“The aim is to safeguard and protect products throughout the world better than ever before.”


The core task of TÜV NORD GROUP is and remains to protect people against the risks and dangers arising from technology. The Group has experienced three industrial revolutions in its almost 150 years of history. Now, in our modern era of networks and networking, it is also a matter of making factory machinery, motor vehicles and household appliances (smart homes) safe. This is the commitment of the new face at the top of the organization – since 1 January 2017, Dr Dirk Stenkamp has been the Chairman of the Management Board of TÜV NORD GROUP. Stenkamp also holds a visiting professorship at Shanghai Maritime University and is a member of the Executive Committee of the German Institute for Standardization (DIN). Diplomatisches Magazin interviewed him.

Dr Stenkamp, in your view, is Germany sufficiently well-prepared for Industry 4.0?

Yes, most certainly! At the largest industrial trade fair in the world in Hanover, a new beginning was definitely in the air. A few years ago, German automation specialists almost believed they had missed out on the IT and high tech industries that originated in Silicon Valley, but in Hanover they were absolutely full of new-found confidence. Europe, and especially Germany, has succeeded in placing itself at the very forefront of these industries – with great digital products, and with companies ranging from start-ups to large-scale enterprises. The world is again looking to Germany to show what will happen in this area in future.

How is the work of TÜV NORD changing?

Our traditional activities use independent inspection and testing in order to protect people and the environment from possible damage by technology. But now we must also protect technology against remote attacks by cybercriminals who try to access and manipulate valuable data, or to steal it. Today, alongside traditional technical safety, IT security also has to be assured and capable of being tested. Security must also be guaranteed for artificial intelligence, and we are preparing for this already.

IT risks are increasing due to industrial espionage and hacker attacks. How well is Germany equipped to deal with this and what can TÜV NORD contribute?

Germany’s excellent reputation for safety, security and quality makes us a competent global partner when it comes to setting standards for data protection and secure IT infrastructures. With the new German IT Security Act, specific security requirements for critical infrastructures have been formulated in Germany for the first time, and this is the initial basis for protection of vital services within our society. The TÜV NORD response to the desire for greater industrial safety combined with information security is “Security4Safety”. With this, we are taking a holistic approach to smart product safety and security along the entire value creation chain. Based on cyber risk analysis, all digital interfaces are identified in order to derive individual protective measures. The aim is to safeguard and protect production plants and products throughout the world better than ever before.

Particularly in Asia and the USA, digitalization of society is already more advanced than in Germany, while other countries still seem far away from the digital boom. Which way should we go to ensure that a large part of society can benefit from the advantages of digitalization?

Investment in education and training is essential in order to make the best of the enormous opportunities offered by digitalization. Children need to learn to understand computers at school. Older skilled employees have to become qualified in the digital aspects of their work. If smart homes and the intelligent factory are to become reality, fast and mobile internet connectivity is essential – also outside large towns and cities. Rapid introduction of new mobile communications standards like 5G is important so that in future large volumes of data generated by autonomous driving, Industry 4.0 and eHealth can be processed in real time.

Speaking of autonomous driving – it is not only industrial plants that are threatened by unauthorised manipulation from the outside, but also motor vehicles, which increasingly resemble computers on wheels. How can drivers learn to accept these innovations and trust the technology?

We are very committed to the theme of cybersecurity in vehicles. Manipulation of vehicle data can present a real danger to life. TÜV NORD is working in a wide variety of committees on establishing uniform standards for the development and evaluation of safety systems in vehicles. Establishing safe communication with the vehicle environment is also a very demanding task. We are involved in the investigation of automated driving on building sites. And we are also supporting the new urban test track for on-road automated and connected driving on the well known street “Straße des 17. Juni” in the heart of Berlin.

A look inside your company: What does TÜV NORD have to do to keep pace with technological change?

Globalization, demographic change and digitalization mean we have to offer new tests and other services to our clients. Testing of products with an IT interface which sends data into the cloud, new certifications and protection of companies and public institutions against cyber attacks are only a few examples. The know-how of our workforce, our continuous contact with our clients and our global presence form the basis for development of intelligent test procedures, vehicle technologies and for use of new materials. And last but no least we have undertaken a structural reorganisation in order to create flatter hierarchies that allow us to react faster.

And now from the birds-eye view back down to earth: what will day-to-day life be like at TÜV NORD over the next decade?

Nowadays sensors already supply data from plant, machinery and vehicles round the clock. This will fundamentally change the way in which we monitor plant and equipment. We have just opened an “Innovation Space” in our facility in Hamburg. In multidisciplinary teams and together with our clients, we are asking questions like: where is the use of virtual or augmented reality really helpful? Or: how can we assure the quality of 3D printing processes? The different perspectives of the people involved often reveal new opportunities for use of technologies in further projects.

How do you motivate and qualify your own workforce on the road to the digital future?

We let our staff know that digitalization is already a part of their work today. Tests on lifts are in some cases already performed digitally, and sensor data from vehicles are read out via the OBD (On Board Diagnosis) vehicle interface. We promote new ideas and invest in our workforce in a targeted way – making them fit for the challenges of the digital transformation of our organization in our Digital Academy, which was specifically established for the purpose.

Besides innovation and digitalization, globalisation is also playing a decisive role. To what extent is TÜV NORD also equipped to face the future on the international stage?

We are active on behalf of our clients with a workforce of 13,000 in more than 70 countries in Europe, Asia, America and Africa. Last year alone, we opened a photovoltaics laboratory in China and a new product testing lab in Pune in India. We have acquired an optoelectronics company in Scotland and begun a cooperation with the largest manufacturer of railbound vehicles in China, CRRC. On the other side of the Atlantic, we recently established our subsidiary TÜV NORD MOBILITY in Canada – where in addition to technical vehicle inspection and exhaust gas testing, we want to offer services to clients of the company UBER. Our Natural Resources business unit has just established its new location, DMT Middle East, in order to intensify the operative business with regard to coalmining in the region. And this list could be longer. Our expertise is valued highly throughout the world and is increasingly in demand. “Made in Germany” is still the best-known label on the international stage when it comes to safety, security, quality and reliability.