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An Interview with the 2004 Chairman of the ASTM International Board Arthur D. Schwope

What are the responsibilities of your position as managing director at TIAX?

TIAX is a privately owned company that provides research, product development, and technology transfer services for clients in four “theme areas”: human performance and safety, health and wellness, energy efficiency and sustainability, and lifestyle and convenience. As a managing director, I work across all of these areas in concert with other staff to examine the allocation of our resources, to help develop business for the company, and to oversee working groups. I also maintain personal involvement with a few projects, which keeps my hand in the R&D.

Let me provide some examples. In the energy efficiency area, TIAX is very much involved in developing and assessing portable power technology — batteries, fuel cells, small engines. One of the applications for these technologies that I have quite a bit of experience with is in soldiers’ systems. The U.S. Army works with TIAX to look for ways to provide enhanced capabilities to soldiers — giving them advanced electronics in the field, such as night vision, heads-up displays, computers, global positioning systems, and so on. All of these things require power, power that comes from batteries. Our challenge in recent years has been to work with the Army to integrate these new subsystems with the other necessary burdens soldiers carry on the field — water, food, ammunition, shelter, and communications subsystems — into an overall soldier system that optimizes the performance and well-being of the soldier. Important to our effort was our knowledge of the energy densities, form factors, and signatures (thermal and acoustical) likely achievable by the competing power source technologies.

In searching for business development opportunities for TIAX, I often attend meetings such as the one I went to last autumn in Washington, D.C., on homeland security, where representatives of various U.S. government agencies and the military met with industry to discuss R&D and funding priorities. At such meetings, I can look for opportunities to work with the government or defense contractors by offering TIAX’s expertise in our theme areas.

As far as direct involvement in R&D, today I am less associated with work in the labs, which is what I was doing in the late 1970s when I started to work with Committee F23 on Protective Clothing. I’m more likely to oversee lab work by designing defensible sets of experiments for claims substantiation. Companies often need people like myself, who have broader perspectives on the protective clothing world, to offer expert advice in cases involving patent infringement or in determining whether a technology has sufficiently advanced to a point that new innovations should be introduced.

What role do standards play in TIAX’s theme areas?

Standards are a part of just about everything we do here. Beyond the involvement I’ve had with ASTM Committee F23, TIAX has been very active, for example, in ASTM Committee E18 on Sensory Evaluation, applying many of that committee’s methodologies to our work in food research and development. In the area of energy efficiency, we often take the designs of U.S.-made appliances and translate them into designs that could be sold in compliance with specific regional or national standards, such as those of the European Union or Japan.

Across the spectrum of TIAX’s areas of expertise, we find ourselves working with the standards of many organizations, from ASTM International, to the Society of Automotive Engineers, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Gas and Appliance Manufacturers Association, and the National Fire Protection Association International, to the European Committee for Standardization [CEN] and the International Organization for Standardization [ISO]. Our need for and involvement with standards and standards development is wide-ranging.

Art Schwope stops by the sensory panel room while professional panelists (from left) Sarah Garretson-Lowry, Patricia Keane (former chair of ASTM Committee E18 on Sensory Evaluation), and Mary Nash analyze cereals. Using the flavor profile method, which provides a descriptive analysis of a food product’s aroma and flavor, TIAX ‘s professional sensory panel can identify and contrast the perceptual attributes of similar products. TIAX professionals have been pioneers in food and sensory science for nearly a century and have helped create successful new products in nearly every category of food.

You’ve been a member of ASTM for more than 25 years. How do you feel your role as a technical committee member, doing the essential standards development work of ASTM every day, affects your perspective as chairman of ASTM International?

I admit there was a time when I thought that the ASTM management and board really couldn’t have much effect on the day-to-day operations of a given committee. I thought it was “us committee members,” engineers and technical personnel, who best knew how to manage the process.

I’ve come to realize that the ASTM International board of directors can have a significant impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of a committee’s operation. A very pertinent example is the emphasis that ASTM’s staff has put on information technology development, an emphasis that the board has supported all along the way. Committees are now operating very efficiently with online balloting, online posting of minutes, the use of Internet-based Standards Development Forums, Virtual Meetings, the posting of Work Items, and so on. This has had a very favorable impact on committees’ timeliness in developing standards and on their ability to attract and maintain international participation.

