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March/April 2010
ProVocative

Laura HitchcockStandards in Japan

An Interview with JSA President Masami Tanaka

Masami Tanaka provides insight about standards in Japan and his country’s participation in standards-related groups.

What is the purpose of the Northeast Asia Standards Cooperation Forum, and what is Japan’s role in that forum?

The Japanese Industrial Standards Committee and the Japanese Standards Association cooperate with China and Korea in hosting the Northeast Asia Standards Cooperation Forum. This forum aims at developing standards, establishing a firm basis for international standardization, making new work item proposals for international standards and promoting the use of standards. The forum also works to contribute to standardization in Asia through the collaboration of three countries: China, Korea and Japan, which take turns being hosts and secretariats for the annual forums. The group collaborates with various government agencies and industries, and also invites their representatives to attend..

JSA’s mission in this forum is to arrange the participants, to summarize opinions from industries and to attend the meetings as Japan’s representative.

At its November 2009 meeting, the forum participants agreed to promote further cooperation in standardization among the three countries. The group also, among other priorities, resolved to share knowledge related to information technology and electronics, accessible design and assistive products, and the work of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Technical Committee 71 on Concrete, Reinforced Concrete and Pre-Stressed Concrete.

In what other standards development forums and groups does JSA participate?

In activities of the Pacific Area Standards Congress, JSA cooperates with the Japanese Industrial Standards Committee, which is Japan’s member body of PASC, and participates in the meetings and workshops.

The goals are to promote industrial standardization in Pacific Rim countries, to form common opinions to submit to international standards organizations and to accomplish the following:

  • Share information on standardization with Pacific Rim countries and support their international standardization activities;
  • Provide Pacific Rim countries with opportunities to express their opinions and make proposals to international standards organizations; and
  • Interact with international standards organizations to urge them to develop international standards that meet the needs of Pacific Rim countries based on their proposals to PASC.

Specifically, JSA dispatches representatives to the PASC plenary meetings and financially supports the PASC meetings. In addition to encouraging PASC members to be actively involved in the consultation process for the ISO strategic plan, much discussion has centered on energy efficiency and developing and implementing an ISO standard on energy management.

How does Japan use ASTM International standards?

ASTM standards are widely used in Japan in various fields such as mechanical engineering, ceramics, ferrous metals, nonferrous materials and metallurgy, shipbuilding, chemical engineering, paper manufacturing, medical devices and various kinds of tests, and construction materials.

As of April 1, 2009, about 10,000 active JISs have been published in 19 fields. Japan makes efforts to harmonize the JISs with international standards, including those from ASTM. Forty-eight JISs in 13 fields have quoted ASTM standards.

How do the Japanese Standards Association and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry cooperate on standardization education programs?

I share ASTM International’s belief that standards education is becoming increasingly important since the business world has become global and quite complicated. I have also devoted myself for a long time to developing Japan’s standardization policy as a chairman of JISC’s Special Committee on Human Resources Development Policy and to develop various programs as a chairman of JSA’s Research Committee on Standards Education.

JSA offers educational programs for undergraduates and graduate students as well as the business world in cooperation with METI. The undergraduate and graduate programs provide students with basic textbooks on standardization and support for giving lectures on standardization.

Through these programs, JSA intends that students will learn the significance of standardization and standards systems, and that they will be able to use standards properly in the future. In 2009, JSA began to introduce education programs to technical schools and companies to foster knowledge of standardization in those settings as well.

What is the Japanese Standards Association currently doing in its work on quality engineering, data analysis methods and quality management?

In the fields of data analysis and quality management, JSA provides seminars and support for researchers. There are various kinds of seminars, starting with introductory courses. For example, an intensive course for development and design ranges from a lecture about the mathematical principles of quality engineering to a lecture about “Taguchi methods” [statistical methods to improve manufacturing] to foster specialists.

JSA established the Quality Engineering Research Group to support research in this field. Work has been carried out for more than 40 years through the group. The group has made efforts to study quality engineering from different points of view and to take valid points from the achievements of past research and then apply them to today’s activities. Recently, the scope of quality engineering has been extended to include software, information technology, medicine industries and also agriculture, in addition to manufacturing.

JSA now promotes standardization from the consumer’s perspective. Why does JSA consider consumer participation to be important?

When we develop standards for products, which are strongly connected to the daily lives of consumers, it is important to fully consider their diverse needs, such as security and safety, usability and accessibility for the elderly and the handicapped as well as lessening products’ impact on the environment.

While manufacturers have taken the lead in deliberating standards for a long time, the interests of consumers have not been well reflected in standardization. There has been, however, a gradual increase of their presence in JIS activities. It is expected that more consumers will participate in drafting standards and the international standardization of both JIS and other standards.

In cooperation with METI, JSA had decided to make further efforts to strengthen the development of standards in consumer-related fields.

First, JSA conducted a survey to find out what consumers expect from standardization and, in order to provide easy access to the standardization process, established a new committee where consumers and manufacturers can discuss and share information directly. JSA also holds seminars in which consumers learn more about the necessity of standardization and deepen their knowledge.

As outcomes from the above activities, standards related to recall announcements and accessible designs have been developed. I believe that consumers themselves will be able to develop further draft JISs and finally submit new work item proposals to international standards organizations.

 

Masami Tanaka is president of the Japanese Standards Association. He is also a visiting professor at the Graduate Institute of Policy Studies in Tokyo, Japan; vice president of the Japanese Industrial Standards Committee and vice president of the Institute of International Harmonization for Building and Housing. Before assuming his current position at JSA, he had been president of the Japan Testing Center for Construction Materials in Tokyo. A former president of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) from 2005 to 2006, Tanaka currently serves on the ASTM International board of directors.