CE marking (aka Conformite Europeenne) has been around a while. Companies that trade products within the vast majority of the European Union are required to have their products documented, tested and certified before a sale can take place.
Purchasers of goods in Europe are unable to trade products that do not carry the certification where it has been implemented nationally.
Until now, the UK and the Republic of Ireland have not made the CE marking of construction and building products mandatory for sale within the UK and Ireland. As it is currently under the Construction Products Directive, implementation is optional and not mandatory. Under legislation currently going through European Parliament, the Construction Products Regulations, CE will become mandatory, even for products sold entirely within the UK, from 1st July 2013. Compliance will be enforced by Trading Standards in the UK.
So what does this mean for tender writers in the construction industry? Well, it only applies to building products so if you are a supplier of services then there is no need to worry. For any manufacturer or distributer of actual construction products, however, the situation is different. From mid-2013, as a supplier or buyer of construction products that have not been CE certified, you are in effect breaking the law if you buy or supply unmarked and untested goods. This means that not only must you mark to supply to your buyer, you must ensure you buy CE compliant materials (where applicable) for your manufacturing activities or if you are a distributer of construction products.
Whilst some companies invested early in CE marking because of the competitive advantage it brings and wider markets it opens up to, many UK-trade only manufacturers have ignored it as unnecessary expense. Unfortunately, it is now a necessary expense, and not a cheap one at that. It is not possible to give even a guesstimate of the cost of CE marking your products – it really is ‘how long is a piece of string?, but it is something that you need to start costing and researching now in preparation for the inevitable. Alternatively, you can start early under voluntary marking (as of January this year).
The situation is clear then that as a supplier of construction products, your tenders will be required to show that the relevant testing has been carried out and that your products comply with the law. The earlier your marking is implemented, the better value your tender will appear to the buyer. As we are in a kind of limbo zone at the moment, any tenders that incorporate a contract period beyond July 2013 should really involve only CE marked products or a clear promise that this is being arranged. The earlier your products are tested and marked, the more attractive your tenders will be to potential purchasers. In addition, for longer-term contracts, you may find that it is more challenging to progress beyond PQQ stage if there is no mention or evidence of product certification. The conclusion is clear, the earlier you start looking into these new laws, the more prepared you will be for implementation and the more successful you will be in the tender writing arena.