Growth and Innovation: ASTM International Today
The following is adapted from a speech delivered by ASTM International Chairman of the Board Gregory E. Saunders at ASTM International’s annual business meeting, which was held in Norfolk, Va., on May 23.
IT HAS BEEN ANOTHER GREAT YEAR AT ASTM AND IT HAS BEEN GREAT IN MANY DIFFERENT WAYS. While ASTM International’s staff and board of directors have been engaging in a host of exciting initiatives around the world, it is our members who make this possible. Your expertise delivers technical solutions that serve stakeholders everywhere. And thanks to our membership’s positive momentum and energy, the financial health of the Society is as strong as ever. I am very pleased to report that 2006 was a year in which ASTM International saw very strong financial results. Our publication sales continue to grow and we exceeded our targeted budget goals for 2006. Electronic product sales remain particularly robust, accounting for over 70 percent of publication sales, while print remains a strong part of our business. The international market represents the fastest area of growth for our products, accounting for approximately 45 percent of our revenue. You can review ASTM International’s financial picture in the 2006 annual report, which was mailed as an insert in the June issue of SN, or request a copy of the report from ASTM headquarters.
In reviewing the developments and activities of the Society during the past year, I would like to first mention the 2007 Year of the Student campaign. This initiative includes several important components, starting with the redesign and expansion of the ASTM Campus the popular area of our Web site geared toward college students and faculty. There are four new learning tutorials on various aspects of standardization and ASTM International. These modules are accessible for online viewing and are also available on CD in both English and Spanish.
To enable university professors and instructors to easily and cost effectively include ASTM standards in their coursework, we have also rolled out new standards products geared toward the academic community. With the new “Standards on Campus” product, instructors can incorporate a set of up to 10 ASTM International standards highly tailored to the content of an individual course. Standards on Campus facilitates easy download of designated ASTM standards for just $10 per student. Extending this offering is a campus-wide service option that provides multi-user, desktop access to ASTM International’s entire library of close to 12,000 standards. Through this service, every department or branch campus of a school, regardless of location, can have access to ASTM standards.
Another major component of the Year of the Student campaign is outreach events at major colleges and universities in the United States and abroad. In the first part of this year alone, ASTM staff members, accompanied by technical committee members, have visited the University of California-Irvine, George Washington University, Northwestern University, Old Dominion University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Widener University. Earlier this month, outreach events were held at top universities in Colombia as well. These sessions serve to bring students closer to the standardization process before they enter the workforce.
Outreach efforts such as this have reaped benefits since January, some 500 new student members have joined ASTM International, more than half of which are international students. This brings our total student membership, a category which has only existed since 2003, to over 2,300. Over 4,500 students have become student members since the category’s inception.
This year, ASTM instituted the 2007 ASTM International Advantage Award a paper competition aimed at gathering real-life case studies that illustrate the positive outcomes of ASTM standards. Submissions are due by Aug. 31. Cash awards are $25,000 for the first place paper, $10,000 for second place and $5,000 for third place. We are eagerly anticipating your exciting stories about the benefits of using ASTM standards.
A recent two-part research study commissioned by the ASTM board of directors indicates that efforts such as the Advantage Award are needed to draw out success stories on the use of standards in the corporate world. The qualitative portion of the study surveyed companies across six industry sectors including nonferrous metals, petroleum, consumer products, medical apparatus, construction and plastics. The study did not identify any cases in which a company used a quantitative assessment of the cost and benefit of standards. The research findings did, however, affirm that companies view standards as a necessary requirement for market entry and a component for remaining competitive. Among the cross-sector benefits of ASTM standards identified were:
• Maintaining product quality, reliability and performance;
• Improving market access;
• Developing consumer confidence; and
• Managing regulatory and liability risk.
It is a common complaint that the benefits of standards and standards committee work is not understood or appreciated in the walnut-lined corridors of the executive offices. But the study shows otherwise. The quantitative element of the study surveyed 250 chief executive and senior technical executives at companies across 100 industry sectors. Some of the key findings were the following.
• Seventy-five percent of the executives view standards as having a direct and high impact on organizations in their respective industries.
• Sixty-eight percent of the executives surveyed indicated that they hold a very favorable view of standards.
• Assessing the most important benefits of standards, respondents pointed to the following: quality control and assurance, consistency and uniformity, performance measurement, leveling the playing field with competitors, safety enhancement and improved customer satisfaction.
Local and Global Engagement
During the past year, ASTM International has been engaged in a number of public health and safety-related causes. One notable example includes the Coalition for Fire Safe Cigarettes; ASTM joined this national group of fire service members, consumer rights advocates, healthcare practitioners and other related organizations in this important endeavor. The aim of the CFSC is to save lives and prevent injuries that result from cigarette-ignited fires. ASTM standard E 2187, Test Method for Measuring the Ignition Strength of Cigarettes, plays an important role in this area. Nine states have already passed legislation stipulating that cigarettes sold be “fire safe” in accordance with this ASTM standard.
