A technical standard is an established norm or requirement in regard to technical systems. It is usually a formal document that establishes uniform engineering or technical criteria, methods, processes and practices. In contrast, a custom, convention, company product, corporate standard, etc. that becomes generally accepted and dominant is often called a de facto standard.
A technical standard can also be a controlled artifact or similar formal means used for calibration. Reference Standards and certified reference materials have an assigned value by direct comparison with a reference base. A primary standard is usually under the jurisdiction of a national standards body. Secondary, tertiary, check standards and standard materials may be used for reference in a metrology system. A key requirement in this case is (metrological) traceability, an unbroken paper trail of calibrations back to the primary standard.
A technical standard may be developed privately or unilaterally, for example by a corporation, regulatory body, military, etc. Standards can also be developed by groups such as trade unions, and trade associations. Standards organizations often have more diverse input and usually develop voluntary standards: these might become mandatory if adopted by a government, business contract, etc.
Types of standards
The primary types of technical standards are:
- A standard specification is an explicit set of requirements for an item, material, component, system or service. It is often used to formalize the technical aspects of a procurement agreement or contract. For example, there may be a specification for a turbine blade for a jet engine that defines the exact material and performance requirements.
- A standard test method describes a definitive procedure that produces a test result. It may involve making a careful personal observation or conducting a highly technical measurement. For example, a physical property of a material is often affected by the precise method of testing: any reference to the property should therefore reference the test method used.
- A standard practice or procedure gives a set of instructions for performing operations or functions. For example, there are detailed standard operating procedures for operation of a nuclear power plant.
- A standard guide is general information or options that do not require a specific course of action.
- A standard definition is formally established terminology.
- Standard units, in physics and applied mathematics, are commonly accepted measurements of physical quantities.
Technical standards may exist as:
- Public documents on the internet, public library, etc. (Some technical standards may be found at a major central library or at the library of a good technical university)
- Published documents available for purchase
- Private documents owned by an organization or corporation, used and circulated as the owner determines necessary or useful
- Documents publicly available under intellectual property (copyright, etc.)
- Closed or controlled documents that contain trade secrets or classified information
When a geographically defined community must solve a community-wide coordination problem, it can adopt an existing standard or produce a new one. The main geographic levels are:
- National standard: by National standards organizations. For example, Telecommunications Industry Association standards.
- Regional standard: see standards of the Regional standards organizations. For example, CEN standards.
- International standard: see International standards organizations Example, ISO and ASTM International.
National/Regional/International standards is one way of overcoming technical barriers in inter-local or inter-regional commerce caused by differences among technical regulations and standards developed independently and separately by each local, local standards organisation, or local company. Technical barriers arise when different groups come together, each with a large user base, doing some well established thing that between them is mutually incompatible. Establishing national/regional/international standards is one way of preventing or overcoming this problem.
The existence of a published standard does not imply that it is always useful or correct. For example, if an item complies with a certain standard, there is not necessarily assurance that it is fit for any particular use. The people who use the item or service (engineers, trade unions, etc.) or specify it (building codes, government, industry, etc.) have the responsibility to consider the available standards, specify the correct one, enforce compliance, and use the item correctly. Validation of suitability is necessary.
Standards often get reviewed, revised and updated. It is critical that the most current version of a published standard be used or referenced. The originator or standard writing body often has the current versions listed on its web site.
In social sciences, including economics, a standard is useful if it is a solution to a coordination problem: it emerges from situations in which all parties realize mutual gains, but only by making mutually consistent decisions. Examples:
|Mechanical industry companies||Suppliers interchange, stock gains, etc.||Screw thread compatibility||Screw thread standard specifications|
|Pharmaceutical industry and medic community||Enable medical prescriptions, suppliers interchange, etc.||Drug uniformity||Drug standard specifications|