Legal guide for remote commissioning

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Remote commissioning has gained in importance in mechanical and plant engineering due to the pandemic - also in NRW.

The corona pandemic has changed many things - including commissioning. For export-oriented companies from the mechanical and plant engineering sector, this requires adjustments to processes. Due to travel restrictions, on-site commissioning could not be carried out by the commissioning company as usual. As a result, many companies discovered remote commissioning - often for reasons initially related to health and safety. Quickly, many companies found that workflows, customer service and effort could be improved while costs were reduced. It is already becoming apparent that remote support will continue to play an increasingly important role in commissioning and acceptance in the future.

Many companies in the mechanical and plant engineering sector are uncertain about the legal consequences of virtual remote commissioning. For this reason, the VDMA legal department, in cooperation with the international law firm Osborne Clarke, has drafted a legal guide with sample contracts to counter these and other legal uncertainties in the industry. ProduktionNRW held a virtual event on this guide on September 13, 2021, to introduce the tool to the mechanical and plant engineering sector in North Rhine-Westphalia.

A preliminary survey of participants showed that many already have experience with remote commissioning, but at the same time there are greater uncertainties with regard to possible liability issues. For Dr. Stefan Janssen, VDMA legal department, this is evidence that the technical implementation of remote commissioning in many companies is ahead of the legal safeguarding. Virtual remote commissioning does not represent a new legal field, but rather aspects of civil law and public law have to be taken into account.

Martin Launer, Dipl.-Ing. (FH), lawyer and partner of the international law firm Osborne Clarke, and Dr. Stefan Janssen then presented the legal guide. First of all, they said, it is important to define remote commissioning within one's own company. Once this definition has been worked out as precisely as possible, a legally secure framework can be developed. Based on this, civil law and public law issues must be taken into account:

  • In civil law, the first step should be to coordinate with any existing supply contract, non-disclosure agreements or insurance contracts. Under the "remote commissioning contract", the scope of the company's own activities, the type of contract or the limitation of liability should be legally defined.
  • Under public law, legal issues relating to product safety, foreign trade, tax or customs law should be considered.

Based on this, the guide contains suggested definitions for remote commissioning, remote consulting and remote access for the respective company. In addition, areas of responsibility are defined for the company's own staff as well as for the staff on site at the customer's premises. In addition, the guide also takes into account legal aspects of data protection, such as the DSGVO and IT security, or other security-related issues. The guide also addresses liability issues, such as defects that arose during installation of the system, undetected defects during commissioning, or the exclusion of liability.

The legal guide for virtual remote commissioning is currently being finalized. The released document can subsequently be purchased from VDMA and is available in German and English.

Organizer

The event was offered by ProduktionNRW. ProduktionNRW is the competence network of mechanical engineering and production technology in North Rhine-Westphalia and is carried out by VDMA NRW. ProduktionNRW sees itself as a platform to connect, inform and market companies, institutions and networks among each other and along the value chain. Significant parts of the services provided by ProduktionNRW are funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).