OIML R117 ‘liquids other than water’ vote proves to be a historic moment

Voting took place in Chicago on 8-10 April 2014  on the International Organization of Legal Metrology’s OIML R117 standard for ‘Liquids Other Than Water’. Marc Schmidt, Approvals Expert for NMi, was present at the meeting and voted on behalf of The Netherlands, Belgium and Canada.

You are very enthusiastic about the way this meeting went. Can you explain why?
“It turned out to be an extremely useful meeting, in fact the most fruitful meeting in recent years. Never once have we had so many countries represented at an OIML meeting where a new document is generated and approved at the very same meeting. Normally this process can take months and here we did it in one week.”

So a lot was achieved then?
“To be sure. My input in the negotiations was the harmonising of the R117 recommendation with the R137 for gas meters and the R139 for CNG and hydrogen. Having these documents the same makes it much easier for all the parties during the comparing and assessment process. It also means that no separate reports have to be written up in different formats for exactly the same equipment. Less paperwork leads to savings for the customer and it speeds up the certification process. What is important is that we now have the R117-3 test report format. We worked very hard on this during the meeting. After the official publication of the R117 recommendation it will now be possible to issue OIML Certificates of Conformity (COCs). In short, a COC is a summary of the OIML test reports of what has been approved, which is published on the OIML website. Up to now these could only be issued in respect of fuel pumps. Now, thanks to the revised test report format in R117-3, it will soon be possible to have COCs published for the other measuring systems that are listed in R117-2. Likewise in respect of specific components of measuring systems. This is a plus for all the industrial customers because COCs are accepted in many more countries as a certificate then the OIML test report on its own. This means that manufacturers will find it even easier to get their products accepted in other countries.”

24 countries have endorsed the changes to the R117 recommendation which is a fantastic result!

How was it possible that it all went so fast?
“The renewal of the R117 recommendation had been dragging on already for five years and it was high time that it was put to bed. Because of this, there was a great desire to reach agreement at the meeting and to make this official by voting on it. For this reason, a lot of work was done behind the scenes by Ralph Richter, the American who heads the co-secretariat on behalf of the US. He lobbied very hard so that as many as possible of the 26 countries with voting rights could be represented at the meeting. In the event, 12 countries were present at the meeting in Chicago and another 12 were represented by proxy. So all in all, 24 countries have endorsed the changes to the R117 recommendation which is a fantastic result!”

So what deadline had you been looking at?
“We had been working on a deadline of 1 May 2014. If we managed to meet this deadline, the document could be officialised this year. In November this year, a CIML meeting is to take place in New Zealand to vote on these kinds of documents. The CIML meeting is the meeting of the OIML, where final approval is given in respect of the OIML documents. To have the entirely redrafted R117 document ready at this meeting for the vote, it had to be published on the OIML website by 1 May 2014 as a so-called ‘preliminary ballot’. From that time, there’s a period of three months within which the final comments can be submitted. This period is then closed and if everyone has voted in favour of it, the document will be published as the final draft on 1 August 2014. Three months later, on 1 November, the document will be voted on by the CIML at the meeting in New Zealand.“

Why all these three-month periods?
“Countries such as Japan and China will need to have the redrafted R117 document translated in full for their technical experts to study and to comment on it. Their responses then have to be retranslated before they can be viewed by the secretariat. This translation process does take time, hence the three-month periods. There’s not much you can do to speed this up. In many of these countries, the technical experts still only speak their own language.”

How did you come to vote for three countries?
“Apart from the vote on behalf of the Netherlands, I also had the proxy for Belgium and Canada, as it is called in OIML terms. Because of what was at stake here, all of the countries entitled to vote were asked nicely but urgently to provide their cooperation. The message was: ‘If you do not come, you will need to give an authorisation to another country that will be participating in the meeting’. I was in the US in March. The Canadians were there too and it transpired that they would not be present to vote at the R117 meeting. In keeping with the style of the Eurovision song contest, they first looked for a country that was English-speaking and geographically close. This was the specific reason why Belgium gave its authorisation to the Netherlands. Politics undoubtedly plays a role in the granting of such proxies. Cuba, for example, gave China its proxy. When Canada approached the US, it turned out that the US already had two proxies, which was the maximum. So Canada approached me and entrusted me with their vote.”

So political interests definitely come into play?
“Absolutely. This voting takes some doing and it takes a lot of time before you have all the formalities in place. But in the end it all worked out and I am really happy with that.”

What else was on the agenda at the meeting?
“We discussed both R117-2 and R117-3. R117-1 covers the requirements which must be met by the equipment, R117-2 the testing procedures and R117-3 has to do with the ins and outs of the test report format. R117-1 has been there since 2007 and some of the test procedures are outlined in this version. It is due to be replaced by what is now covered under R117-2. A number of sections in R117-2 contain details on the testing of components. There are also sections devoted to the testing of complete measuring systems. Since the publication of the last R117 document on 21 December 2013, approximately 300 observations were received in relation to it. Half of the responses were technical comments, the other half were of an editorial nature. We tried to deal as much as possible with all of the technical questions and comments at the meeting in Chicago.”

What are manufacturers being advised in light of the redrafted R117 standard?
As an issuing authority for OIML, NMi would first of all strongly advise manufacturers to start following R117-2 as from today. It is formally still permitted to opt for the test procedures described in R117-1. However if and when the new R117 document is approved on 1 November 2014, R117-1 will be immediately subject to revision and R117-2 will apply as from that moment. A transitional period of about two years will be allowed for but it would be cheaper and more practical to start using R117-2 at this stage.”

Do you have any queries in relation to this interview or do you need more information on OIML R117? Then please send an email to nmi@nmi.nl.