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March/April 2010

Quality Assurance

Maryann Gorman,  Standardization News' Editor in ChiefThe Oxford American Dictionary defines the noun “standard” as “a level of quality or attainment.” Indeed, for all the nuances in the concepts of standards and quality to those of us who work in standardization, these two words are often synonymous in the public’s mind. When marketers use the word “standard” in commercials or advertisements, it’s meant to evoke the ideas of excellence, merit and superiority.

Despite the fact that attaining a certain level of quality is a goal arguably embedded in every standard, I still wanted to highlight some outstanding examples of standards that enable quality in the crucial area of manufacturing.

As it turns out, it often takes more than just writing a good standard to ensure quality. In the article “Standards Enable Quality Assurance,” we find out how some committees in ASTM International have gone beyond standards development; they use related programs that help manufacturers make materials and products that can be purchased with confidence by others in their industries as well as by consumers.

Among the examples in the article, which range from fasteners to textiles, the efforts of Committee D24 on Carbon Black, which help align carbon black quality between manufacturers and their customers, stand out as quite comprehensive. In addition to writing specifications and test methods that assess conformity to those specs, Committee D24 oversees the production of Standard Reference Blacks and its own laboratory proficiency rating system. All of these components add up to an alignment of quality expectations between manufacturers and users, enabled by ASTM International. I invite you to peruse the article and learn about other initiatives in Committees D02 on Petroleum Products and Lubricants, D13 on Textiles and F16 on Fasteners — additional areas where product quality is critical.

“Standards Enable Quality Assurance” is the second in an ongoing series we launched in November/December 2009 that explores some of the business and societal benefits made possible by standards, using real examples from among ASTM International’s technical committees and showing how these committees avail themselves of a range of ASTM programs to achieve their goals. Be sure to check back in May/June, when we will show how standards help keep you safe in your everyday life.

Maryann Gorman
Editor in Chief