I think many would like to say yes on that question. Personally, I would reply no without doubt. But sure, they can be slow to read and sometimes they can feel outdated and mossy. But we need them.

What is a standard?

A standard is a collection of rules that create order and make some selections to define different requirements, for example on different materials. It could be to increase and certify a minimum level of safety, comparability or simply to make it easier for the user. Now I think many of you thinks; “What do you mean, easier? A standard is not easy, it is boring to read.”

That is mostly correct, I haven’t read any standard yet that was fun to read, but they surely make life easier for us. The requirements of the standards mean that we speak the same language, for example when we compare results on material tests.

Have you considered that we have a standard to thank for all the so-called A4 paper is the same size? With that standard we only need one size for folders, drawers, and we know which envelope that has correct size etc. Without a standard that specified the size of papers we would most likely have several different sizes of paper that was almost the same but not exactly as A4.

So absolutely, standards make life easier for us, often without us even noticing.

Are standards a new invention?

Standards have existed throughout the history, even if they previously came in a different form compared to what we think of today. Some examples are old coins, weights, and other units of measurement. Most standards have been updated throughout the ages to be adapted to life at each period.

But there is one standard that has been the same since it was created during the Middle Ages. That is the standard for writing musical notes.

Musical notes

How is a standard created?

ISO Logo

As you realize there is a lot of work behind the creation of a new standard before it is accepted and published. Simplified there is a technical committee (consisting of representatives from manufacturer, customer, authorities, testing institutes etc) that presents a proposal. The proposal is distributed for evaluation throughout the national standardization organizations, it is commented and criticised during the different steps, and a national voting take place, partly if it is an interesting standard but also about the content. When all different steps are finished, all changes are done, the draft is finally submitted to a technical committee at ISO (International Organization for Standardization) for the final acceptance and publishing. This can take several years.

The cost for a new standard is mainly financed by the industry and various authorities. It is mainly the companies that will pay for the costs that occurs when they participate in the technical committees. When a new standard is published, all interested parties can purchase their own copy.

Anna Anderzén