Post 6 -by Gautam Shah


Standards emerge from empathy or as a strategic understanding between two or more persons. Standards are commonly accepted specifications for making, maintaining, using and disposing objects, and mechanics of creation, handling, operations and management. Formation of standards‘ is the raison d’etre for being a member of clan or society. Governments gain political power and patronage by administering standards. Regional blocks and International communities achieve efficiency by preventing conflict and duplication of effort through standards. Standards, very effectively and economically raise the levels of quality, safety, reliability, efficiency and commutability.

A community develops its own bet practices or standards as commonly accepted specifications for exploiting materials, refining product making and finishes > Wikipedia image by Wrote from Goteborg Sweden 

Standards emerge at many different levels. At basic level these are very widely acceptable strategies. But at higher level, a person, an organization or a government department must strive for greater universal participation. Such an active role in the society occurs as a quest for quality for all aspects of being. The quest for quality is reflected through: desire to excel, readiness for improvisation, steadfastness to good practices, transparency in dealings, persistence for consistency, wider application.

Personal standards for excellence in Music by A R Rahman > Wikipedia image by Essaar

Personal Standards : Standards at a very primary level are compiled by a Person, as a ‘collection of bests’, ‘most favoured or representative items’ or ‘my suggestion’. Since these are carefully picked out items, represent a Quality Conscience of the Author, and so, are personal standards. Personal Standards are valued for the author’s mastery over the subject, rather, then the absolute quality of the included material. Personal standards combined with personal norms of enforcement are often tyrannical. Specifications that establish personal standards describe entities’ physical characteristics, but rarely provide the ways and means (processes) of achieving or even testing it. Typical examples of personal standards are: Time saver standards for architecture and interior design, Furniture or item catalogues, Special issues of periodicals, etc.

Bamboo products making unit in Dumka Jharkhand Wikipedia image by > Jaimoen87

Standards can be a strategic understanding, among the competitors or associates to manage a situation such as: reduce the rivalry, rationalize the methods of production, reduce the costs, enhance the image of the product, form a cartel to ward off the nonmembers etc. Such standards also emerge without any distinct effort, as ‘followers of the same path’, empathetically sustain similar actions. A work-culture or faith comradery develops among the practitioners.

St Eligius workshop for Gold 1450


Standards of Clan or Cast : Members of clan or cast can have a tacit or formal understanding for acting in unison. Such understandings are of usually negative dictates and are very restrictive. These understandings or standards sustain the livelihood by protecting the exclusive or patent know-how, and by regulating the competition among the members. The standards are more of the norms for behavioural and less of technological specifications. Clans and casts flourish by acting in consonance with the Rulers or Government. Which, in turn enhances their governance by politically acknowledging such practices. Over a period of time the divergent policies and directives of the clans get rationalized as the Code of Conduct. Such Codes relate to personal behaviour, formation and conduct of commercial activities, use of resources including the environment, safety measures, risks management, manufacturing, handling and disposing of the materials, and trade practices relating to the weights, measures, economic transactions, employment, etc.

‘A code of Conduct is basically a personal standard of ethical behaviour. If well expressed and conducted, it will be emulated by others in the organization or society.’It is an ever evolving process with learning and technological achievements.

Medical standards are best practices adopted through professional interactions > Flickr image by Stephan

Virtual standards : Some major Consumers, Government departments like defence, because of their vast scales of operations, are prolific creators of specifications, and their needs become virtual standards. These agencies can afford to operate testing facilities for the purchases, and have enough supervision expertise for rationalizing the work procedures. In India, Railways and Public Works Departments are some of the agencies that dominate the realm of commercial activities. Whatever is consumed by them become the commercially the most viable item.

First macadam road in the USA 1823 with broken stones not exceeding 6 ounces in weight or to pass a two inch ring > Wikipedia image

National standards : Specifications have strong indigenous origin, as materials and human skills, both have strong local character and advantage. The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) in India, and National Standards agencies in many countries of the world, operate as a Standards Formulating, Licensing, and Enforcing-agency. Some governments like USA, though, act only as a Facilitating agency, encouraging the trade organizations and technical associations to take the lead in not only developing standards, but for enforcement. Governments during the later part of 20th C. found it easier to frame laws that are parallel to standards. In many small countries, standards for very urgent and acute requirements are prepared, as integral part of the legislation. ‘Formulation of Standards’ and Legislation is often considered to be the same.

