Making the Grade

CE marking is an important indicator of European health and safety standards, a marketing advantage and a company’s trade passport.

After a manufacturer has passed a conformity assessment, the CE marking must be affixed to the product, a “declaration of conformity” signed by a manufacturer official must be included with each shipment, and the exporter must maintain a “technical file” containing the paperwork that proves conformity to the CE marking directives.

A product with the CE marking, sometimes called a “trade passport,” can travel freely throughout the EU, which the U.S. Department of Commerce describes as one of the most hospitable climates for U.S. investment.

Recently, two GSE manufacturers took the steps necessary to put the CE marking on their products and are glad they did.

Breaking the ice in Europe
Looking to export equipment worldwide, Ground Support Specialist (GSS) LLC chief manager Rudy Yates sought the CE marking as an option package for the company’s international aircraft deicers, and in early March, GSS’s first truck shipped to Europe. The process began at the end of the summer in 2008.

For consultation and product assessment, GSS contracted SMP — The Swedish Machinery Testing Institute, which was founded as a government agency and is today a share holding company owned by the Swedish government. SMP was recommended by JBT AeroTech, which markets and sells GSS trucks outside the United States.
“If you are not familiar with the regulations,” Holmgren says, “it’s easy to miss something or needlessly spend money on an expensive solution because a standard is misunderstood.”

The CE marking test methods usually differ from those required in the United States. For example, GSS had to do noise and vibration tests that they otherwise would not have had to do.
Despite the extra testing and product documentation, Yates believes any company that takes the extra steps to put the CE marking on its products is better off.

“The process was rewarding because it allowed us to look at our equipment in a different light,” he says.

To grow his business, Yates hopes to add the CE marking to other ground support and industrial equipment at a later date.

A mark of customer confidence
For AERO Specialties Inc., the decision to put the CE marking on its products was customer-driven.

“We received quote requests asking if our equipment had the CE marking,” says Bob McMichael, AERO Specialties vice president of sales and marketing.

Requests from throughout Europe, especially from Romania, combined with what looked like a growing European business aviation market prompted AERO Specialties to follow the necessary requirements to put the CE marking on everything it manufactures. Tow bars and heads from AERO Specialties all have an engraved CE mark (and there’s no extra charge assessed). CE versions of lavatory and potable water carts as well as oxygen and nitrogen carts involve different build processes and come with an additional CE fee. For example, all carts include a battery and a charger, but chargers work on different voltage systems in different countries.

AERO Specialties hired TÜV SÜD America, a testing, inspection and certification organization, owned by TÜV SÜD in Germany, to determine the applicable directives for each product line and test against them to make certain the products measured up to the safety standards.

“There are thousands of directives,” McMichael says. “They were too confusing to try to figure out on our own.”

Most of the issues TÜV SÜD pointed out were safety-oriented and, as a result, were incorporated into all AERO Specialties carts, McMichael says. In general, he says some standards were stricter, but some — like the color of a ground wire — were just different.

AERO Specialties worked with TÜV SÜD on lavatory and potable water carts for about five months in 2006. Subsequent lines took less time because AERO Specialties knew what to expect, he says. The company makes dozens of different products and had representative products from each product line tested and then extended CE compliance across the product family line.

Many of the requirements were about labeling. Operation manuals and their content also were specified.

Making the required changes has been worthwhile, McMichael says, because the CE marking provides a big marketing benefit and has allowed AERO Specialties to attend the European Business Aviation Trade Show. Even outside the European market, he says, the CE marking has a positive effect because it demonstrates a product has been through rather strenuous and strict safety testing.

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