Impactive interactions between the committees and the board go both ways. Technical committees can and should suggest opportunities to the board that might help them improve their standards development process. And the board of directors applies its bird’s-eye view of the broad world of standards development to see the value of something as large as ASTM’s investment in information technology. That commitment has placed the Society in a leadership role in global standards making.

You joined Committee F23 in the year it was formed, 1977. What led to your involvement in the committee?

This is a great question, because it brings to mind some old friends. When I joined Arthur D. Little, Inc., from which TIAX was formed in 2002, the first project I worked on had to do with chemical protective clothing. The fellow I was working with, Gerry Coletta, had attended the organizational meeting for the new ASTM Committee F23 on Protective Clothing. When he told to me that he would be leaving ADL, he recommended I get involved in ASTM. He suspected correctly that F23 was a place where some significant “action” was going to take place during the years to come. I had the full support of my group leader, Derek Till, who had a long involvement in ASTM.

I have to say that becoming active in ASTM ranks among the best things I’ve done, professionally. The timing was just right — I was at F23’s first formal standards development meeting, so I saw the formation of a committee from the ground up. It was challenging work. I volunteered for various leadership positions and I learned first-hand the value and the challenge of creating consensus. I learned how to run meetings with diverse, and often conflicting, opinions, and how nevertheless to arrive at a mutually acceptable end-point. I hope I have been helpful to F23, because I know it has been helpful to me, in many ways.

How has F23’s focus and its service to the protective clothing community changed over the years, and what does it anticipate for its second quarter century?

There were a lot of myths, in the late 1970s, about chemical protective clothing and how it worked and didn’t work. Instructions for its use were very general, such as “wear rubber gloves,” or “wear protective clothing.” It wasn’t until F23 started developing standard methods that we came to understand how protective clothing works and how it should be used.

F23’s first 25 years were focused on the development of test methods and guidance documents, which had been nonexistent until then. Another important part of our first 25 years was the series of symposia we have held — there have been eight thus far. And looking back through the tables of contents of these symposia proceedings, I see now that they are amazing histories of the advancement of a very immature technical area to a very mature discipline. The authors of the papers presented at these symposia are an international “who’s who” of the protective clothing world. So F23 has really been a central force in creating a new scientific discipline.

Now that we know how to test equipment, the next 25 years is most likely going to be focused more on performance-based specifications for clothing and equipment. As protective clothing becomes more complex, involving more technologies, users are interested in having access to specs that will advise just which form of clothing is going to meet which challenges best.

Secondly, F23 must be responsive to current realities. Since Sept. 11, 2001, we are in a different world as far as the potential threats recognized and faced by developers and users of protective clothing. First responders are now aware they might face chemical agents, biological agents or radiation. This is in marked contrast to our old expectation of testing clothing meant to be used in very specific environments, for example, in chemical plants, where specific types of emergencies are expected, or in medical applications, where we assumed we knew what the hazards were. The knowledge exists within F23 that enables us to be responsive to those new challenges and to provide guidance to users who may or may not be able to plan for or know all of these new variables.

Also since Sept. 11, we have come to recognize that interoperability is a key issue for protective clothing. Just as we learned on that day that communication systems, for example, were not interoperable across city, state, and federal emergency teams, such is the case for protective equipment. Certain items of clothing used by one organization may not interface well with clothing or respirators brought in by other groups. So there will be a lot more emphasis on the interoperability of the entire protective system, and standards development will be much more systems-oriented.

Finally, a fair extrapolation we can make in the wake of those specific terrorist attacks is that we will see longer-term cleanups of large-scale environments should a chemical, biological, or nuclear attack occur. This is in contrast to our previous expectation of short-term, episodic use. So issues of human comfort while wearing this equipment are becoming more and more important. In fact, in the last few years, F23’s human factors subcommittee has emerged as one of our most active groups. We have much to look forward to as we anticipate our workload in the coming years.

Art Schwope observes Materials Testing Engineer Paul Drennan conduct a coefficient of friction test on artificial skin in the TIAX Physical Properties Testing Laboratory. The test is for a claims substantiation assignment. TIAX works with leading consumer product and medical device companies to apply and develop testing methodologies that can measure and quantify product attributes.

One of the major challenges for standards developing organizations is conveying the importance of standardization to students and technical professionals. How did you learn about standardization and what are your thoughts about how we can better prepare present and future technical personnel and executives to understand the value of standards to corporate strategy and international trade?

