Tuning up for global standards
Harmonization key in global standards development: The why, who, how
By Bill Fiske and Ellen Fussell Policastro
Standardization should support your business strategy, otherwise, why bother? You cannot support a strategy unless you have one. Strategic thinking means thinking forward to the areas you intend to grow over the next four to 10 years, especially in standards committee activity. You can benefit from standards development whether your business is national or regional. If your business is domestic, be careful because people want to sell goods and services all over the world, and there is an ongoing drive to harmonize standards globally for those for products and services. If the future of your business is international, developing international standards will give you a better return on your investment than domestic or regional efforts.
“Standards harmonization reduces unnecessary variation in products and processes while increasing the efficiency of design, manufacturing, and deployment,” said Ted Schnaare, an engineering manager at Rosemount Inc. in Chanhassen, Minn., and chair of the ISA12 committee on hazardous equipment in electrical locations. “If done thoughtfully, standards harmonization can be a win-win situation for both producers and users.”
Here is the best way to get to that win-win situation. Have your organization represented on critical project teams or maintenance teams, and you affect International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) or International Organization of Standardization (ISO) standards before anyone sees them. If you are on the national technical advisory group, you get to be part of the national committee’s work in the various public review phases. If you are on the domestic SDO committee harmonizing those standards, you have one more chance to advance your organization’s interest. If you want something to become part of an international standard, the proposal will have a much better chance with the technical committee if the material is already in your national standard. That is synergy.
It is especially important today to harmonize “because companies are getting more and more global,” said Ed Marszal, president of Kenexis Consulting in Columbus, Ohio, and a member and expert on the ISA84 standards committee on electrical, electronic, and programmable electronic systems for use in process safety applications. ISA84 is “a perfect example,” he said. “Just in June, we executed projects in Abu Dhabi, Canada, Qatar, and Kazakhstan. This is possible because we implement ISA 84.00.01, which is harmonized on a global basis through IEC 61511. It is an order of magnitude more important for operating companies that are global, where doing things in different ways in different countries carries a significant expense.”
“In our more global economy, it just makes sense [to harmonize] when appropriate,” said Jim Tatera, senior process and analysis consultant at Tatera & Assoc. in Madison, Ind., and ISA Standards and Practices department vice president. “Making and or certifying products and designs to different standards in different countries is costly. If we can harmonize those standards, we only have one to design or certify to.”
Three IEC global conformity assessment systems are in operation today. In these systems, the member certification bodies agree to accept each other’s test results, and in some cases, their factory audits (follow-up service) as well, to issue their own product or process certification. This is beneficial for international trade in electric components and equipment, reducing redundant testing to the barest minimum. As of today, ISO does not operate a conformity assessment system.
Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. participate in the IEC System for Conformity testing and Certification of Electrotechnical Equipment and Components. Canada and the U.S. are members of the IEC system for the certification to standards for electrical equipment for explosive atmospheres. Only the U.S. participates in International Electrotechnical Commission Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components now, but Canada is in the process of joining. If your organization is substantially affected by conformity assessment, it may be in your interest to join the national body in your country. The national committees include manufacturers, testing laboratories, certification bodies, users, and regulators. The reasons for becoming involved in conformity assessment systems are mostly the same as the reasons for being involved in standardization.
Europe, Japan, Canada, China, and the U.S. are probably the most active on the committees Tatera has been associated with. “In ISO and the IEC, we have a one-country, one-vote rule, rather than the balanced user/vender/general committee distribution rules that ANSI and several other countries subscribe to,” Tatera said. “A major country’s vote means as much as a minor country. This means that often a united group of European countries’ votes can mean more than the U.S., Russia, China, and several others together. I have heard people say the EU should have one vote like the U.S., but I don’t think I will live to see that.”
Most harmonization activities Tatera has been associated with are technical and not political, and nationalism is not a problem. “Sometimes when a standard is on a topic that a country’s major suppliers have already selected the technology they plan to produce, it becomes a little political,” Tatera said. “Jobs can be at stake, and a country’s major suppliers income/reputation/investment can be involved.”
China and India were generally behind the curve in standards, Tatera said. “Rather than create their own quickly or choose U.S., European, or other standards, they seem to be going primarily with the international standards where they have none that they want to use. As far as new standards development goes, they are participating on many committees.”
ISA84 has delegates to IEC “to ensure the IEC standard is consistent with U.S. interests, and this coordination is on the agenda at all committee meetings,” Marszal said. “Industries that are global will harmonize first,” he said. And while the U.S. is harmonizing globally, “Europe is more highly represented than other areas of the world. They are ahead of the curve, but emerging markets are anxious to catch up.”
Generally speaking, standards harmonization today “enjoys broad support from producers, users, and regulators,” Schnaare said. Although some within each of these groups still see standards harmonization as a “potential threat to their existing markets, products, and practices.”
Schnaare said ISA12 is involved in harmonization of IEC standards for hazardous locations electrical equipment, and the relevant IEC committee (TC31) has over 40 member countries.
What can go right, wrong
At the macro level, your business grows, arguably as a result of technical committee work. It is important to report successes to management, as committee work will be competing for scarce resources with other activities. The standards manager needs to have a better story than others. At the micro level, success in committees is measured by getting all or nearly all of what you want in the standards, or in the conformity assessment scheme, if that is where you are working.
