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About Standardization

1. What is a standard?

1.1. Definition of a standard

The international guide, ISO/IEC Guide 2:1996, defines a standard as a document, established by consensus and approved by a recognized body, that provides, for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines or characteristics for activities or their results, aimed at the achievement of the optimum degree of order in a given context.

1.2. Content of a standard

Standards are varied in character, subject and medium. They :

cover several disciplines: dealing with all technical, economic and social aspects of human activity and covering all basic disciplines such as language, mathematics, physics, etc.; are coherent and consistent: standards are developed by technical committees which are coordinated by a specialized body, and ensure that barriers between different areas of activity and different brands are overcome;
result from participation: standards reflect the results of joint work involving all competent parties concerned and are validated by consensus to represent all relevant interests: producers, users, laboratories, public authorities, consumers, etc.;
are a living process: standards are based on actual experience and lead to material results in practice (products- both goods and services, test methods, etc.); they establish a compromise between the state of the art and the economic constraints of the time;

are up to date: standards are reviewed periodically or as dictated by circumstance to ensure their currency, and therefore evolve together with technological and social progress;

have a reference status: in commercial contracts and in court in the event of a dispute;

have national or international recognition: standards are documents which are recognized as valid – nationally, regionally or internationally, as appropriate : are available to everyone: standards may be consulted and purchased without restriction.
As a general rule, standards are not mandatory, but are for voluntary application. In certain cases, implementation may be obligatory (such as in fields connected with safety, electrical installations, in relation to public contracts, etc.).

1.3. The role of standards  

A standard represents a level of know-how and technology which renders the presence of industry to its preparation indispensable. A standard is never neutral.

It is a reference document used in particular in the context of public contracts or in that of international trade on which the majority of commercial contracts rely.

It is used by industrialists as the indisputable reference, simplifying and clarifying the contractual relations between economic partners.

It is a document that is being used more and more by jurisprudence.

For the economic players, the standard is:

a factor for rationalization of production: the standard makes it possible to master the technical characteristics, to satisfy the customers, to validate the manufacturing methods, to increase productivity and gives operators and installation technicians a feeling of security;

a factor for clarification of transactions: faced with overabundant product or service offers which may have extremely different practical values, the existence of systems of reference enables one to better assess the offers and to reduce uncertainties, to aid in the definition of needs, to optimize supplier relations, to do without additional testing;

a factor for innovating and developing products: to participate in standardization work enables one to anticipate and therefore to make one’s products progress simultaneously. Standards play a favorable role for innovation thanks to transfer of knowledge;

a factor for transfer of new technologies: standardization facilitates and accelerates the transfer of technologies in fields which are essential for both companies and individuals (new materials, information systems, biotechnology, electronics, computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM), etc.);

a factor for strategic choice for companies: to participate in standardization signifies introducing solutions adapted to the competence of one’s company and equipping oneself to compete within competitive economic environments. It signifies acting on standardization, not enduring it.

1.4. Types of standards 

Four major types of standards can be cited:

  • fundamental standards which concern terminology, metrology, conventions, signs and symbols, etc.;
  • test methods and analysis standards which measure characteristics;
  • define the characteristics of a product (product standard) or of a specification standards which service (service activities standard) and the performance thresholds to be reached (fitness for use, interface and interchangeability, health, safety, environmental protection, standard contracts, documentation accompanying products or services, etc.);
  • organization standards which deal with the description of the functions of the company and with their relationships, as well as with the modeling of the activities (quality management and assurance, maintenance, value analysis, logistics, quality management, project or systems management, production management, etc.);

1.5. Life cycle 

A standard generally comprises seven major phases:

Identification of the needs of the partners: analysis per sector of the appropriateness and of the technical-economic feasibility of normative work on the basis of two determining questions: will a standard provide a technical and economic “plus” to the sector? Is the necessary knowledge required for the drawing-up of a standard available?

Collective programming: reflection on the basis of the needs identified and the priorities defined by all of the partners, then decision to register in the work program of the organization involved;

Drawing up of the draft standard by the interested parties, represented by experts (including producers, distributors, users, consumers, administrations, laboratories, etc. as relevant), gathered together within standardization committees;

Consensus of the expert concerning the draft standard;

Validation: wide consultation, at the international and/or national level as appropriate, in the form of a public enquiry, involving all of the economic partners in order to make certain that the draft standard conforms to the general interest and does not give rise to any major objection. Examination of the results and of the comments received. Finalization of the definitive text of the draft standard;

Approval and publication of the text as a standard;

Review: application of a standard forms the subject of a regular assessment of its relevance by the standardizing body, which makes it possible to detect the time when a standard must be adapted to new needs. Following review, a standard may be confirmed without change, go forward for revision or be withdrawn.

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1.6. Copyright and right to use  

National standards:

The standard is a collective work. The national standard is programmed and studied under the authority of the national standards body. It is published by the latter. Unless otherwise specified, it is therefore protected, as early as at the draft standard stage, by a copyright belonging to the national body. In Ethiopia, it is the Quality and Standards Authority of Ethiopia.

International standards:

From the stage of Committee Draft (CD), international standards are protected by the copyright of the international standards body (ISO, International Organization for Standardization; IEC, International Electro-technical Commission, OIML, International Organization for Legal Metrology, ARSO, African Organization for Standardization, CAC, Codex Alimentarius Commission). The exploitation right of this copyright is automatically transferred to the national standards bodies which comprise the membership of ISO, IEC, OIML, ARSO etc, for the purpose of drawing up national standards. Each draft International Standard and each published International Standard bears a copyright statement with the international copyright symbol, the publisher’s name and the year of publication.

Reproduction of standards:

Unless otherwise specified, no standard or part of a standard may be reproduced, recorded or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and microfilm, without the written consent of the national or international standards body concerned.

Use of public networks, including the Internet:

At all levels – national, regional or international – the national standards body must be consulted prior to the opening up of any public or private electronic network (Internet, Intranet or similar) aimed at disseminating, transmitting or exchanging texts or parts of texts of standards, within the framework of standardization work. Whatever the case, there is a strict obligation to follow the recommendations of the international or national body concerned whenever public or private networks are used.

2. Regarding standardization

2.1. The role of standardization 

Standardization is today recognized as being and essential discipline for all players within the economy, who must strive to master its motivating forces and implications. 20 years ago, it was the reserved field of a few specialists. Today, companies have integrated standardization as a major technical and commercial element. They are aware that they must play an active role in this field, or be prepared to accept standardization which is established without them, or without consideration of their interests. Various factors have combined to produce this trend:

The quality requirement

Born in the 50s, the quality requirement has taken on an increasing importance and asserts itself more and more as a determining factor of competitiveness. While today it is easy to compare prices, it is much more complex to compare levels of quality. The existence of a unanimously recognized quality system of reference, constitutes a very precious clarification tool. The standard plays precisely this role.

The technical and technological evolution

Another very positive factor for the expansion of standardization is the emergence of new techniques and technologies. All the techniques which concern information, its processing and its remote transmission (data processing, telecommunications, information highways, etc.). involve the setting up of networks. As for other network-based techniques (electronic transmission), their development depends on acceptance by the users of common rules which facilitate interoperability. In the economy of developed countries, these techniques play a considerable role, as is attested by, for example, the increasing expansion of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI).

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