Shaping the history and the future of IDIS Association
For IDIS, Jovan Vujasinovic
Dieter Brunner was the President of IDIS Association for almost ten years and also the President of ESMIG. He was the Chief Executive Officer of Iskraemeco Group and President of the Board of Directors at Iskraemeco. He has held various executive positions at ABB, Gutor, APC Industrial Systems and Landis+Gyr and is an active member of Swiss and German engineering societies.
After having withdrawn from the position as the President of the Association and delegating Mr Klemen Belec as a board member on behalf of Iskraemeco, Brunner shares his thoughts about IDIS and his vision for the Association for decades to come.
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For IDIS, Jovan Vujasinovic - 29 October 2020
What was the strategy of IDIS Association when you became President, and how much of it was a success?
When we started this idea, the general point was to provide and serve mid-sized and small utilities. All of this started with the big tenders in Scandinavia. Customers realised, after the first round of projects were implemented there, that they would be locked in with the manufacturers. We, the manufacturers, also realised that, if our competition won, we wouldn't have another chance for the next ten years. We have also seen that, in the big projects, customers should have at least two, if not three suppliers of meters. That was the moment when we started this whole IDIS idea, working on a consortium together on the smart meter rollouts, and discussing a lot of things about standardization. How can we make things work together? And this is how the idea of IDIS was born.
Then I said "Okay, here we have IDIS, but the huge utilities will decide to go their own way. They will not listen to only one association. But most of the mid-sized and small size utilities needed some help. There was not enough knowledge available to those utilities about Smart meters." That's why we started IDIS, and I think we have been quite successful.
There have been three manufacturers at the beginning, and later we got Elster as a fourth member. After that, we got Sagemcom, but also companies like Meter&Control, which proved that even small companies could do IDIS certified meters. So, this was the evidence that IDIS is an open association. All the manufacturers who have the will and make an effort can join. Meanwhile, when you look at how many meters have been certified, how many manufacturers have been certified by DNV-GL, I think it has been a success.
Who are the most represented IDIS users at the moment?
Many utilities in EMEA are using IDIS certified equipment. We have utilities in Poland, Sweden, in the Balkan area as well as in Switzerland etc . At the beginning, before the first project, we made many workshops with Customers. This is the reason why we accelerated at that time. There have been some complaints from the companies outside of IDIS. They said that those tenders were not open, etc. Then some of the utilities changed the tender to a more neutral wording. But later, due to the fact that IDIS is based on the IEC standards, these problems were solved, and utilities began to formally require IDIS specification and certification in the tenders, for example, Switzerland, Belgium etc.
IDIS Association today consists only of manufacturers. Voices are being heard that it should also be open to utilities.
It was a deliberate decision to limit the membership to the manufacturers as an industrial association. As the way to move forward, we needed every member to fully commit to the specification to be decided on. Besides that, every member had to bring a certifiable meter in order to make sure that members do not just say what should be done and then let others do it. On the other hand, we listen to utilities. Utilities need to have a better understanding of specification; they need to be more engaged, and then they could become advisory members. As advisory members, they would give additional weight to the Association, and it would make it more interesting for the manufacturers.
At this moment, IDIS has three founding members, five members with full rights, and the membership is expensive. Expanding the membership options to small and medium manufacturers with limited rights could be attractive.
It is possible, but it needs to be defined. I would be happy to have more members in IDIS. It is understandable that some struggle with the cost of the membership, but money is not the biggest point; it is the amount of work they would have to invest.
Which brings us to the question of the future of IDIS, and how you see it?
This has been the fundamental question for the last three years. Should we grow? In which direction should we grow? Should we stay as we are now?
I think that we should grow the association , but we also have to find the balance and maintain a clear focus on what we are doing.
We need more engagement from members, not just budgets. In order to make next steps, we need a workforce to get things done. We have been brainstorming ideas, such as to professionalize IDIS board members and employ a technical director and staff. Obviously, there is a lot of work to do. There should be a visible structure with operations and strategic integration. So, this could be the turning point.
So, you think that the time for action is now.
It is. Initially, we had planned a day to discuss strategy at the General Assembly in March this year, and it didn't happen because of COVID. Then we moved it to the summer, and we held the General Assembly online, so the strategy meeting didn't take place.
Since some of the certified manufacturers are from China, would it be good to have IDIS specification in China?
In smart metering, international companies cannot participate in tenders in China. Only manufacturers which are majority-owned by Chinese residents can. So, it wouldn't make sense to include utilities from China in IDIS Association. Regarding Chinese manufacturers, there are clear rules: they need to have certified meters.
To conclude, in ten years IDIS has reached a sufficient critical mass of both certified devices and manufacturers, and utilities, which are using that equipment and all the benefits that IDIS provides.
There are opportunities for further development and expansion of IDIS in the basic area of smart metering, as well as in other areas such as smart grid, electric vehicles, renewables, smart home, etc.
For further growth, investments and workforce are necessary. The first can be achieved by expanding the membership, and the second by professionalizing the association, i.e. by forming an operational structure.
Do you think IDIS association should be expanded by the inclusion of utilities? What is your opinion on the possibility of different types of memberships for small and medium manufacturers?
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