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Digital Product Passport. Protect essential knowledge and know-how


16 Aug 2021


Innovation & Enterprise

In future, the digital product passport is to include all important environmental and material data of a product along its entire life cycle. VDMA sees opportunities and challenges in this concept and calls for the involvement of the industry.

Brussels/Frankfurt, 12 August 2021 – In future, the so-called "Digital Product Passport" (DPP) is to provide information on the origin, composition, repair and dismantling options, as well as on the proper disposal of a product. VDMA takes a critical view of the comprehensive demands for a Digital Product Passport as currently proposed by the European Parliament. "The digital product passport could mean the disclosure of internal company data and technological know-how, which could prevent companies from innovating and put them at a competitive disadvantage," fears Dr Sarah Brückner, Head of VDMA's Technology, Environment and Sustainability department.

The "Digital Product Passport" project stems from the "European Green Deal" and the "Circular Economy Action Plan" of the European Union. In both strategy papers, a digital product passport is mentioned as an essential instrument for a climate-friendly and resource-efficient economy. A concrete legislative proposal by the EU Commission is planned for the end of the year. The "Digital Product Passport" is also being discussed at the national level in Germany and is mentioned as a central measure in the environmental digital agenda of the Federal Ministry for the Environment.

Small and medium-sized enterprises must not be burdened

"Our concern is that a significant additional bureaucratic burden will be created. Feasible and affordable solutions must be developed, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises," warns Dr Brückner. The purpose of a Digital Product Passport must be defined by policy makers in close cooperation  with industry in a bottom-up approach. This should be done considering in-depth studies on the contents of the passport and an impact assessment of costs and benefits. The DPP should be tested in smaller fields of application before it is widely used.

The choice of appropriate climate and environmental parameters is essential. The product passport should only contain necessary information to avoid exposure of product knowhow and to keep the effort for companies within reasonable limits. Data management is expensive. Industry-driven solutions must be possible, in particular to take into account differences in products and information needs and to allow for tailor-made designs. "A one-fits-all approach is not a solution," says Dr Brückner. Another prerequisite is that the digital infrastructure and easy-to-use digital solutions are available - in the companies, but also at the communication service providers and authorities. "The DPP should remain digitally lean," demands Dr Sarah Brückner.

Machine and plant manufacturers see added value

Finally, the question arises whether the Digital Product Passport can meet the market's demands for more transparency if it is designed correctly. "If an instrument is created that passes on central information in the sense of climate neutrality and the circular economy, and at the same time enables new business models and services that allow conclusions and learning effects for the industry, a great added value can be created for the machinery and plant construction industry," states Dr Brückner.



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