Each of the European countries has an established system within its contracts for monitoring and controlling the quality of asphalt works. These involve particular roles for asphalt producers, contractors and public (highway) authorities in the establishment of the acceptability of the finished asphalt road. In each country the existing practices are firmly embedded in the contractual system and in the employment pattern of technical experts in the supplier and client enterprises.
The formalised arrangements of Quality Assurance set out in the EN ISO 9000 series of standards have become widely employed over the last decade or so and have led to a better understanding of the importance of quality management, as opposed to quality control. In some countries these systems have been used in the certification of organisations and/or products.
The EU, in the Construction Products Directive, involves a form of quality system, described as “Factory Production Control” to be used to demonstrate the conformity of products with requirements in standards related to its “Essential Requirements”.
The industry is convinced that an optimal implementation of Quality Assurance will lead in many situations to a significant reduction of testing by the client, because better use is made of skills, knowledge and experience in the industry in providing guarantee that the product fulfils the requirements.
The general requirements of the EN ISO 9000 standards may need some interpretation before they can be applied to a specific industrial application such as asphalt production. At the simplest level this can be by an individual asphalt producer in relation to his own operation by using his own quality manual, containing details like inspection and test frequencies.
Where, however, certification is being used to ensure a common minimum standard of quality assurance in a particular sector (which could be all the plants operating in one asphalt company or all asphalt plants in a certain market area, state or country) then a schedule of some kind is almost essential. Such a schedule needs to determine those specific activities, inspections, kind and frequencies of tests, levels of competence etc. deemed essential in reaching the required level of quality.
If an additional schedule is used the ISO certificate remains the same, but the value that can be contributed to it changes.
As indicated, regulatory applications of certification require schedules to ensure a common standard. The CPD has taken this into account by requiring that Harmonised European Standards include the appropriate mechanisms as “Systems For Factory Production control” (FPC). These FPC documents are quality system schedules covering the scope of the CPD. The CPD guidance recommends that FPC standards should be based on EN ISO 9002. The scope of FPC is however somewhat narrower than that of a ISO 9002. This is principally because CPD covers only the manufacture of products whilst EN ISO 9002 covers both manufacture and selling. Thus EN ISO 9002 includes a significant series of requirements for ‘Contract Review’, the process of ensuring that the customers requirements are fully understood and are translated through to delivery, which are missing from CPD FPC.
The similarities between FPC and EN ISO 9000 quality schedules are however very great.
In 1994 EAPA indicated in a statement on CE marking that the industry has a preference for system 2+ for the produced asphalt mix as the least onerous, for the Attestation of Conformity System. In such a system the Declaration of Conformity of the Product and the Initial Type Testing is done by the manufacturer with certification of the FPC by an approved body.
In this same statement it is indicated that all characteristics of the asphalt product have a relation to the so-called Essential Requirements, and should therefore be covered by the harmonized part of the European standard.
The asphalt industry must consider the impact of the introduction of regulatory certification on its activities. Whilst there are considerable benefits, there are also costs to be taken into consideration. These benefits can only be optimised and the overall costs minimized if certification is taken into account in the contract systems related to asphalt works. Otherwise the costs of certification ( not of QA) are simply added to the existing quality costs and the certification arrangements can come into conflict with the existing contractual quality arrangements.
If certification of asphalt is taken fully into account in the contractual system there are identifiable benefits. These benefits are felt by both the public and private sectors.
Throughout the consideration of certification for asphalt it is clear that any regulatory system is of true value only if its effectiveness is recognised and accepted by the client. And preferably by all clients. They will clearly need to have considerable confidence in the certification system before agreeing to a significant reduction in their own activity.
The necessary recognition by client engineers can only be achieved if they are fully involved in the development of certification systems. It is believed that this is possible only to the preparation of quality schedules, interpreting the requirements of the EN ISO 9000 series of standards into the language of asphalt production and laying, by joint agreement between the supply and client sides of the road sector.
Given agreement between both sides of the industry there must then follow changes in the contractual quality arrangements to take into account recognition of the certification of production or laying activities.
* There is a growth in EN ISO 9000 certification in most EAPA member countries.
* In some cases this is a voluntary activity driven by individual companies or by the national asphalt industry. Main aims are to obtain management and marketing tools.
* In several countries certification of asphalt is becoming a regulatory requirement, usually by mutual agreement between suppliers and clients.
* The EU Construction Product Directive contains requirements for Factory Production Control which are effectively regulatory requirements for system or product certification.
* The impact of the CPD will tend to accelerate the development of certification for asphalt.
* The applications of certification to a common standard in any market area requires a special asphalt schedule as part of EN ISO 9000.
* Effective quality schedules can be produced only be the joint action of the supply and client sides of the road sector.
* If the positive aspects of certification are not taken into account in contract arrangements its introduction will increase the overall cost of asphalt roads.
1. The requirements being introduced through CPD may mean that zero certification is not an option. The CEN driven development of FPC seems to be a good basis for a common schedule. It should be strived for that as many as possible QA elements are in the FPC to avoid that an additional scheme is needed as part of the EN ISO 9000 certification.
2. The position summarized above means that the industry as a whole must take the subject of regulatory forms of certification very seriously. If regulatory certification systems are introduced, which do not give existing clients real confidence, then they will become simply a meaningless additional cost to the industry. They are therefore to be avoided. The choice for the industry is thus between certification systems of real substance, giving confidence to the client and being built into contract arrangements and no regulatory certification at all.
3. Barriers to trade that may result from individual developments in several countries are to be avoided, by creating as much as possible common European wide schemes, preferably as part of CEN standardized FPC.
4. As much as possible, and as early as possible, converging activities should be combined.