Standardisation Meaning, Objectives, Types, Applications, Benefits

Table of Contents:-

  • Standardisation Meaning
  • What is Standardisation?
  • Objectives of Standardisation
  • Types of Standards
  • Standard Development Process
  • Applications of Standardisation
  • Benefits of Standardisation

Standardisation Meaning

Standardisation involves establishing provisions for addressing actual or potential problems in everyday and repeated use to achieve the optimum degree of order in a given context. In the context of the definitions of standard and standardisation, the one provided by ISO is widely recognised and familiar to everyone in the standards community.

According to ISO, “Standards refer to documents, established by consensus and approved by a recognised body, which provides, for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines or characteristics for activities or their results, aimed at the achievement of the optimum degree of order in a given context”.

This definition is accompanied by a note: “Standards should be based on the consolidated results of science, technology and experience, and aimed at the promotion of optimum community benefits”.

However, the above-mentioned definitions are formulated narrowly, specifically addressing standardisation among standardisation organisations. They need to encompass in-company standardisation.

What is Standardisation?

Therefore, one can broadly define standards as accepted bases or rules derived from economic and social activities for measuring things and standardisation as a process in which people establish rules consciously and unconsciously. Alternatively, standardisation can be defined as an activity in which people develop bases or rules for measuring things and thus codes of conduct by establishing regularity from disorder.

A specific form of standardisation that has played a crucial role in the history of human society has emerged from technological applications and industrialisation, driven by the progress of science and technology. This is particularly evident through the efforts of companies and standardisation organisations that came into existence after the Industrial Revolution. Companies engage in in-house standardisation to enhance the quality of their products, increase productivity, and actively participate in standardisation through various levels of standardisation organisations to reap associated benefits. In a standardisation organization, the process involves inviting stakeholders to develop standards collaboratively through consensus for specific purposes. Modern standardisation is a product of industrialisation, motivated by a pursuit of higher productivity and efficient resource allocation.

Objectives of Standardisation

The following are some major objectives of standardisation:

  1. Interchangeability
  2. Compatibility
  3. Environmental Protection
  4. Better Communication and Understanding
  5. Removal of Trade Barriers
  6. Fitness for Purpose
  7. Variety Reduction
  8. Protecting Against Factors that Affect the Safety and Health of Consumers
  9. Better Utilisation of Resources
  10. Transfer of Technology

Objectives of Standardisation are explained below:

1) Interchangeability

Interchangeability refers to the suitability of a process, product, or service to be used in place of another to fulfil a relevant requirement. A deliberate standardisation process makes it possible to make processes, products, or services interchangeable, even if they are created in different countries. For example, shaving blades of other brands may be designed to be used in the same razor, and injection needles of different sizes and brands may be designed to fit the same hypodermic syringe.

2) Compatibility

Parallel developments of processes, products or services, which must be combined, could be improved if they are compatible. One of the aims of standardisation is compatibility. Namely, the suitability of processes, products or services to be used under specific conditions to fulfil the relevant requirements without causing unnecessary interaction. For example, information must be coded in electronic pulses for storage, transmission, and retrieval in electronic data processing. It has to be standardised to make the code recognisable for any machine and at all times. Such standardisation helps to establish compatibility between various machines or subsystems and permits expansion features and information exchange amongst different systems.

3) Environmental Protection

It is an essential aim of standardisation. The focus here is on preserving nature from damage that may be caused during the manufacture of a product or its use or disposal after use. For example, the domestic use of a washing machine should generate only a minimum of pollutants.

4) Better Communication and Understanding

Whenever goods and services are transferred, standards spell out what means of communication are to be used between different parties. Since standards contain recorded information in a precise and documented form, they contribute towards better communication and understanding in various settings. Standardised signs play an essential role in public places such as airports, railway stations, and highways.

