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by Tim Brooke

As ASTM Staff Manager Tim Brooke says in this article, each industry sector’s ideal approach to developing standards for the global market may yet be uncovered. One sector, the paint and coatings industry, has found a way to eliminate the duplication of standards that is inherent in harmonization while letting both ASTM and ISO each develop quality standards.

A Quest for “Harmonization”

Over the years industries have participated in organizations that have developed national, regional, and international standards that have resulted, in some cases, in two or more standards that are used in the marketplace. The advent of a more global marketplace has resulted in industry attempting to “harmonize” these standards with the desire to make them technically equivalent.

Over the past several years, members of ASTM Committee D01 on Paints and Related Coatings, Materials, and Applications and ISO/TC 35 on Paints and Varnishes have spent significant resources in this quest for harmonization. Members of both committees joined the reciprocal organization in order to actively participate in the development work of a similar standard in the corresponding committee. Many individuals spent additional time and money developing, reviewing, and debating technical issues twice. Members in both committees continually made revisions, attempting to ensure that the requirements of the two standards were the same. The two committees even held joint meetings in order to push forth this effort. This effort resulted in the development of ISO standards that duplicated existing ASTM standards and vice-versa.

A Realization

During this harmonization effort, experts in the coatings industry came to question its value, considering the duplicative and wasteful effort required, of two separate standards (one ASTM and one ISO) for testing the same property. They realized their work would produce:

1. The creation of two similar, but not necessarily identical, standards which in turn fosters:
• Confusion in the marketplace as to which standard to use
• Contradictions between the two standards
• Increased cost of testing when testing must be done to two standards
• Constant “catch up” to align the requirements of the two standards.

2. The duplication of resources including:
• Time and travel of experts, and
• Development and publication costs of the supporting

A Solution

Therefore, representatives of the coatings industry made a calculated decision to attempt to eliminate this duplication and its consequences by agreeing to not develop a standard when an existing standard already met the needs of the international marketplace and to determine, when two standards exist, which one should remain. ASTM Committee D01 and ISO/TC 35 signed a memorandum of understanding in June 2001 to reduce the duplication of standards development activities. Both committees see the event as a significant start toward a future when, as Dr. Eustache Bancken (chairman of ISO/TC 35) stated, “One globally accepted set of standards will meet the needs of all stakeholders in the paint and coatings industry.” The coatings community will now use the expertise and resources of both committees and both organizations collectively to service its needs. This cooperation will strengthen the overall objective of developing, maintaining, and publishing market relevant standards that serve the global marketplace.

ASTM is excited by this new cooperation and will continue to work to understand and further the goals of the industries we serve. We encourage you, as both experts on the technical committees and stakeholders in the industry, to challenge the current framework and develop new strategies to meet your objectives. The “best” approach for each industry may yet be uncovered.

The Memorandum

On Tuesday, June 12, 2001, Eugene Praschan, chairman of ASTM’s Committee D01 on Paints and Related Coatings, Materials and Applications, and Eustache Bancken, chairman of ISO TC 35 on Paints and Varnishes pledged to “not develop standards where existing, market relevant standards fulfill the needs of the international community.”


“ASTM D01 Paint and Related Coatings, Materials, and Applications and ISO/TC 35 Paints and Varnishes both recognize that there is a need to reduce the duplication of standards development activities. This duplication creates marketplace confusion and dilutes the efforts of the volunteer and staff resources of both committees.

Therefore, ASTM D01 and ISO/TC 35 hereby agree not to develop standards where existing, market relevant standards fulfill the needs of the international community.

ASTM D01 and ISO/TC 35 further agree to work closely with the volunteer leaders and staff to identify all duplicative standards and take proactive steps to create one standard.” //

Copyright 2001, ASTM

Tim Brooke is a staff manager in the ASTM Technical Committee Operations Division.