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 December 2005 Inside ASTM
Barbara Schindler is ASTM International’s director of Corporate Communications and former editor in chief of SN.

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China’s national standards strategy was presented by Zhang Yanhua, the vice administrator of the Standardization Administration of China. Madame Zhang opened her talk by noting that the Chinese government considers standardization to be of great strategic importance.

SAC is the highest administrative body in China responsible for standardization throughout the nation as well as policy formulation. Local administrative bodies include provincial bureaus of quality and technology supervision, which develop local standards and participate in drafting national standards. China has 21,342 national standards, 29,000 professional standards, 13,000 local standards, and 1,320,000 enterprise standards.

Standardization in China is directly linked to that country’s Standardization Law, issued in 1988. Since that time, Zhang noted, there has been enormous change, such as China’s accession to the World Trade Organization and changes in her country’s economic system. These reforms have made clear the need to amend the Standardization Law, and research for this is soon to be completed.

The result is a five-principle standards strategy that will:

• Require a more market-oriented approach;
• Make Chinese standards more effective and useful;
• Connect with industry;
• Require active participation in the development of international standards; and
• Promote the application of standards.

“Now business plays a leading role — a take-charge role,” Madame Zhang explained. "The standardization administrative body of China encourages enterprises to use international standards and foreign advanced standards, including ASTM standards.”

The Chinese government’s attention to standardization and its allocation of resources has helped China progress to this point. “Due to standards, Chinese products are of good quality and they are reasonably priced,” the speaker remarked. Still, much needs to be done as China transitions from a planned economy to a market economy.

“China’s standardization work started late. We are not as experienced and we have to learn from countries that have been doing it longer,” Madame Zhang commented. She concluded by noting, “If you put one cent into standardization, you will get a very good return on that cent.”

Representing Japan’s national standards body, the Japanese Industrial Standards Committee, was Hideo Shindo, JISC’s Washington, D.C., office representative and chief representative of the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, also in Washington. Shindo set the stage for his talk with the statement, “We have many differences, but much more in common.”

Shindo reported that, historically, JISC has developed long-term plans every five years since 1956, but that changes in the environment of standardization inspired JISC to develop strategic plans in the mid 1990s. This culminated in a comprehensive standardization strategy for Japan in 2001 and a standardization action plan in 2004, which focuses mainly on international standardization.

First among the three goals of the Japanese strategy is to ensure market relevance and efficiency. To achieve this goal, JISC will respond quickly and appropriately to market and societal needs and to new fields, ensure wider stakeholder participation, ensure speed and transparency, and increase public awareness of standardization.

The second goal is to promote international standardization activities by employing a well-balanced approach, facilitating international proposals of strategic standards by industries, strengthening the domestic system for international standardization, and strengthening cooperation among Asia-Pacific countries.

Finally, the third goal is to facilitate the integration of research and development and standardization by taking proactive steps such as taking standardization into account at the early stages of R&D in advanced technology areas.

Currently there are more than 9,000 Japanese Industrial Standards. In the future, Japan hopes to better leverage its economic power and competitiveness in international standardization by increasing its participation in secretariat work and engaging in cooperative efforts.

As part of Japan’s action plan, the Japanese Standards Association established the International Standardization Support Center, due to launch this year with the overall goal of raising Japan’s status on the international standardization stage. The center will be involved in the strategic promotion of the international standardization of new technologies — areas in which Japan leads the world — such as nanotechnology, home digital appliances, and fuel cells. At the present time, Japan is very involved within ASTM Committee E56 on Nanotechnology through a partnership agreement with Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology.

United States
Fran Schrotter, senior vice president and chief operating officer of the American National Standards Institute, presented the U.S. Standards Strategy. Mirroring the sentiments of the previous speaker and recognizing the need to strike a balance between the top-down vs. bottom-up approaches to standardization, Schrotter commented, “We have so much more in common than we have differences.”

The first National Standards Strategy for the United States was issued in 2000. It called for periodic review, so in May 2004 ANSI formed a committee, of which ASTM President James Thomas is a member, to undertake review and revision. The new document, renamed the U.S. Standards Strategy, reflects the U.S. approach to global standards-setting activities, namely the need for standards designed to meet stakeholder needs irrespective of national borders. The text of the revised document is scheduled to be submitted to the ANSI board of directors for consideration this month. Schrotter expects to have a fully approved strategy by the end of this year.

The speaker summarized the functions of the U.S. Standards Strategy. It:

• Promotes the strengthening of existing, and the building of new, relationships;
• Facilitates new working models, welcomes organizational change and encourages responsiveness to new opportunities;
• Promotes a sector-focused and market-driven framework to advance trade issues in the global marketplace;
• Encourages the pursuit of globally relevant solutions that reflect a consensus agreement of all stakeholders;
• Helps to enhance consumer health and safety and responds to critical national priorities;
• Facilitates standards development in emerging commercial and business applications; and
• Promotes open, sector-based standardization activities.
Upon approval of the revised strategy, the implementation of the tactical initiatives will be determined and assigned within industry, government, standards developers, and ANSI. “The proof of a strategy is in its execution,” said Schrotter, “We have to make it real.”

Following the formal presentations, there was a lively question and answer session with attendees queuing up to address the panel. While questions from the audience delved further into the various strategies, many of the comments cited the remarkable similarities among the strategies.

“A common theme voiced here today is that we all need to do a better job of identifying the benefits of standardization and communicating them,” noted Thomas, who thanked the presenters for their comprehensive reports, for relaying current national positions and sharing future visions. ANSI’s Schrotter added, “It’s good to map the strategies and see where we are aligned in our thinking.”

In her remarks as the workshop luncheon speaker, Julia Hill, chair of the CSA Standards Policy Board, observed, “In a world in which competition can be fierce, there’s a much higher purpose here, i.e., standards for the greater good. We have much to offer each other in terms of triumphs.” //

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