5) Removal of Trade Barriers

Concerns arise over restrictions on the export of processes, products, or services due to the introduction of technical barriers to trade, such as arbitrary product requirements. Standards play an important role in preventing such non-tariff barriers to trade by harmonising requirements to promote fair competition. Purchasers can be assured of the quality level of a product manufactured according to a recognised standard.

6) Fitness for Purpose

Fitness for purpose is the ability of a process, product, or service to fulfil a defined purpose under specific conditions. Every product, process, or service is intended to meet the user’s needs. Sometimes, the users’ expectations differ from the actual purpose, and it can be challenging for users to clearly articulate the desired quality of the process, product, or service. Standards aid in this by identifying the optimal parameters for the performance of a process, product, or service (e.g., product standards) and the method for evaluating product conformity (such as test method standards and quality control standards). Standards also establish conditions for using the process, product, or service; otherwise, any failure attributed by users to a deficiency or lack of quality in the process, product, or service may result from improper use.

7) Variety Reduction

There is a popular belief that variety is the spice of life. While a large number of varieties for a particular process, product, or service may be helpful to consumers and enable them to make the most appropriate choice, this wide variety necessitates extensive inventories, resulting in high costs for manufacturers. Variety reduction is one of the aims of standardisation for selecting, among other things, the optimum number of sizes, ratings, grades, compositions and practices to meet prevailing needs. Balancing between too many and too few varieties is in the best interest of both manufacturers and consumers.

8) Protecting Against Factors that Affect the Safety and Health of Consumers

Safety of the process, product or service is of great importance if, under certain conditions, the use of the process, product or service may threaten human life or property. Therefore, identifying processes, products or services and their safety parameters, not only under everyday use but under possible misuse, is one of the essential requirements of standardisation.

9) Better Utilisation of Resources

Achieving maximum overall economy through the improved utilisation of resources, such as capital, human effort, and materials, is a critical objective of standardisation. Manufacturing organisations must standardise materials, components, and production methods to reduce waste and facilitate cost-effective mass production. For example, in construction and civil engineering, building standards and codes of practice recommend the appropriate quantities of cement and steel to achieve the required strength.

10) Transfer of Technology

Standards serve as practical tools for technology transfer. As standards include the outcomes of advancements in science, technology, and experience, they mirror technical development’s state of the art. Since standardisation is a dynamic process, standards undergo updates to incorporate new technologies as they are developed.

Types of Standards

The following are the general types of standards:

1) Basic Standards

The basic units of the SI system (System International Dunites or International System of Units) were defined and adopted by CGPM (General Conference on Weights and Measures). The seven fundamental units of the SI system are listed below:

Quantity  Unit
Length meter
Mass kilogram
Time second
Electric Current ampere
Temperature kelvin
Substance mole
Luminous Density candela

Incidentally, the ultimate length standard is no longer the prototype metre; it is now defined in terms of a given number of wavelengths of a particular light.

The IEC, ISO, and the International Organization for Legal Metrology (OIML) have published several standards and recommendations related to measurement. Other international organizations that publish guidelines and recommendations on measurement include the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM), the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), the International Federation of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (IFCC), and the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP).

2) Specification Standard

The Specification Standards are sometimes called standards on sampling, inspection, test methods, grading, packaging, labelling, supply, and delivery. These are explained as follows:

i) Methods for analysis and testing are often incorporated into specification standards. However, when extensive details about test methods are provided, these standards are published as independent standards. For example, a separate series of national and ISO standards is available for testing petroleum products, water, dairy products, electrical appliances, paints, and textiles.

ii) Labelling and packaging requirements are generally not a part of specification standards, therefore, separate standards exist for them. Many standards have been published for packaging materials (cardboard, paper, etc.) and other types of packages, such as cans, drums, tins, barrels, and containers. These standards also describe the methods used for testing the considered packages.

iii) Methods for inspection and sampling are often incorporated into specification standards. Sometimes, these may be indicated in a particular document and referred to in the specification standard. For example, there are separate standards for the sampling of bulk commodities such as iron ore, cereals, and coal.

