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Spread the Word
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 March 2006 Plain Talk for a New Generation
James Thomas, President, ASTM International

Go to other Plain Talk for a New Generation articles.

Spread the Word

If you have ever tried explaining the value of standards to someone who knows nothing about them, you have probably felt as though you were speaking in a foreign language. Standards make for a good story, as we all know — a great story — but it’s hard to get across in, let’s say, a social gathering where conversations are in snippets and interruptions are minute to minute.

Imagine how much more difficult it is to capture the attention of a top executive of a corporation or a high-level government official. But that is exactly what the ASTM International board of directors and staff are
committed to doing.

One of ASTM International’s most important objectives for 2006 is to expand its outreach to influential decision-makers in both the private sector and government. This is the year ASTM International reaches out with renewed energy to a corporate populace that still isn’t aware of the value of standardization to their companies, industry leaders who don’t know how or why standards increase efficiency and decrease waste, CEOs and vice presidents who are unaware of how easily standards can be made consistent with their goals or how effectively they can open new markets and increase market share.

There are still people in positions of leadership who have a casual knowledge of international standardization, just enough to lead them into preconceived notions, misinformation, and quick standards decisions. Just enough to limit their possibilities and potential for more effective health and safety measures, global success, and greater competitiveness. ASTM International members tell me of the confusion that still exists in their companies and government agencies, confusion about what an international standard is and isn’t. We’re going to make a concerted effort to dispel some of that confusion.

We have a great story to tell. How corporations can benefit from ASTM International’s memorandums of understanding with developing countries – 45 as of this writing. How those agreements embed ASTM standards directly into the national portfolios of these countries and into their technical regulations, making it possible to export products made and tested to ASTM standards. How ASTM standards go before those products, opening doors, opening markets.

Government agencies will appreciate knowing more about the World Trade Organization’s criteria for developing international standards, and how the ASTM International standardization process matches them. We can point out the U.S. Trade Representative’s position within the WTO Technical Barriers to Trade Committee. That position supports our standards system, supports multiple approaches to international standardization, and makes our point to the world body that regulates trade.

We can assure people who trade and who regulate trade that there is more than one way toward success in the global market, more than one way to beat the competition, more than one way to ensure citizens’ health and safety, more than one standards choice in the world. We can urge them to go for the best standard, whatever they perceive that to be. We can point out how easy it is for their personnel to participate in international standards development, how technology has brought standardization to their laptops.

Our information is important to these professionals, and vital to the successful pursuit of their goals. Their collaboration with ASTM International, with 125 countries represented in its technical committees, positions them squarely within the international standardization community. We can tell them that over 3,000 ASTM standards are used in over 60 countries. This kind of information is liberating and enlightening to those who are now assuming they have but one choice, or one source for international standards.

The ASTM International board of directors and staff are already involved in this pursuit. Speaking engagements are scheduled. The board has commissioned two studies, studies generating information that will illustrate the connection between good standardization choices and profitability. We’re going to take that data — and the message — on the road, to companies, to trade associations, to government agencies — wherever the appropriate audience is gathered.

Part of our plan is to provide guidance and advice to our members that will help them inform their own management of the value of standardization to the company or agency. That means that you, ASTM International’s members, will be part of the team, part of the message.

Corporate members, you can start now. Click here. Then print that page out and send it to the decision-makers in your company.

This is the year we spread the word.

James A. Thomas
President, ASTM International

 
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