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Engineering Research Guide

Understanding Standards

What is a standard?

A standard can be defined as a set of technical definitions and guidelines, “how to” instructions for designers, manufacturers, and users. Standards promote safety, reliability, productivity, and efficiency in almost every industry that relies on engineering components or equipment.  Standards can run from a few paragraphs to hundreds of pages, and are written by experts with knowledge and expertise in a particular field who sit on many committees. 

Are standards voluntary or mandatory?

Standards can be both voluntary and mandatory.  Voluntary standards serve as guidelines but do not have the force of law.  Standards become mandatory when they have been incorporated into a business contract or incorporated into regulations.

Why are standards effective?

Standards are a vehicle of communication for producers and users. They serve as a common language, defining quality and establishing safety criteria.  Standards also maximize compatibility and interoperability.  

Adapted from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)