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ASTM International

A New Name, A Longstanding Commitment

You may have caught glimpses of it—comments in previous issues of SN, in the ASTM catalog, in other communications from Headquarters. After 103 years of success as an international standards developing organization, ASTM is clarifying its name to reflect what has been its mission for over a century. ASTM is now ASTM International. This new identity celebrates ASTM’s position as a leading standards developing organization with worldwide participation and acceptance.

While this is a change in name only, it better represents the truly international way ASTM has operated all along—international in how our standards are developed as well as where and how they are used. With 30,000 members from over 100 nations, and almost 40 percent of our standards distributed outside the United States, many could argue that the shift to ASTM International is long overdue.

According to President Jim Thomas, ASTM is international not only in name, member participation and standards distribution, but most importantly in the manner in which it operates.

“ASTM’s method of developing standards is based on consensus without borders,” notes Thomas. “Our process ensures that interested individuals and organizations representing academia, industry product users, and governments alike all have an equal vote in determining a standard’s content. Participants are welcome from anywhere on the globe.”

Thomas underscored his position even further during a speech at the 10th International IFAN Conference of Standards Users last fall in Berlin, Germany. Thomas noted, “ASTM makes participation in the standards process easy. It openly admits technical experts from companies all over the world. Our technical membership is growing, and as the nationalities of global companies become less distinguishable, so it is with many of our technical committees. They can no longer be characterized as American. They are citizens of the global marketplace.”

As core documents of trade, standards must reflect the commitment of the organizations behind them, the expertise of the stakeholders who gather to write them, and the needs of the marketplaces that use them. ASTM has long embodied these forms of quality, consensus, and relevance. Our standards are widely known to be drafted and published with the greatest concern for technical and editorial quality. The regulations that govern the activities of ASTM technical committees have for decades ensured that the hard work of consensus-building takes place within a fair division of producers, users, and general interest stakeholders. And finally, the bottom-up structure of standards-developing leadership within ASTM, wherein the technical committee members themselves determine the need for a new standard, gives market relevance to the end product of their labor.

ASTM International believes that these core values, of which stakeholders from around the world may take advantage, define the future of the international standard. As Thomas said in his speech to IFAN, “I believe that ‘quality and relevance, accepted everywhere,’ is the mantra of the possible, the present, and the future.”

A Member Perspective—The Services You Need

Several longstanding members of ASTM, who have seen the organization grow and prosper and have witnessed its international influence reach further each year, echo these values.

One of those members, James Seay, president of Premier Rides in Millersville, Md., has seen the enormous progress ASTM has made internationally though the eyes of his committee, F24 on Amusement Rides and Devices.

“Technological advances of the last decade, combined with economic and political changes, have broken down boundaries, bringing the world closer together,” notes Seay. “Our organization, like many others, now has the opportunity to do business on a worldwide scale in a global market. Standards can play a vital role in aiding global trade and ASTM has been instrumental in facilitating the development of standards that can be used on a worldwide basis.

“The work of the F24 committee is a great example of how successful ASTM has been in facilitating international standards development. Our committee can work together 365 days a year, online and in real time to develop standards. ASTM has taken the critical technological and operational steps to make this process inclusionary, enabling all members from all parts of the globe to work closely together. ASTM is very much an organization dedicated to worldwide presence—it opens its doors and facilitates dialogue that leads to international cooperation and progress,” adds Seay.

One of the recent steps Seay refers to that ease the participation for interested professionals from around the world is the development of the Internet-based Standards Development Forums. This innovative use of online technology serves to blur national boundaries by leaping past the traditional limitations of travel budgets and time zones. Using the Forums, members may participate in the development or revision of posted standards 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

ASTM has also launched Web balloting, allowing members around the world to vote on standards actions online, without the delay of mailing printed ballots. This latest use of Internet technology closes the circle: from document templates available online that help users write standards in ASTM format, to Standards Development Forums, through Web balloting, the entire ASTM process is open to members around the world.

Another member who has contributed greatly to extending ASTM’s reach internationally is A. Ivan Johnson. An active ASTM member since 1942, Johnson served at the U.S. Geological Survey for 31 years as a Water Data Coordinator. Since 1979, he has worked as an independent groundwater consultant. In his frequent travels abroad Johnson has played a missionary role in introducing ASTM and its standards development processes into a number of developing countries throughout the Middle East and Africa.

