At the beginning of July 2013, the revised version of the "soother standard" EN 1400 was published. Being the convenor of the working group in charge, Peter W. Röhrig has borne significant responsibility in the development of those specifications. The CEO of the Viennese baby products manufacturer MAM talks about standards, opportunities and challenges.
In 1976, Peter W. Röhrig decided to aim at combining medical competence, optimum functionality and good design in high-quality baby products. Today, more than 35 years later, MAM is the leading designer brand in baby care. Around the globe, discerning parents opt for MAM products – more than 50 million times a year. According to MAM's founder, this entrepreneurial success story has much to do with standardization: "Safety is essential for baby products – only the very best is good enough here because they are for our most important treasures – our children. When it comes to safety, standards are of great significance as they define fundamental requirements. Not least for this reason, we became involved in standardization activities early on."
By definition, soothers serve to "satisfy non-nutritive sucking needs and to pacify children". This prosaic description hardly does justice to the veritable high-tech products that pacifiers constitute to day. Scientific findings of orthodontics and dental medicine decide on the soothers' design and material properties, clinical studies and the exchange of experiences among international experts underpin this knowledge.
MAM products are developed in close co-operation with medical experts and researchers, and excellent product design meets highest demands with regard to styling and functionality. Numerous awards (Mother & Baby Award, Parents Best of Best Award, Universal Design Award, IF Product Design Award, red dot Design Award, Adolf Loos Design Award and many more) confirm the high quality of MAM products. Hence, they continue a fine tradition – the design of the first MAM soother was already developed at the University of Applied Arts Vienna.
When, in the late 1980s, a national standard on pacifiers was initiated at Austrian Standards, MAM was one of the first enterprises that came on board. After successfully completing that project, Austrian representatives advocated the adoption of a European standard that was eventually published as EN 1400 "Child use and care articles - Soothers for babies and young children - Safety requirements and test methods" in 2002.
MAM's CEO Peter W. Röhrig has chaired the relevant European working group CEN/TC 252 /WG 5 "Feeding, drinking, sucking and similar functions" for many years: "Back then, it was not easy to find a common position. At the European level, there were many different philosophies and several countries placed great emphasis on detailed issues. In the committee, we had the task to strike a balance between the different approaches and chemical and mechanical requirements. At that time, there was no EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) whose recommendations we can use today for our orientation. But we laid very useful foundations. The revision that we completed now again integrated recent findings into EN 1400 so that it again reflects the state of the art."
According to MAM's founder, his involvement in standardization resulted in numerous benefits: "In product development, it is always important to know where problems may arise. Working in standardization helped me very much in identifying what we did not know. The international debates in the standardization committee made it clear to me what can go wrong and we were able to take that into account in development. That is an immensely important fact that is communicated much too little: It is not about accumulating knowledge, but about knowing what you do not know. Ultimately, that enables you to ask the right questions."
Peter W Röhrig demonstrated how knowing what you do not know can be applied in practice in the case of his top product, the MAM pacifier. US accident statistics showed three to four deaths per year because babies – frequently under non-parental supervision – because they got strangled in the cords attached to the ring of soothers. Peter W. Röhrig explains: "When we became aware of this risk, we reflected on how we could minimize it. Warnings printed on the packaging do not reach the intended target persons and on-product information is impossible due to insufficient space. Therefore we decided to eliminate the ring. After all, if there is no ring, nobody will think of attaching a cord to the soother and, hence, there is no potential risk for the baby any more. For this good reason, MAM soothers do not have a ring."
Standardization also constitutes a transfer of knowledge. Access to knowledge and studies raises the quality of products and services or, in the words of Peter W. Röhrig: "Those who take part in standardization have numerous advantages in competition."
MAM BABYARTIKEL GesmbH headquartered in Vienna's Ottakring district forms part of the MAM/BAMED Group that has around 600 employees worldwide. Every year, the Group sells around 500 million premium products globally and is the market leader in the pacifier segment in many countries (Austria, USA, Sweden, France, etc.).
In addition to soothers, the product portfolio includes breastfeeding articles, bottles, cups, teethers, oral care and feeding products as well as accessories. MAM holds 61 design and technology patents, 273 design patents and 8 utility models and is represented in eight international scientific and standardizing committees.