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March/April 2010
PlainTalk

James A. Thomas, President, ASTM International

Heeding History

A New Certification Program

One of the things behind ASTM International’s success is a simple bit of truth: it serves its members. For 112 years, ASTM has moved forward in history, surpassing the expectations of its founders. Time and time again this organization has met the challenges of each new generation by listening to and responding to what its members ask of it.

Long before the significance of it was realized by many in the standards world community, our members knew the value and necessity of international collaboration, and they wanted it in the way it was offered by ASTM International: direct and one-on-one. In response to the call for the expansion of ideas and experiences, ASTM opened its doors wide to the rest of the world by investing in Web-based standards development methods, translations, multilingual staff, distribution arrangements and overseas representation. We formed alliances through MOUs with national standards bodies and regional organizations. It took time, work, commitment and resources, but by following and answering the requests of our members, ASTM evolved, naturally and organically, into ASTM International.

Later, our members wanted to increase the quality of their test methods with precision and bias statements and proficiency testing. Always known for their quality, ASTM test methods soared to new heights of reliability. Our members added quality to quality, and the respect for ASTM standards increased again worldwide.

Now we are asked again to serve in another new way. A significant number of requests have come from our members for ASTM International to provide certification to meet expressed needs and regulatory pressures; i.e., to provide independent, third-party demonstrations of compliance to standards. In October of last year, the ASTM International board of directors said yes to their requests and set us, once again, on the course of service. In the tradition of ASTM standards development, the ASTM International Certification Programs for products and personnel will not duplicate what already exists in the field. Our goal is not to compete with other service providers of certification but to answer specific requests from technical committees relating to specific standards. We expect many of these requests will relate to new standards development activities. We are now in the developmental stage, putting into place the mechanisms and policies to ensure a high quality program that will meet the needs of diverse constituents. As we progress, we will keep all our members fully informed.

Throughout our century-plus history, this organization has acted with the firm conviction that our members know what they need. They are the ones on the front line, they are the realists. They are the on-the-ground monitors of customer needs, world markets and government regulations. It is not only their technical skill but their real-world experience and foresight that have made ASTM standards the standards of peerless quality and relevance that the world now knows. In the end, it has been these two qualities that have been more powerful than any authoritative challenge to their use and more important than any label. When history like this speaks, we must take heed. We are taking heed.

James A. Thomas
President, ASTM International

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