|ASTM International’s Standards Development Process Vital and Ever-Improving
The following is adapted from a speech delivered by ASTM Chairman N. David Smith at ASTM International’s annual business meeting held in Reno, Nev., on May 18.
Having now attended several ASTM International Committee Weeks as part of my duties as chairman, having given the Award of Merit to so many deserving members and sat in on several executive subcommittee meetings, I am continually struck by the breadth of activities in which ASTM is engaged through its technical committees. And I am pleased to be able, at this annual business meeting, to confirm what you most likely already know from your own experience as a participant in the standards development process: ASTM continues to be a vital organization because of your dedicated efforts in developing market-relevant standards that are used around the world. Here are some examples.
ASTM International Committee Activity
Already this year, two new technical committees have been formed. The first is Committee E56 on Nanotechnology. Nanotechnology is an emerging field that has been referred to as the next industrial revolution. The first step for the new Committee E56 is to develop a terminology standard. For this work ASTM is partnering with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, NSF International, Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International, the American Institute of Chemical Engineering, and the Japanese National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, which is Japan’s largest research institute.
Another new main committee, F40 on Declarable Substances in Materials, has been organized to respond to a European Union directive that will require all manufacturers of electronic and electrical equipment sold in Europe to reduce the use of six specific hazardous substances by July 2006. This legislation will have an economic impact on the manufacture, distribution, and sale of household appliances, information technology and telecom equipment, electric tools, toys, and lighting. By developing much-needed technical standards, F40 will save considerable testing costs in the global marketplace, and it will provide a coordinated effort and consensus documents for this purpose.
In addition to two new main committees, several new subcommittees began work in 2004. I’ll mention just a few that have the potential to improve the lives of millions of people:
• F04.37, part of Committee F04 on Medical and Surgical Materials and Devices, is addressing implantable, direct-drive hearing devices that can provide greater amplification, higher fidelity, and higher frequency performance than conventional hearing aids or implants;
• F04.05 is working on documents for computer-assisted orthopedic surgery; and
• D22.08, part of Committee D22 on Air Quality, is developing standards for measuring mold found indoors.
ASTM’s longstanding committees are still vital. 2004 marked centennials for four such historical groups that continue to provide
invaluable standards development services to their industries.
• D02 on Petroleum Products and Lubricants,
• D05 on Coal and Coke,
• D07 on Wood, and
• E05 on Fire Standards.
We congratulate these committees on 100 years of accomplishment, and wish them continued success as they enter their second century of international standards development.
In addition, last year ASTM’s Cement and Concrete Reference Laboratory celebrated 75 years of programs that promote the quality of construction material laboratory testing.
Interlaboratory Studies Program
As you know, accurate statements about the repeatability and reproducibility of standard test methods are crucial to their quality. To assist ASTM committees in their work to develop precision and bias statements for their test methods, the board of directors has committed $4 million over the next five years to a new interlaboratory studies program. The new program will provide administrative support and assistance with:
• Identifying participating laboratories;
• Overseeing the generation and distribution of samples;
• Collecting data; and
• Generating precision and bias statements and research reports.
An ILS pilot program is now under way.
On the international front, ASTM continues to expand its memorandum of understanding program with national standards bodies around the world. To date, 35 MOUs have been signed. MOUs strengthen the relationship between ASTM and national standards bodies, and then allow ASTM to assist these countries in their standards development and adoption efforts. Thus far, 14 national standards bodies have asked to place technical representatives on various ASTM committees and almost all MOU participants have reported using ASTM standards either by reference or as equivalents.
Outreach in China expanded again last year with a historic MOU signed with the Standardization Administration of China. This is the first such agreement by a leading U.S. standards developing organization and SAC. In conjunction with the signing, a U.S.-China Standards and Conformity Assessment Workshop was held in Beijing that featured presentations from ASTM committee members on the global steel market and on standards for gasoline, diesel, and aviation fuels.
In addition, Zhang Li Hong, vice director of the Standardization Division of the Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision, interned for two months at ASTM headquarters on behalf of the Shanghai Institute of Standardization. Later this year, two other interns from China will spend time at ASTM Headquarters.
In 2004, ASTM, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the American Petroleum Institute, and CSA America formed the Consortium on Standards and Conformity Assessment to enhance American-Chinese cooperation in standards and conformity assessment. The CSCA office, supported by almost $400,000 from the U.S. Department of Commerce as well as other funding, opened in Beijing in February, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony scheduled in Beijing on Monday of next week. We are pleased to have hired two experienced professionals for the office Chris Lanzit to serve as executive director and Liu Fei as director of operations.
A Voice in Washington, D.C.
2004 was an important year for ASTM in furthering its presence on the national and international scene. The ASTM Washington, D.C., office has been reopened, and the new Washington representative, Jeff Grove, brings to his position a good deal of Washington-based public policy experience.
