Imagine moving into a new house and going to plug your refrigerator into the wall – only to find that the plug doesn’t match the outlet! Electrical standards set decades ago ensure that won’t happen. And standards today allow you to get your film developed anywhere in the world, or make a phone call from here to China. An ounce in North Carolina is the same as an ounce in Nebraska, and you can hook up almost any kind of stereo component from any electronics store.
All of these conveniences are the result of a standard, a set of characteristics or quantities that describes features of a product, process, service, interface or material.
Standards don’t just make life easier, they make it safer…and they enhance companies’ profitability. For instance, builders save money because construction materials are available in standard sizes. At the same time, electrical codes that builders must follow save lives.
Some standards evolve through marketplace competition, the dominance of the IBM-based personal computer being a classic example. And the U.S. government has, for decades, viewed standards development as its role. Today the U.S. government manages about 50,000 mandatory standards – from automobile airbag regulations administered by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration to missile component standards required by the Department of Defense. Another 40,000 standards are the result of voluntary efforts by industry groups to develop consensus standards that benefit vendors, suppliers and customers.