Stacked containers of 2×20′, 40′, 45’48’ and 53′ > Wikipedia image


Wikipedia image > attribution: Kcida10 at en Wikipedia

International Standards : National standards are very indigenous, designed to serve the national interests. The national protectionist interests are served by restrictive or negative specifications. National standards cover only the exigent needs of the nation, so do not serve the interests of regional economic activities. When materials and human resources are transected across nations, a need for a wider application of specifications makes Nations come together to create a Charter of Regional or International Conduct.

Examples of ISO/IEC 7810 Identity Cards sizes > Wikipedia image by Someone’s Moving Castle


Credit Card of ISO/IEC 7810 size ID-1 > Wikipedia image by Lotus Head from Johannesburg Gauteng South Africa

A world level Organization was needed to coordinate the standards’ activities of many Nations and Commercial Organizations. International Standards Organization (ISO -1947), International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC -1906) and the International Federation of the National Standardizing Associations (ISA -1926-1942), are some such International agencies. International Standards have no Legislative Support or Enforcement backing of a Government. International Standards work on Voluntary Corroboration. Such standards flourish on the realization that greater advantages are earned by following it, rather then not being part of it. Success of International Standards depends on the Rational Confirmation and Wider Acceptance.

Safety footwear complying to European EN ISO 20345:2004 > Wikipedia image by Francis Flinch

Levels of Relevance of Standards are expected to achieve intended results, by voluntary concurrence, obligation, or through enforcement. Standards are very powerful means to cause a change or even maintain status quo. The nature of Application of Standards takes many different forms with varying levels of credibility. Acceptance of standards if voluntary ensues a social respect or some form of elite status. The enforcement also may occur with social boycott, penalty or punishment.

SPN Purposes
Purposes Standards serve

Process of Standardization : Standardization is a process of identifying common features among the various Versions of Specifications (personal, clan, trade, etc.) and assimilating them into a common and rational form. A standard emerges from equalization of divergent views, beliefs or concepts, as a consensus with intentions of efficiency and commercial advantage. ‘A Standard is that level of performance or accomplishment which has been selected as an Ideal to which actions or objects may be equated‘.

Cheese making has many regional variants, all developing from individual pursuit for quality > Wikipedia image

Standardization allows for clear communication between User and Suppliers, at a relatively low cost and with efficiency. Standards allow for interchangeable parts, replaceable systems and inter polarity of systems by encouraging concepts like: ‘Open-Ended-Architecture’, ‘Modulated Plug-in Systems’, ‘Networking’, ‘Shareware’, ‘Systems thinking’.

Dyeing of wool has as many specifications as there are material resources, but few equalized processes have emerged > Wikipedia image

Forms of Standards : Standards for industry may be Qualitative Parameters for constituent raw materials, which can provide a reasonable output. It could be Capabilities of machines and other equipments, which combined with specific human skills help efficient handling of tasks. Standards also specify Tactics and Strategies of securing assured results. It could be devices, instruments and methodologies to verify the performance. Standards could also include mechanisms to connect, operate, maintain and replace systems. Standards invariably incorporate Time management through scheduling, sequencing, acceleration, retardation, etc.

Medical services > Standards manifest for products, processes, services, public and other organizations > Wikipedia image by Giuseppe Bollanti

Standards that are applied in an Industrial setting include Engineering Standards, such as properties of materials, fits and tolerances, terminology, and drafting practices. Product Standards describe attributes and ingredients of manufactured items as embodied in drawings, formulas, material lists, descriptions, or models.

Standards Implications > Wikipedia image

Updating of Standards : Specifications continuously evolve and so do the Standards. Standards cannot remain purposeful for very long, unless continuously improvised, and their domain enlarged. Some Commercial Standards, as for example, in the fields of Information Technology, Communication protocols and Data Processing are replaced by emergent technologies even before being implemented. ISO (International Standards Organization) and BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards) revise their standards, optimally every five years, but often more frequently. Improvisation, updates the specifications included as standards, and enlarges the domain by including many more facets of human activities.




Published by

Gautam Shah

Former adjunct faculty, Faculty of Design CEPT University, Ahmedabad and Consultant Designer

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