On the flip side, a precipitous change in strategy will make your efforts misdirected. In private business, mergers, acquisitions, and spin-offs can create drastic changes in strategy. If funding for committee work is curtailed, that will necessitate a review of committee participation. In this case, all that reporting of past successes should help hold the line, and keep committee work funded as much as possible.
Historical differences and legacy products, differences in installation practices, governmental and regulatory influences, and communication challenges within the standards committees play a primary role in road-blocks, Schnaare said.
“Politics and different needs” are common obstacles Tatera said. “Sometimes different country’s needs mean they cannot use the same standards. Consider outdoor temperature sensitive instrumentation that goes in Houston (100+ degree temperatures) one day, and the next time it is going in Edmonton AB Canada (-50 degrees and snow covered). We can also have issues with different voltages and other local issues, though many of those have been resolved.”
“Some roadblocks include when equipment vendors want to use standards as a barrier to entry to their established markets, and when standards try to cover too broad of an area where different approaches to the same problem are valid in different industries,” Marszal said.
Another thing that can go wrong is brain drain. When you put our experts on committees along with our competitors, suppliers, customers, and regulators, you are exposing them to people who may lure them away, which is a two-edged sword. Committee members should also be taught to spot and report potential hires among their peers. If the organization loses more than a tiny percent of employees on committees, somebody better do a root-cause analysis because people are unhappy for some reason.
Put your standards-development resources where they will best support your long-range goals. That may mean emphasizing international standards, or it may mean domestic or regional standards. Likewise, if international trade in electrical equipment or components is in your strategy, consider becoming involved in one of the IEC conformity assessment systems.
What the future holds
The future of the U.S. should be to “take a more active role in harmonizing, or have the world follow standards we were not involved in due to the perception (usually erroneous) that other standards are more international,” Marszal said.
“I have seen many standards harmonized only to see them later nationalized with a national forward to cover specific needed/desired local issues,” Tatera said. “Whether we will eventually reach total harmonization in these areas is a question only time will tell.”
Schnaare believes the current economic climate will “temporarily slow international standards harmonization activities as companies are forced to focus on cost savings. Producers and users still see the long term efficiencies, which should drive a return to accelerating standards harmonization efforts,” he said. To boost efforts, ISA12 has assumed a leadership role in international standards harmonization for hazardous locations electrical equipment on two different fronts: adapting international standards for use in the U.S., and actively participating in international standards development.
Ultimately, Tatera said he believes harmonization will be the norm. While “there are still enough unique issues, and one standard is often not the automatic solution, when appropriate one standard just makes economic sense in our global economy,” he said. “Standardizing process and product designs between countries has to be the most economic choice, when appropriate. But it will take time,” he said. “We are starting with harmonized standards on what we can unilaterally agree to and use now. We then often put national forwards on them to provide for our own local needs. Hopefully with each revision, we will see the harmonized portion growing and the unique national forward shrinking, until after many cycles they will truly be harmonized.”
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Bill Fiske is senior director of technical affairs at Intertek, a world-wide group of testing laboratories for the textile, footwear, toys, petroleum, and chemicals industries, in Cortland, N.Y. E-mail him at email@example.com. Ellen Fussell Policastro is associate editor of InTech magazine. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Strict procedures make beautiful music
By Bill Fiske
Internationalizing standards generally means adopting International Organization of Standardization (ISO) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards, with or without national differences. The national standards body adopts the standard for a country, and in North America (unlike much of the world), the national standards body is not the IEC member body. In Canada, Standards Council of Canada (SCC) is the national standards body. In Mexico, it is Direccion General de Normas (DGN), and in the U.S., it is American National Standards Institute (ANSI). On the ISO side, SCC, DGN, and ANSI are the ISO national member bodies. The national standards bodies in North America are not necessarily the standards developing organizations. The SDOs are voluntary members of the national body.
The national committees of IEC and ISO get their direction from Technical Advisory Groups (TAGs), which discuss and prepare positions on proposed international standards. For example, the U.S. TAG to IEC TC 31 will provide proposed vote and comment on IEC 60079-2 to the U.S. National Committee. The committee decides how to vote based on TAG recommendation (but does not always follow it).
Once you have decided to work on IEC or ISO standards, the TAG is the place to start. The IEC and ISO committees also have project teams, working groups, and maintenance teams. Those are where the real standardization work gets done. You can put someone on a maintenance team, for example, but the national committee has to nominate that person. In the U.S., TAG endorsement is needed by USNC/IEC to nominate a technical committee member.
The technical committee first issues a Committee Draft for public comment. The country national committee obtains input from the TAG and comments. The maintenance team or subcommittee resolves comments. The result can be a second committee draft, but usually it goes to Committee Draft for Voting. Eventually, it comes through the loop as a Final Draft International Standard (FDIS). Only editorial comments are allowed on an FDIS.
The technical committee of organizations such as Canadian Standards Association (CSA) and International Society of Automation decide whether to accept international standards, and if so, to write their national differences as domestic standards, such as CAN/CSA-C22.2 No. 60950-1-07 and ANSI/UL 60950-1-2007, the respective Canadian and American Standards for Information Technology and Business Equipment based on IEC 60950-1 Ed. 2.
Return to Previous Page