involves a lot of meetings, with our executive board, the General Assembly, the Commission services and other partners and construction industry stakeholders. The core of EOTA is the technical work we do, which is handled by our technical board chair. Here in the secretariat, we support her tasks as much as possible.
My background is that of a technical architect, but I hold a second degree in economics. I started as a quality manager in the construction sector, then as a building manager and then after six years I decided to take up the challenge to join the public administration in Spain. My aim was to gain experience in managing large projects, not only from the technical point of view but also from the economic point of view.
Later on, I was offered the chance to represent the Spanish Council of Technical Architecture (CGATE), which represents some 55,000 Spanish professionals in several international organisations. It was then that I realised the next natural step for me would be working in an international organisation and EOTA gave me this opportunity in July 2017. I must say that handling the EOTA projects has been my most challenging experience so far. I enjoy the international environment and also the high-level of expertise and professionalism the people I get to work with bring to the construction sector."
What are some recent developments at EOTA and why are they important to the fastening industry?
“We have recently converted some fastener related ETAGs into new EADs. This also concerns the famous ETAG 001. The old ETAG consisted of six parts and has now been subdivided into three new EADs. From a technical point of view, the content remains the same.
The new EADs are:
This conversion required a huge amount of work from us, our members, and the European Commission, and the plan is to move forward with this conversion approach until all ETAGs that are still relevant for the construction sector have been converted into EADs.
Another recent development is a new working group, which has been created within EOTA – we call it the ‘Expert Group Fixings’. We launched this in July 2019. The idea is to bring together experts from the entire fixing industry, and of course, TABs and associations, in order to discuss and promote innovations in the fastener industry.”
How does EOTA define innovation, and can there be innovation through EADs?
“Absolutely. Let’s talk about fixings first of all – we think that as part of one of the most dynamic industries, fixing companies have brought lots of new impulses and innovation to the construction sector through the EOTA route for the last 30 years. At EOTA, we see a lot of evolution in the systems and products the fixing manufacturers bring to us, as well as higher performances, for example in the form of additional product features or increased working life.
Three innovative EADs have been developed recently:
A look at EOTA’s assessment work shows that innovation in the construction sector, along with CE Marking for novel products, happens mostly in two ways. The first is when a manufacturer decides to place a completely new construction product on the market for the first time. The second, and in my opinion the more relevant one, is when a manufacturer wants to place a construction product on the market with new or with improved features. This form of innovation is usually related to strong and well established industries such as fixings.
Both kinds of innovation – the more obvious and the silent one – are catered for by the voluntarily route of the ETA.”
What is the process of applying for an ETA?
“If you are a manufacturer or their authorised representative, you can apply for an ETA with any TAB of your choice that is designated in the relevant work area. The TAB will provide you with the relevant application forms.
For the ETA request, you will be asked to provide the following information:
If you can, you should also indicate whether your product is not, or not fully, covered by a harmonised standard – which is a prerequisite for the ETA. If you are not sure the TAB of your choice will help you.
The chosen TAB will then inform you about its general terms and provide you with a price quote. If you agree with the conditions, you will sign an agreement of confidentiality and commercial secrecy with your TAB. You will then need to provide the TAB with a comprehensive technical file of the product to be assessed.
It is helpful if you include any research, tests or other technical assessment results you might already have. Depending on the characteristics for which you wish to declare a performance, you and the TAB of your choice will jointly determine and agree on a work and assessment programme, which will take into account all relevant and already existing harmonised technical specifications. The results of the assessment will be stated in the ETA.
A draft of your ETA will be circulated among all EOTA TABs designated for the relevant product area for consultation and input. You will also be able to comment on the draft ETA and suggest modifications. The TAB is then responsible for issuing the final ETA.
The ETA is the basis for the Declaration of Performance (DoP) and the CE Marking, which you are required to draw up/affix to your product in accordance with the CPR.
The European Commission is also informed about every ETA request. References of issued ETAs are published in a public database kept by EOTA, which can be found on our website.”
What have been EOTA’s defining moments in its 30 year history, and what does the future hold?
“For me this is not a difficult question. From my experience, our markets need EOTA and the ETA. They are important tools for winning the trust of customers and other construction industry stakeholders and for promoting the use of novel products. Any system can be improved, especially in complex environments such as the construction sector, but EOTA has provided a relevant service to the internal market ever since 1990.
I had the opportunity to meet with the first secretary general when I started my role here at EOTA. He explained to me the difficulties EOTA had faced over the years. One crucial moment was when the old Construction Products Directive was replaced by the current Construction Products Regulation (CPR), which was adopted in 2011 and fully entered into force in 2013.
As the approach and technical needs were completely different, we and our industry partners had to overhaul the way we worked. At present, there is again a lot of discussion and loads of workshops around the future of the CPR. EOTA and its members are very happy to support any improvement to the existing system.
However, we also feel that the construction industry needs a reliable and stable legal framework to tackle the challenges ahead. Making the construction sector smarter, greener and more sustainable, will take a lot of inventiveness and effort from construction product manufacturers. Providing them with an effective system to place their novel products on the internal market will be key for achieving these important objectives.”
Will joined Fastener + Fixing Magazine in 2007 and over the last 12 years has experienced every facet of the fastener sector - interviewing key figures within the industry and visiting leading companies and exhibitions around the globe.
Will manages the content strategy across all platforms and is the guardian for the high editorial standards that the Magazine is renowned.