By working with U.S. government agencies, ASTM can help ensure that Washington policy regarding international trade keeps in mind the needs of U.S.-based international standards developing organizations.
To increase government awareness of ASTM International and to highlight the successes that ASTM and the federal government have shared in working together, an Open House for Federal Standards Executives was held at ASTM Headquarters last year. ASTM sponsored the program in cooperation with the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Representatives from several U.S. government agencies explored how to build on previous successes at the event.
Training in the Use of Standards
For those of you who are professional engineers, I’d like to note that your participation on ASTM technical committees and attendance at ASTM Technical and Professional Training courses can now help satisfy continuing professional competency or professional development hour requirements for license renewal. In the more than 30 states where a continuing education requirement exists, TPT courses should qualify, and engineers in 26 states also receive professional development hour credit for ASTM membership and participation on ASTM technical committees.
Also in regard to training, I’d like to point out that the training modules found on the ASTM Web site have been reorganized. They now fall into three general categories general ASTM information, member-specific information, and officer-specific information which makes it easier to find what you may need.
Several modules now come in a variety of formats, and in addition to reference guides and presentations that can be downloaded, members can access on-demand tutorials and participate in training workshops by way of our virtual meetings system.
Technology Drives Standards Development
To facilitate participation in committee work, ASTM has implemented a new meeting registration capability, so that members can now register online for multiple committee meetings, symposia, and other special events, and receive confirmation electronically. This service provides:
• Customized views of specific meeting information;
• Meeting and registration information for independent committee meetings as well as Committee Weeks; and
• Easy navigation to meeting schedules as well as general meeting and hotel information.
In addition to standards development work at face-to-face meetings, the number of supplementary ASTM meetings occurring in cyberspace or on the telephone continues to rise.
• Last year, ASTM held 232 virtual meetings for 44 technical committees and the Committee on Standards.
• In the first quarter of 2005, 78 virtual meetings were held, an increase over 2004 that indicates a 25 percent increase for 2005, if the trend continues at the same pace.
• In addition, there were 265 conference calls in 2004, and again for 2005 we predict a significant increase in these calls given that 83 have already been held in the first quarter of this year.
A recent example of the value of this technology is the collection of standards accepted by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, which were developed by ASTM Committee F37 on Light Sport Aircraft in record time, thanks largely to virtual meetings and conference calls.
ASTM’s resources are all geared toward the development of high-quality, market-relevant standards, so I’d like to look at some facts and figures about the work of our volunteer members in creating and maintaining those documents. 2004 was the first full year for work item registration. Three thousand eighty-three work items were registered last year. This registration is an important step in further increasing the level of transparency of ASTM’s standards work.
We felt it was important that withdrawals receive the same level of transparency as new standards and revisions. Approvals actually span a 15-month period, and these work items were registered in 2004 and approved by March 2005. Fifty-two percent of work items registered in 2004 were approved by the end of the first quarter of 2005.
To assist our members in their work, ASTM has developed the online ballot system, through which members use their Web browsers to submit new standards, revisions, reapprovals, withdrawals, and reinstatements for ballot. Radio buttons, menus, and confirmations guide members through the process, which is designed to save time and effort through reducing ballot submission errors. The new submittal system can be found on the same page as work item registration.
Regarding ballots, we’re pleased that ASTM’s electronic capabilities have resulted in increased ballot submissions. Last year, of the 46,709 subcommittee ballots sent, 36,186 were returned, a 77 percent return. Regarding main committee ballots, 63,851 were sent, with 45,423 returned, which is 71 percent. Overall, close to one-third of the standards portfolio had ballot action in 2004.
About 50 percent of the new standards and standards balloted for withdrawal were approved; 90 percent of the reapprovals passed and 74 percent of the revisions passed. This activity shows that ASTM standards are kept up-to-date and that our committees are embracing technological enhancements.
And here are some examples of the real-world results of these figures a few notable standards published over the last year:
• After forming in 2003, Committee E54 on Homeland Security approved its first standard in 2004. Standard E 2413, Guide for Hospital Preparedness and Response, helps answer questions about the minimal levels of preparedness needed for hospitals to deal with large-scale terrorist attacks or other serious emergencies.
• Committee E55 also completed its first standard, E 2363, Terminology Relating to Process Analytical Technology in the Pharmaceutical Industry. E55 brought the pharmaceutical industry into ASTM for the first time and began work in 2004 to develop and adopt innovative process improvements in pharmaceutical manufacturing.
• A third example is the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s acceptance of the first set of standards addressing the design, quality, manufacture, and use of light sport aircraft, just two years after Committee F37 on Light Sport Aircraft began work.
The topics I’ve covered here are just highlights of the breadth of our volunteers’ activities and the depth of ASTM’s support for the standards you develop. I am grateful for the enthusiasm, devotion, and talents you bring to the table to make ASTM’s international standards the best of their kind for global trade and the promotion of health, safety and the environment.
N. David Smith
2005 Chairman of the ASTM Board of Directors