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Word from the Chairman
The Challenges Ahead

As I complete my year as chairman of the Board, I see the future for us as ASTM members filled with great change. The world is changing, and ASTM must move with it. We members will have to keep up. These changes challenge us to do the following in our ASTM participation.

Participate Electronically

Next year ASTM will deliver more standards electronically than in print, so the electronic future is not far off. Headquarters will need our current e-mail addresses for distribution of ballots and minutes. More and more, those without e-mail will find the world, and ASTM, passing them by. Our industries are now demanding more timely development of new standards, which requires us to use the Web-Based Interactive Standards Development Forums. Those without Web access will find themselves falling behind. We must now submit our draft documents electronically, and electronic balloting will soon be here. Once we overcome the initial reluctance to do our work electronically, I believe our work will be done more easily and quickly.

Consider Relevance

Industry is requiring that each standard with which we deal be truly relevant to that industry. Existing standards that are not used will need to be changed to make them more relevant and useful. New standards that are of interest to only a few individuals will not get support for development. All industries may not need full consensus for their standards; a limited consensus product may be more timely or useful. Finally, we will need to look hard to see if our industry requires a standard or related product that they are not getting, whether it is training, an index, a manual, a data compilation, or a software product. From industry’s perspective, the most relevant standards are the ones that will save the industry a lot of money. Finding the most relevant standards and standard-related products will require our creativity, breaking the cycle of “we have always done it this way,” and instead thinking “outside of the box.”

Think Globally

Companies that state that they want to use only standards from a single developer will find that they cannot meet that objective. No single standards developing organization has a complete portfolio of relevant standards for any industry. For example, no company can satisfy all of its standards requirements using only ISO standards, and will not be able to do so in the foreseeable future. Companies need to pick and choose standards like food from a restaurant menu. If we plan to bring an ASTM standard that has been developed and used internationally into ISO as a perceived “upgrade,” we should first consider the entire picture. The perceived advantage of having an ISO label may be offset by the disadvantages of losing control of technical content, slower response to change, and the need to make up the lost revenue to ASTM. If we retain the ASTM standard as we bring its contents into ISO, will our initially identical ASTM and ISO standards eventually become two different standards as they are updated by different organizations? Does our industry prefer the European dominance of ISO, or do they have different objectives? Can a global consensus in our industry only be achieved using ISO’s one-country, one-vote arrangement? We must think hard when we consider making a standard an American National Standard. Will this make the standard appear to be for U.S. usage only, decreasing its use internationally? In short, we will need to explore all of the global ramifications of how we develop standards.

Be Responsive to Change in ASTM

Just as ASTM now is different from the organization that wrote rail standards 100 years ago, the ASTM of the future will be different from what it is today. In the future, ASTM may operate differently, produce different kinds of products, and be funded differently than is the case now. The challenge for us is to be open to these changes and to consider them in the light of the changing world.

If we, as ASTM members, don’t participate electronically, consider relevance, think globally, and be responsive to change we will become an anachronism of little use to our industries. Doing these four things will require hard work and a change in the way we think. We ASTM members sure have our work cut out for us!

I want to conclude by saying that it’s been a wonderful year both for ASTM and for me. I would like to thank the fantastic ASTM staff and the members with whom I have interacted over the last year. You are a great group of people and I know that the staff and members of ASTM are prepared for the challenges ahead.

Harvey P. Hack
Chairman of the ASTM
Board of Directors

Harvey P. Hack ASTM Chairman of the Board