I personally have been selling standards since 1985 and over the years my customers want to know many of the same things over and over again. Luckily, now there is a way to answer those standards questions so that the expertise I’ve gained over the years can be accessed now and in the future. So I’m very grateful to have the venue of a blog for the educational mission of my company, Document Center Inc.
The first thing that many people want to know when they’ve been asked to get a standard is what it is. Because so many librarians and engineers who are familiar with standards are not available as reference sources within organizations now, many times the person that sees the document number and must order it doesn’t really know anything about standards at all. So that is mission number 1 – Provide a place where people can become educated about standards and standardization.
Secondly, folks who are looking for standards want to know what the standard is about — Does it answer a specific question that they need to answer? This is especially true of engineers. After all, standards represent a body of knowledge where solutions to problems are defined in detail so that the user does not have to come up with an untested answer themselves.
And in the same vein, many standards users track new revisions for their compliance collection and want to know what the changes are to the documents that they are using. This part of my blog — bringing specific information about where changes to documents are occurring — for many standards on diverse topics is unique to my posts.
Thirdly, people want to know the relationship between standards and regulations. This use of standards to fulfill the requirements of specific regulatory dictates is an essential component of trade and public safety. Additionally, there are legal considerations if the requirements of standards that are called out in legislation and regulation are not met.
Similarly, standards often times represent “best practices” which means that adherence to standards can provide legal support to any quality questions that might arise in the future. And of course, standards also impact interoperability issues as well.
Another thing that has really concerned me over the years is that associations make modifications to publications by the use of separate amendments, errata, supplements, and so on. Many users do not fully appreciate how these “add-ons” impact their use of their documents. I use this blog to help people understand these bits and pieces and to try to encourage the use of complete standards — that is, all the components of the document that are valid at any given time.
Personally, I have noticed a real loss of standards expertise over the many years I’ve owned and operated Document Center. Where my customers used to have corporate librarians and extensive information collections inhouse, now employees may be left to their own devices to spot and procure the documentation essential to the well-being of their organization. Only in regulatory compliance and document control areas do we find the regular monitoring of standards.
The folks who work in these areas sometimes are not really familiar with these types of documents, with the jurisdiction issues that frequently arise, and with how they get modified over time. And since there are so many standards developing organizations, sometimes you can miss standards activity outside the trade organizations you may participate in.
These are the concerns that I bring to my blog. What are standards? In what specific location is a standard valid? How do I maintain my standards collection so that when my company is audited my compliance documentation meets registration requirements? Why should I use this standard? How has a standard that I’m using changed? Do I need to buy this document?
I do not have a great deal of technical expertise on the topics covered by standards. With over 800,000 documents in our collection, it is impossible for any person to be an expert on them all. But I have a great deal of expertise on standards — How they are written, why they are written, for whom they are written, why they should be used, and the value of these documents to support trade, the health and safety of the public, sustainable development and manufacturing of products, and what the system is that supports them.
My blog is my legacy to the standards using community. I hope that my attempt to convey what I’ve learned in terms that are accessible to all those who read it helps develop more informed standards users.
President, Document Center Inc.