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It’s What We Do

Easy Access to ASTM Standards and Information

ASTM International standards are synonymous with quality and relevance. We know that. And we know that they are the standards of choice wherever choosing is an option. But choice isn’t what keeps them within the world’s grasp. It’s accessibility. Accessibility that is easy, affordable, comprehensive and instantaneous. In other words, this great, world-renowned body of work must be published, marketed and distributed, and that must be done with the best, cutting-edge technology available.

How many of us can remember phrases like “out of stock,” “out of print” and “shipping charges”? The answer is, every technical expert or customer who used an ASTM International standard 10 or more years ago. They can also remember when books and individual paper copies were the sole conveyances of the world’s most enviable technical documents. Modifications or changes to ASTM standards did not become generally available until new volumes were printed and shipped. Dog-eared copies of paper documents were passed around and shared by engineers, laboratory technicians and manufacturing supervisors within the same company. Today, the use of a paper document or book of standards hand delivered by mail or courier is much rarer.

Technology has changed every aspect of the work that supports the ASTM International standardization development and publication process. ASTM standards — and a range of information surrounding them — can now be instantly downloaded on any electronic device. The thought processes that lead up to standardization, the how-to of applying the standard, standards translated into other languages, training courses for the application of that standard — all in one package — can now be acquired by a touch or a click. This is something that researchers and engineers, just 10 years ago, could only dream about. Now, it’s what we do.

When ASTM International launched its Standards and Engineering Digital Library eight years ago, more than 1,400 books, more than 60,000 articles and chapters, and more than 12,000 standards became, in one repository, one of the world’s most comprehensive and credible resources for technical standards and related information. The digital library gave customers and users around-the-clock access to ASTM standards and nearly all of ASTM’s publications — manuals, monographs, journals and special technical publications. The latter, based on symposia sponsored by ASTM’s technical committees, written and peer-reviewed by the same experts who write the standards, contain critical information, such as guidance on the proper application and interpretation of standards and users’ experiences. The online library made all this instantly available.

But the quest for enhancement led to another web-based idea: ASTM Compass, a portal that now provides instant access to all the ASTM content an organization needs — standards, online training (including videos of certain ASTM test methods), publications, translations and more. ASTM Compass allows a subscribing enterprise’s entire staff to add and share notes, images and attachments, to see redlined changes to standards and to provide organization-wide access to the thousands of papers and books in the ASTM Standards and Engineering Digital Library. Using ASTM Compass, an organization’s staff can log onto one consolidated platform and get a cross-indexed, tailored electronic package from which it can access all of its ASTM standards and its Standards and Engineering Digital Library subscriptions.

This ability to access and manipulate mounds of data is a mind-boggling manifestation of the digital age and is probably more astonishing to those of us who can remember what it was like 10 years ago. But if anyone can appreciate it fully, it is those researchers and engineers, manufacturers and architects, those builders and regulators, laboratory technicians, production managers, students and their professors, those small enterprises in every corner of the world, and anyone who ever needed ASTM standards and dreamed that this might be possible. Now, it is what we do.

James A. Thomas

President, ASTM International

This article appears in the issue of Standardization News.