Getting to Ballot

Cicely Enright

Some tips for managing an efficient standards development process.

For the new year, your next committee activity and your newer members, we offer a few suggestions about a more efficient standards development process. The suggestions come from staff managers in ASTM's Technical Committee Operations division, along with a recent example from Committee F42 on Additive Manufacturing Technologies.

First, note that this advice picks up after there is agreement within your committee on the need for a particular standard or standards. If you have identified an area of need, you have probably discussed the priorities and chosen one from your top two or three. You may otherwise risk spreading your critical resources - i.e., your fellow members - too thin.

"You can have the best process in the world, but you still need proactive folks," says Pat Picariello, F42's staff manager.

If timing is critical, agree on how quickly you'd like the standard to be published - a year? Nine months? Six months? Then you can establish a timeline that specifies draft development, circulation, balloting and discussion.

John Slotwinski, Ph.D., says that a standard needs a champion (or two) who are responsible for keeping on top of the draft throughout its development. That includes prompt communication with other members about their comments and, after balloting, any negative votes. Slotwinski is an additive manufacturing development engineer in the Research and Exploratory Development Department at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland, and an F42 member.

Slotwinski is familiar with what it takes to tighten up the timing on the development process. He is the technical contact for the F42 standard F3122, Guide for Evaluating Mechanical Properties of Materials Made via Additive Manufacturing Processes, published after nine months in process. "We knew we needed to get a standard out there for mechanical tests of AM parts," he says.

With a topic and a champion, you'll then need a task group, a draft and an online collaboration area. And, a recommendation from Picariello: "Don't rush to ballot."

Gather your task group (the size varies according to the stakeholders needed but could include anywhere from one to 20 people), and if you have content for a draft, consider contacting ASTM's standards development editor for help. Kathleen Peters (tel +1.610-832-9650) can help you turn that document into a draft standard. Or, use the templates available online to do that as well. Register the draft as a work item, and initiate an online collaboration area.

Having a good starting point for the standard makes drafting it much easier. Slotwinski says that for F3122 and a similar standard (F3049, Guide for Characterizing Properties of Metal Powders Used for Additive Manufacturing Processes), research reports from the National Institute of Standards and Technology provided a great deal of information. Existing content helps, or an outline to which the task group can add.

Regarding the "don't rush to ballot," Picariello says that the process can go faster when the draft is as complete as possible before balloting. But, even if the draft seems finished, socialize it. Think about who needs to see it for informal review. Communicate with your fellow members to share information about why the text is written as it is and how the group made its decisions on this point or that section. That can help to identify issues and gather insight that might improve the draft and the balloting process.

Along the way, make use of the collaboration area, WebEx meetings and conference calls to help strengthen the document.

Finally, both Slotwinski and Picariello say: Be open to changes. Ask yourself if you can live with a suggested change and keep what's really important for that standard in mind when figuring out how to proceed. And, understand that challenges will arise. New committee members may be unfamiliar with a draft standard's background, which may result in unexpected ballot returns. As always, communication and education can help.

For more information, or to further refresh your sense of new standards development in general, go to, or contact Pat Picariello (tel +1.610.832.9720) or your committee's staff manager.

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