Turning our attention to the global collaboration front, the past year found ASTM International continuing to build bridges of cooperation throughout the world. At last year’s annual business meeting, my predecessor Anthony Fiorato discussed our ongoing efforts in expanding ASTM’s successful partnership with China. These efforts reached new heights in 2006, highlighted by our historic board of directors meeting in Beijing last fall. The board meeting was the centerpiece of a weeklong series of outreach efforts by ASTM in Beijing that included visits with key Chinese officials in government, industry and academia.
I am also pleased to report that ASTM International has officially opened its own office in Beijing. This expands our local presence in addition to the office of the Consortium for Standards and Conformity Assessment, which opened in 2005.
Other notable global outreach efforts brought ASTM to Japan during the past year, where ASTM President James Thomas gave an address at the International Standardization Forum, which was hosted last fall by the Japanese Standards Association.
In April in Moscow, ASTM International signed an MOU with the Russian Federal Agency on Technical Regulating and Metrology, making it the 48th such agreement since the inception of the MOU program.
And in May, ASTM hosted an Open House at its headquarters for the leaders of 13 national standards bodies from various Sub-Saharan African countries. I was pleased to join Jim Thomas and members of the ASTM staff at this exciting event the fourth ASTM Open House for guests from various regions of the world. In addition to the lively, interactive discussion among the attendees, ASTM International was pleased to welcome speakers from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the International Code Council and a few U.S.-based standards developing organizations.
Where the Work Gets Done: Technical Committees
There have also been major developments within ASTM technical committees. Over the past several years we have seen a number of new stakeholder groups come together under the ASTM International umbrella to begin exciting new standards development activities. Many of these new committees represent cutting-edge industries looking to advance the growth of innovative technologies.
One notable example from the past year is newly formed Committee E57 on 3D Imaging Systems. The use of three-dimensional imaging systems has steadily increased during the past 10 years as the devices have become important measuring tools for use in construction, manufacturing, medicine, mining, transportation and surveying. Committee E57 will focus on the development of new performance specifications and test methods aimed at promoting wider market acceptance of this dynamic technology.
As new technical committees emerge, numerous existing ASTM committees continue to expand their scope as well. This vitality was evidenced in the formation of several important new subcommittees:
• ASTM Committee E55 on Manufacture of Pharmaceutical Products has pursued an aggressive agenda during the past year, issuing a number of new standards and forming a new subcommittee E55.03 on General Pharmaceutical Standards. This new group is already developing several new standards that will help streamline the drug manufacturing process and ultimately improve the quality of products delivered to consumers.
• A new subcommittee that is poised to make a valuable contribution in the area of sustainability is C09.49 on Pervious Concrete. This environmentally friendly technology provides communities with a better solution for storm-water management, while helping to meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations. Newly developed C09 standards will help further the use of pervious concrete.
• In an another development in the environmental arena, ASTM International Committee D10 on Packaging has reactivated Subcommittee D10.19 on Recycling/Disposability. Their upcoming work will focus on the development of a more globally consistent set of symbols on packaging materials related to recycling.
• Further ensuring the health of workers in the construction environment will be the focus of E34.30 on Occupational Health and Safety in Construction. This new group has begun work on standards that will help protect employees in construction- and demolition-related jobs from the risk of harmful exposure to chronic lung disease contributors.
The ASTM staff and the board of directors are firmly committed to providing the best tools, technology and support to our committee members. Recently, ASTM has launched several enhancements to the world-class standards development infrastructure that has become one of the major hallmarks of the Society. One notable example is in the area of electronic balloting and negative vote resolution. The handling of negative votes was made even more efficient during the past year with the introduction of a new online service for handling ballot negatives and comments. The service provides access to ballot feedback via the ASTM Web site within 24 hours of receipt.
Other information technology improvements include:
• The rollout of a new online terminology dictionary;
• The implementation of an RSS news feed showing new ASTM standards, work items and other important developments;
• The implementation of a new core business system based on Oracle technology; and
• The availability of video conferencing capabilities at ASTM headquarters.
ASTM International’s Interlaboratory Studies Program is also continuing to grow. The aim of the program is to assist ASTM committees in their work to develop precision and bias statements for their test methods. Recent development efforts have focused on finalizing the validation of our statistical processing software package used in the processing of study data submitted directly to ASTM. To further support the efficient administration of the program, other enhancements are planned such as the ability to offer all staff managers on-demand status reports of their committees’ programs. As of the beginning of the year, more than 140 interlaboratory studies have been registered in the program.
During the past year, ASTM has released some notable new products. The late-2006 rollout of the new ASTM Digital Library and the ongoing phased addition of new content is of interest to anyone using ASTM standards. Containing electronic versions of nearly all of ASTM’s publications, the Digital Library is a convenient and powerful information repository. Future steps of the multiphase project will include the linking of the Digital Library with ASTM’s expansive collection of standards documents as well as print-on-demand publishing of e-books.
Another new product is the Environmental Due Diligence Portal the first in a planned series of online portal products. This new offering integrates ASTM standards with those from other standards development organizations as well as with regulatory documents from the Code of Federal Regulations, Public Health and Welfare regulations and the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act. Additional portal products are planned for the medical device and transportation sectors.
These initiatives would not be possible without the diligent work of our technical committee members. To all of you, thank you for your participation in creating the great ASTM International standards demanded by industries and governments around the world. Your work makes the ongoing expansion of ASTM’s many outreach and process initiatives possible. //