iv) Methods for classification and grading are sometimes addressed within the body of the specifications for the materials or products. For many bulk materials like coal and metallic ores, separate methods of grading and classification are available, generally given as Grade A, Grade B, etc., or Class 1, Class 2, etc., to express the hierarchy of individual grades.

v) Supply and delivery conditions are often a part of specification standards. When these conditions are more technical (e.g., concerning sampling, packaging, inspection, or labelling), they are generally included in the specification type of standards. Nonetheless, independent standards on supply and delivery conditions are also available, mainly dealing with contractual obligations.

3) Standards on Organisation

Beyond dealing with products, test methods, inspection, sampling and packaging, national and international standards have been developed that cover various management techniques, which include:

  1. Inventory management,
  2. Production management,
  3. Banking transaction documentation,
  4. Information technology.
  5. Logistics,
  6. Quality management systems (ISO 9000 series), and
  7. Environmental management systems (ISO 14000 series).

4) Vocabulary Standards

These standards encompass glossaries and definitions of terms, providing cohesion and uniformity for interpreting terms used in various other standards. In certain instances, the subject standard may incorporate a concise glossary comprising definitions of relevant terms. However, whenever a separate glossary on a given subject exists in standard form, a mere reference to it in the subject standard is considered adequate. For example, the International Organization for Standardization ISO 9000:2000 covers the vocabulary of most quality management-related terms; these are repeated as a “normative reference” in other standards, such as ISO 9001:2000 (Quality Management Systems – Requirements). ISO has already published more than 150 vocabularies. A few examples are Paper Vocabulary, a List of Equivalent Terms Used in the Plastic Industry, Vocabulary for the Refractory Industry, and Vocabulary of Information Processing.

5) Product Standards

For products, standards containing specifications are the most common to cover the requirements for a product or any material comprehensively. These specifications provide the user with comprehensive guidance for processing, producing, selling, purchasing, and using the product. These standards may include requirements for performance, dimensions, packaging, labelling, test methods and sampling methods. Alternatively, these requirements may be defined in different standards.

Specification standards contain mainly three categories of requirements, namely:

  1. Obligatory requirements (essential characteristics that are required to ensure the product’s usefulness),
  2. Optional or recommendatory requirements (It helps to improve the serviceability of a product or to meet the specific requirements of a particular type of customer), and
  3. Informative requirements.

Product and material standards can be used as the basis for contracts in commercial transactions. National or third-party product certifications can only be granted when these product standards are adhered to. International standards organisations such as ISO, CODEX, IEC, the European Union (through its product regulations) and various National Standards Bodies (NSBs), regularly issue new product standards or update existing ones to align with evolving market demands and advancing technologies. 

Standard Development Process

Effective quality control and reliability of a product can be achieved mainly through an adequate standardisation system. Quality control and standardisation are synonymous terms, each supplementing the other. Like quality control, standardisation can be applied at every stage, such as design, selection and control of raw and in-process materials, methods, process control, tooling design, equipment selection, production methods and techniques, stage inspection, and final inspection.

The process of standard development is outlined as follows:

1) Preparation of Technical Specifications

Standards can be adopted during design, and technical specifications can be prepared to be short, precise, positively unambiguous, and quantifiable with measurable characteristics. Standardisation for specifications can be applied at various levels, such as:

i) Purchase of raw materials and materials required during production.

ii) Engineering and design of components as per the customer’s requirements.

iii) Manufacturing specifications include laying down dimensional tolerances, machining allowances, contraction allowances, mechanical properties, surface finish, etc.

iv) Administrative specifications, such as reporting systems, communication procedures, etc.

v) Test specifications, such as prototype testing, field testing, test procedures, frequency and extensiveness of tests, failure limit analysis, process correction procedure, etc.

vi) Product specifications covering detailed product requirements, such as capacity, accuracy, finish achievable, material composition, mechanical or other properties, and product performance.

