Small Is Big



Cicely Enright

Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, ASTM and the Benefits of Collaboration

 

At ASTM, small is big.

Small and medium sized enterprises, which make major contributions to economic growth and job creation around the world, also contribute to their industries through the standards they help develop. The ASTM–SME synergy benefits its participants at the standards development table and in the marketplace.

SMEs - from fuel processors to additive manufacturers, crib makers to flying car creators - lend their expertise to ASTM standards development. All enterprises have an equal voice in the process.

ASTM has dedicated itself to making the standards development process accessible with online tools and low membership fees (annually $75USD) that allow participation in an unlimited number of technical committees.

 

The Standards Development Edge

"ASTM committees provide a valuable mechanism for multiple players in the industry to be on the same team and work together in ways that wouldn't be possible otherwise," says Anna Dietrich, co-founder, adviser and former chief operating officer of Terrafugia. The company has a two-passenger vehicle in the works that will both fly and drive on the road, with a similar four-passenger vehicle planned.

An ASTM member since 2010, Dietrich participates in ASTM aviation committees, including F37 on Light Sport Aircraft, F38 on Unmanned Aircraft Systems, F39 on Aircraft Systems and F44 on General Aviation Aircraft.

Dietrich notes that she became an ASTM member to stay on top of developments in the aviation industry and to have a say in the text of standards. She has found that being part of the process will help as Terrafugia develops its flying vehicles. "The opportunity to have a seat at the table in crafting standards that could be applicable to flying cars was one that, as a company, we simply couldn't afford to pass up," she says. She's pleased that she can sit alongside regulatory authorities at the standards development table because they're critical to general aviation's success, she adds. The entire industry can, and does, collaborate in working on ASTM standards for the industry.

Collaboration is also emphasized by Sam Shamie, co-president of Delta Children's Products, an SME that delivers a large range of juvenile products, including cribs, strollers and walkers, among others. Shamie says he has long been personally involved in the work of Committee F15 on Consumer Products and knows that juvenile products are safer because of the ASTM standards. "ASTM standards are extremely beneficial to our industry and company," he says.

Shamie notes that committee work provides a forum where possible hazards can be covered: "We openly discuss issues and problems to come to consensus on what will make products safer." That gives him the ability to implement changes quickly in his company's goods as well.

ASTM's process also helps innovators who are driving new technologies. Shane Collins is director of additive manufacturing programs at CalRAM. The SME uses laser and electron beam powder bed fusion - building parts from fused layers of metal powders - in its contract manufacturing to make components for the aerospace and defense industries.

Collins has been involved in the work of Committee F42 on Additive Manufacturing Technologies since the committee's start, and he leads the work of Subcommittee F42.05 on Materials and Processes. That group has completed six standards and has another five underway.

"As a contract manufacturer, we have to work to standards. That's the only way that we can have a valid transaction," says Collins, who adds that he sees ASTM standards from F42 used more and more regularly. At CalRAM, "We work to standards on a daily basis."

And as part of an SME, Collins appreciates the equal ability to participate in standards development. He and other SME representatives attend meetings in person, but some SMEs, he notes, lack the time and money to send representatives to ASTM meetings. Even without a budget to travel, members can be active in ASTM through the online tools such as the collaboration area, where everyone can provide insight and expertise to refine work items and revise existing standards.

One more advantage to the ASTM process comes to mind for Collins - the negative vote, which stops a standard's development until it is addressed. "I can't imagine that there's another development process where the negative vote has that much power, to stop the process, and that the additional process is there to resolve the issue," he says.

Another advantage for SMEs in ASTM standards development is global capability and reach, which can be required for a new product. That's a benefit that Oberon Fuels has found.

Oberon Fuels, maker of a potentially renewable, clean-burning transportation fuel called dimethyl ether (DME), needed an international consensus standard to be able to sell DME in the state of California. To respond to the requirement, Oberon approached ASTM about developing a new standard specification for DME. Committee D02 on Petroleum Fuels, Liquid Fuels and Lubricants took on the new standards activity, and Rebecca Boudreaux, Oberon's president, led the work of stakeholders from around the world.

The end result is a published standard specification for dimethyl ether for fuel purposes (D7901), which has led to modified regulations that now allow the legal sale of DME in California.

Boudreaux, who continues to be involved in D02, says this of her experience: "Individuals with numerous years of ASTM experience happily mentored us, worked through challenges, solved problems and put forward an ASTM specification with impressive speed and accuracy."

Another SME, Oliner Fibre Co. Inc., evolved from being a user of ASTM standards to participating in standards development. The company, which employs 15 people, produces Vulcanex® Vulcanized Fibre (the company's largest product line), used in electrical insulation, washers, gaskets and conveyor belt splices, among other parts. For Vulcanex, Oliner has relied on ASTM standards for decades.

To make Vulcanex, Oliner uses D710, Specification for Vulcanized Fibre Sheets, Rods and Tubes Used for Electrical Insulation, which in turn references D619, Test Methods for Vulcanized Fibre Used for Electrical Insulation. The D710 standard is ‘the' one for the industry, notes company president Andrew Oliner. "We refer to it as a benchmark, a touchstone for quality," he says.

So when D619 was unexpectedly withdrawn, Oliner stepped into the ASTM standards development arena to champion the revision and reinstatement of the standard. He continues to keep up with work by the responsible committee, D09 on Electrical and Electronic Insulating Materials, through ASTM's online tools, email and phone.

 

The Benefits Don't Stop with Standards

ASTM participation offers more than the opportunity to take a seat at the standards table. Members can connect with suppliers and customers as well as colleagues in their fields.

Collins attests to one such advantage, learning from fellow committee members' expertise. He says that CalRAM was considering the use of a technology from Europe, and Collins was tasked with looking into it. Thanks to his participation in ASTM and F42, he could call a European colleague for a more local and detailed perspective on the technology.

In addition, Collins notes that F42 meetings provide the opportunity to meet with additive manufacturing experts from around the world. "These kinds of non-standards development benefits are really hard to quantify but I find them really valuable," he says.

And there's more.

A marketplace advantage comes from collaborating with ASTM members, according to Oberon's Boudreaux. The standard for dimethyl ether developed by Committee D02 has given the fuel more acceptance, with more companies considering how DME might be useful for their engines and vehicles. "The process of working with ASTM has made DME ‘real' for many people," Boudreaux says. "Thanks to the diversity of the task force, DME now has a place in the market but also greatly expanded legitimacy that comes with working with established industry partners like Volvo and Ford."

As Delta's Shamie says, "Making a great standard and great product are rewarding. Being able to work and have personal relationships with everyone on the group is rewarding too."

March/April
2016