For me, standardization is a fact of life. There’s 60 minutes in an hour, water freezes at 0°C and it boils at 100°C. In high school and college science and engineering classes, we used calibrated instruments and did analyses by standard methods. And this transfers into the business world. Money and goods are exchanged on the basis of standards. It seems to me that standards are at the very core of a developed, progressive society. Imagine the world without standards!

Through my involvement in F23, I have seen companies prosper from their involvement in standards development, and I’ve seen others founder due to disregard for the process. Enterprises with foresight saw the impact that protective clothing standards would have, and they engaged in shaping, adopting, and leveraging such standards. This includes governmental agencies. And the same applies to many individuals whose careers have been enhanced due to their desire to learn about and contribute to the process.

I do think most organizations understand this strategic importance. But when it comes to justifying participation in standards development, both standards developers such as ASTM International and the individual participants who come to committee meetings have a responsibility to communicate the value proposition to senior management.

Certainly, publications such as SN, as well as educational pamphlets and programming, serve the ends of reminding executives how important it is to support involvement in standards development. But in the end, it is the responsibility of each of us members to understand and convey the benefits of our involvement.

For several years you have worked with representatives of the international protective clothing industry through F23 and its technical advisory group to ISO’s protective clothing committee. What changes have you seen come about in the international dynamic in this area?

I was involved in very early participation with our counterpart committee in ISO in the days before the advent of the European Union. We maintained very good collaboration with ISO; in fact, as I mentioned before, F23 was indeed the international forum for the protective equipment industry’s scientific development. Our symposia include many presenters from Europe, especially.

As CEN became more of a dominant force in bringing standards to ISO, we saw a change. Although we were invited to be observers and sometimes participants at CEN meetings, we (of course) did not have a vote in that body. As more and more of the national standards of EU members were funneled through CEN, and then through CEN to ISO, we had less and less of an ability to impact standards development in that arena. ISO and CEN are now synonymous to us because in this particular industry, the CEN countries dominate the ISO committee.

Another concern is that many of the standards in North America, and certain other advanced economies, for protecting people from hazardous conditions are much more rigorous than the standards that are generally coming out of the EU or elsewhere in the world. In the EU, for example, this reflects the range of development of the member countries, and the need to accommodate the capacities of the region’s less advanced nations, or those countries that have different attitudes toward worker safety than is found in North America.

At the moment, F23’s membership is best suited to developing standards having most relevance to the more advanced industrialized countries. As our membership expands and evolves to include participants from less advanced countries, I foresee the opportunity for us to develop standards that leverage our knowledge within the context of their socio-economic realities.

In the past few years, ASTM has prioritized its active engagement with the world standards community so that together we may provide global industry with the highest-quality and most market-relevant standards. What is your vision of ASTM’s current and future role as a developer of international standards?

I think my answer to the previous question certainly applies here.

As ASTM International places more and more emphasis on the effective and efficient development of market-relevant standards, we must continually refer to our stakeholders and ask them to consider carefully their role in developing globally-used standards.

Standards developing organizations [SDOs] around the world can work together to meet the needs of global business by asking each stakeholder community to determine what its own priorities are and how it will deal with harmonization issues. Within ASTM, that answer may be different across the range of our technical committees. For some, speed of development is important. For others, the breadth of a standard may be its most important aspect. We must make sure ASTM staff managers are working with their committees to gauge what’s going on with their industries and how the committee is responding. ASTM International is not so big that it can’t adhere to this concept of mass-customization.

What challenges do you see ahead for ASTM International in the next few years?

I think we have the dual challenge of maintaining the vitality of the technical committees that have been around for quite a long time, while at the same time keeping our eyes wide open for other, newer sectors that have standardization needs. ASTM has recently established technical committees for unmanned air vehicles [F38] and homeland security applications [E54]. In addition, there are standardization needs for hydroelectric vehicles, new forms of power and energy distribution, and biotechnology and the life sciences.

ASTM will keep working with U.S. government agencies that are involved with trade, such as the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office and the Department of Commerce. We need to help them see not only the importance of standards to U.S. industry and trade, but also the importance of a united American position on what a coherent international standards system would look like, and the role of U.S.-domiciled standards developers in that system.