“During my travels organizing and conducting international symposia on groundwater sciences, I have found many developing nations, particularly in Africa, who are in need of standards and methods in a variety of environmental areas,” comments Johnson. “ASTM’s openness and inclusive processes enable them to get involved in the standards process and bring much needed methods into their countries.

“In nearly 60 years I have witnessed tremendous growth in both the use of and participation in ASTM standards throughout the world. The name change to ASTM International serves as an affirmation of that success,” adds Johnson.

Open House for Latin American and Caribbean Countries

ASTM’s message of international cooperation took center stage at a two-day open house at its Philadelphia-area headquarters in late November. The event brought together leaders of the National Standards Bodies from Canada, as well as from countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Countries that sent representatives include: Argentina, Barbados, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, St. Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, and Venezuela. (Click here for coverage of this event.)

Memoranda of Understanding

In an effort to work with developing countries, ASTM has recently signed memoranda of understanding with the Colombian and Uruguayan national standards bodies.

The MOU with the Instituto Colombiano de Normas Tecnicas y Certificacion (ICONTEC) was signed on Oct. 16, 2001, to enhance the ability of ASTM International and ICONTEC standards to support the needs of the Colombian people, continue growth of the Colombian economy, and aid in the development of Colombian national standards for health, safety, and the environment. Fabio Tobon, the executive director of ICONTEC, and ASTM President Jim Thomas were the signatories.

The MOU will promote communication between the two organizations and increase awareness of standards development activities. “The development, endorsement, and implementation of this agreement brings with it the promise of long-term mutual benefits for ICONTEC, ASTM, and the constituents they both represent,” Jim Thomas said. Together, ASTM and ICONTEC will review the MOU on a yearly basis to ensure that it meets its stated goals.

In late November 2001, Thomas spoke at the Workshop on Conformity Assessment Systems in the U.S. and Colombia at ICONTEC’s headquarters in Bogota. The title of his presentation was “The Standardization System in the U.S. and Its Relationship with Technical Regulations.” Tobon was present at the November Open House at ASTM Headquarters. In January, Mr. Tobon began a three-year term as a member of the ASTM Board of Directors.

An agreement between ASTM and the Uruguayan national standards organization, the Instituto Uruguayo de Normas Tecnicas (UNIT) was signed by UNIT’s Director Pablo Benia and ASTM’s Jim Thomas on Nov. 14, 2001. The U.S. Ambassador to Uruguay, Martin J. Silverstein, and the President of Uruguay’s Engineering Association Eduardo R. Alvarez, were present for the signing. The MOU will promote communication between the two organizations, promote knowledge of the standards development activities of each organization, and strengthen the Uruguayan national standards system. During ASTM’s visit to UNIT in Montevideo, Jim Thomas addressed a conference of 150 engineers with presentations on ASTM standards and their importance in the commerce of the Americas.

Technical Committees

ASTM’s technical committees, which represent industry fields ranging from metals to the environment, have a long history of international activity. Most recently, ASTM’s Committee D01 on Paint and Related Coatings, Materials and Applications and its International Organization for Standardization (ISO) counterpart signed an MOU highlighting the acceptance and use of globally accepted standards, such as those of D01, to meet the needs of all stakeholders in the paint and coatings industry, without recourse to duplication of effort within ISO. (See the December 2001 issue of SN for coverage of this MOU.)

Other ASTM technical committees such as D30 on Composite Materials and F24 on Amusement Rides and Devices have recently launched significant efforts toward increasing international participation on their standards development activities as well as promoting the international use of their standards. Both committees are utilizing ASTM’s online capabilities, which allow users around the world 24/7 access to the standards development process, from draft development to acquiring the resulting standard. (See the March and August 2001 issues of SN for coverage of D30 and F24’s efforts, respectively.)

New Logo and Tag Line

Along with the name clarification to ASTM International, our logo has been enhanced graphically to underscore the international message. In addition, the tag line “Standards Worldwide” will be incorporated as part of the revised logo.

“This new logo treatment conveys our international message effectively, while not diminishing our brand recognition, which ASTM enjoys in all corners of the world,” notes Barbara Schindler, director of ASTM Corporate Communications.

Dr. Kishore Nadkarni, formerly of ExxonMobil and an active member of Committee D02 on Petroleum Products and Lubricants, summed up the significance of the change to ASTM International with the following comment.

“ASTM has always been the premier standards writing body around the world,” comments Nadkarni. “A lot of blood, sweat, and tears have gone into making ASTM the successful international organization that it is. This name change legitimizes what many people around the world have known for a long time.” //

Copyright 2002, ASTM