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Guest commentary, 06/19/2000

Guest commentary, 06/19/2000

Standards are absolutely critical in the design process and provide many benefits, such as uniformity that makes the design process efficient, and safety which enables the protection of people, among other factors, says Wing.

Design News: How familiar are engineers with the various standards that govern their work?

Wing: In the industrial world, they are very familiar with standards. They have to be, because in this global economy there are no borders. In the less industrialized parts of the world, they may not be very familiar with standards. In either case, engineers often spend a lot of time researching standards.

Q: How many standards-writing bodies are there?

A: There are over 440 standards-writing bodies. In the U.S., in addition to Underwriters Laboratories and ASTM, there are also such organizations as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the Society of Automotive Engineers, as well as other organizations. Actually, there is a growing number of standards in the US It seems that many societies are protecting their interests by writing standards. In Europe, there is some consolidation toward pan-European standards. That consolidation is not evident in the US

Q: What are some of the benefits of engineering standards?

A:Among many benefits are uniformity, which makes it easier to design products for different localities, and safety. Standards?particularly building standards?protect people from fire, electrical shock, and other hazards.

Q: How do engineers know what standards apply to their design projects?

A: Often, they don't. Engineering schools are supposed to teach students about standards, but often engineers know about standards because they belong to a standards committee or a society that writes them. IHS is actually the only company that reprints all standards, and we update them every 30 or 60 days. That helps engineers because they can't collect all the various standards they need on their own. We have relationships with more than 400 standards writers around the world, and we are the exclusive distributor for UL standards. If you compare depth and breadth of standards republished or provided, IHS is the only company that can provide all standards engineers need, although there are a few smaller companies that provide smaller collections of standards. IHS is the exclusive or primary distributor of standards for AGMA, AES, AIA, NEMA, EIA, TIA, GM, John Deere, Navistar, and New Holland.

Q: Are engineers involved in the writing of standards?

A: Yes. If their companies or professional organizations are members of standards-writing bodies such as ASTM or UL, their companies can nominate them to serve on standards-writing committees, where the work is all done.

Q: How long does it take a standards-writing committee to produce a standard?

A:It can take from months to years because of the extensive research the committees engage in. The members debate all points.

Q: How do you distribute standards to engineers who need them?

A:Engineers subscribe to our service, buying one standards document at a time or more. We make standards available on CD-ROM, and that is important internationally, where some companies don't have the infrastructure to receive them over the Internet. But, we have also started distributing standards over the Internet because engineers, particularly in the US, were asking for Internet access to standards. We pay a high fee to the standards bodies in order to make standards available over the Internet.

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