And it still is a challenge to ASTM to be accepted as an international SDO. We know ASTM’s standards are used internationally and that we have members from around the world. There are a variety of factors, however, such as perceptions among standards developers and legislation in some nations, that prevents SDOs such as ASTM International from being accepted as “international.”

As these issues are resolved, market relevance will, I think, win out. To me, market relevance means standards that are, at a minimum, technically sound and, perhaps even more importantly, recognized in the business and governmental context for their application. ASTM International is wonderfully positioned to fulfill this need. Our staff managers and other Headquarters staff have broad-ranging insights and access to the global standards market. The organization is financially very strong. It is world-class, if not first-in-class, in terms of automation of its standards development and delivery processes. We have more than 30,000 volunteer members. And other organizations are regularly seeking the application of these assets to their needs for standards. The opportunities for ASTM International’s global impact are tremendous.

Twenty-six years ago I joined ASTM to “be where the action is.” ASTM International, even more now than then, is at the center of SDO action. //

Copyright 2004, ASTM International

Arthur D. Schwope is a managing director of TIAX, LLC in Cambridge, Mass., a leading, collaborative product and technology development firm that was formed from Arthur D. Little’s Technology and Innovation business.

From 1976 to 2002, Schwope worked for A.D. Little, Inc., most recently as vice president and leader of its laboratory-based product development group. Prior to joining Arthur D. Little, he was employed by Dynatech Research and Development Company from 1972 to 1976. Schwope began his career as a plant engineer at E.I. DuPont in 1970.

Schwope received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering from Cornell University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, respectively. His career has concentrated on the application and evaluation of polymeric materials for use as barrier materials. He is the author of scores of publications in the fields of chemical-protective clothing, food packaging, geomembranes, and controlled-release drug delivery systems. He has worked for industrial and governmental clients and has broad experience in planning and executing multi-disciplinary projects.

Schwope joined ASTM Committee F23 on Protective Clothing in 1977. From 1990 to 1994 he chaired the committee, having previously served as its recording secretary. He was chairman of Subcommittee F23.96 (the U.S. Technical Advisory Group to ISO’s committee on Protective Clothing) from 1991 to 1994, and co-chaired Subcommittee F23.94 on Symposia from 1994 to 1997. Schwope chaired Subcommittee F23.30 on Chemicals from 1981 to 2001. He was given the ASTM Award of Merit and the title of fellow in 1988.

In addition to ASTM International, Schwope belongs to the Product Development and Management Association, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and the Controlled Release Society.  

TIAX LLC, located in Cambridge, Mass., is a leading, collaborative product and technology development firm that helps commercial and government clients turn innovation into marketable products and services. TIAX was formed from Arthur D. Little’s Technology and Innovation business in 2002 by entrepreneur and inventor Kenan Sahin, of Kenan Systems and Lucent Technologies.

TIAX builds on more than a century of breakthrough innovation to provide its clients with scientific knowledge and business acumen to help them move technology innovations toward potential outlets, such as market channels and manufacturers.

Recent activity at TIAX includes:

Launch of the Center for Food Reformulation — In the wake of continued findings of the potential adverse health effects associated with certain food ingredients such as trans fatty acids, as well as the current interest in low-carbohydrate diets, TIAX created the Center for Food Reformulation, which will assist food and beverage, food service and food ingredient companies in reformulating their products to be healthier and more consumer-friendly.

Development of Combat Training Clothing — In August 2003, TIAX announced the development of the Multimodal Interface Research Platform, a system designed to measure aspects of human performance during critical situations including enemy, chemical, biological or radiological threats. The system was incorporated into a vest equipped with a miniature head-mounted display, tactile simulators, stereo headphones, heading sensors, and vice trigger switches that determine how quickly and accurately users respond to cues.

New Fuel Cell Technologies — The National Institute of Standards and Technology awarded TIAX a $2 million contract to help advance the development of solid oxide fuel cells. TIAX is undertaking a three-year project to increase the viability and commercialization of SOFC. Successful implementation of the project could allow for lower SOFC costs, making them competitive with most small and stationary diesel technologies such as auxiliary power units and enabling more efficient and reliable delivery of clean electric power.

Supportive Home — TIAX collaborated recently with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to create PlaceLab, a living laboratory to study how new technologies, materials, and design strategies will change the way that people live. The apartment-scale facility will be occupied by families who volunteer to participate. Experiments will utilize an array of wearable devices as well as sensors located throughout the facility to assess subjects’ responses to their environment.