2) Preparation of Standards on Procedures and Equipment Used for Inspection and Testing

Test procedures, design of tools and gauges, testing and inspection of gauges, defect analysis, and review can be laid down as standards.

3) Preparation of Standards on Manufacturing Processes, Methods, and Tooling

These standards, if prepared, can be instrumental in streamlining production, avoiding wasteful practices, and lowering costs.

4) Preparation of Codes of Practice to be Used for Guidance during Manufacture or Inspection

Initially, when a new process or technique is introduced, codes of practice based on established practices elsewhere can help reduce trials and standardise the process for shop floor application.

5) Preparation of Standards on Types and Design of Final Products

In many cases of engineering products, such as machine tools, pumps, valves, electric motors, etc., it is possible to standardise the design of products at the national or group levels for adoption by all concerned. Product standardisation can ensure designing with optimum characteristics, reduction in the variety of components, and interchangeability of parts, all of which may lead to reduced prices.

Applications of Standardisation

Standardisation, when adequately adopted, can be helpful in the prevention of defective items, defects or rejections, improve production yield and maintain effective quality control. It can be applied at various levels depending on the extensiveness of its application and usage.

The following are the levels of application of Standardisation:

1) Group Level

Several companies with similar objectives and lines of production or those providing similar services often join together to form an association or society. This group of companies can work in the common interest of all its members and prepare standards for their specific use. These standards may be required to be developed when national-level standards are unavailable.

2) International Level

To address the common interests of various countries regarding material specifications, product designs, quality evaluation parameters, properties, test methods, inspection criteria, etc., an international body can play a crucial role in bringing rationalisation, unification, and standardisation, as well as the much-needed interchangeability of parts. The International Standards Organization (ISO) is a body formulating standards with the cooperation of all its member countries. It has a dual role: one is to cater to the everyday needs of member countries to make the design of products interchangeable and enable the production and use of quality goods, thus facilitating easy trade among member countries. The second is to promote the development of national standards for each member country. National standards are often prepared based on international standards, considering federal requirements and local conditions.

3) Company Level

Each company must work continuously to develop its standards in areas where national or any other standards are unavailable or, even if available, are unsuitable due to the process’s complexity. Typical examples of such requirements are design features of machine components being produced, alloy compositions of materials used for various components, and mechanical properties, like hardness, tensile strength, or impact value of materials, where each company may have to develop and maintain its standards.

4) National Level

At the national level, a corporate body is entrusted by the government to prepare standards for various requirements of materials, methods, processes, designs, products, equipment, tools, etc., which could be helpful to a large number of organisations. In India, the Bureau of Indian Standards, earlier called the Indian Standards Institution, is the accredited authority that has done pioneering work in this direction.

Benefits of Standardisation

Standardisation forms the basic building blocks for new product development by establishing consistent protocols that everyone can understand and adopt. This helps to improve compatibility and interoperability, simplifies product development, and speeds time-to-market. Standardisation makes it easier to compare and understand competing products. As standards are globally adopted and applied in many markets worldwide, they promote international trade.

By its very definition, standardisation aims to achieve maximum overall economy. Standards provide benefits to all sectors of society. Some of the benefits of standardisation are as follows:

1) For Customers, Standards

  1. Assure the quality of services received and goods purchased.
  2. Provide better value for money.
  3. Are convenient for settling any kind of dispute with suppliers.

2) For Traders, Standards

  1. Provide a workable basis for accepting or rejecting goods or consequential disputes, if any.
  2. Minimise delays, correspondence, etc., resulting from the inaccurate or incomplete specifications of materials or products.

3) For Manufacturers, Standards

  1. Rationalise the manufacturing process.
  2. Eliminate or reduce wasteful material or labour.
  3. Reduce inventories of both finished products and raw materials.
  4. Reduce the cost of manufacture.

4) For Technologies, Standards

Provide starting points for research and development to improve goods and services further.

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