France has been at the heart of European and world strategy in developing non-destructive testing standards for many years.
What is a standard?
A standard is a reference document approved by a recognised standardisation institution such as AFNOR. It defines characteristics and voluntary rules applicable to the activities.
It is the result of consensus between all stakeholders in a market or activity sector.
What is the purpose of a standard?
A standard defines a common language between the economic players -producers, users and consumers- to clarify and harmonise practices and define the level of quality, safety, compatibility and least environmental impact of products, services and practices. It facilitates both national and international trade and helps to improve the structure of the economy and facilitate each individual's everyday life.
What can be standardised?
The fields covered by standards are as varied as the economic activities and respond to the questions from society.
As the goal is to define a common language, standardisation concentrates on essential performances. Everyone has the option of applying his own distinct ideas over and beyond the recommendations of the standard.
The recommendations of the standard can thus relate equally well to products, processes, best practices, measuring and testing methods, organisation systems, etc.
What is the difference between standards and regulations?
Regulations fall under the public authorities. They express a law or a rule. Their application is mandatory. Standards are voluntary. There is no obligation to comply with them. They convey the commitment of companies to satisfy a recognised and approved level of quality and safety. Standards can support the regulations by being quoted as reference documents. Only 1% of standards carry mandatory application.
Why include standardisation in the corporate strategy?
Standardisation relates to all types of organisation, regardless of size or activity sector. A company can become extensively involved in the field of standardisation to anticipate the future requirements of its market and promote and protect its practices, products or services.
When a company is directly involved in developing standards, it is in fact giving itself a major lever to orientate the market towards practices that it deems preferable.
When it applies the standards, the company improves its performance, increases the trust of its customers and thus expands its market shares.
Do standards encourage innovation?
Standardisation is an innovation accelerator. Upstream, it provides reference methods and results, forming solid bases and saving time in the innovation process. Downstream, it facilitates the circulation of avant-garde ideas and cutting-edge techniques. It creates a climate of trust for innovation in the end user.
How does standardisation work in France and worldwide?
The French standardisation system relies on a network of experts from all activity sectors and split into standardisation commissions. Their role is to bring their expertise and knowledge of each subject to ensure the quality of the standard.
The standardisation commissions are run by 25 sectoral standardisation offices or by AFNOR, which also coordinates the entire system.
Internationally, AFNOR defends French interests as a member institution of European (CEN) and international (ISO) standardisation associations. Its influence is both technical and strategic, which is essential for French companies as 90% of French standards are world standards.
How is a standard prepared?
Any economic player can propose a draft standard. This proposal is submitted to an existing or newly-created standardisation commission that unites all partners interested in the future standard. The draft is processed at national, European or world level depending on requirements. Once developed, the draft moves into validation phase. This is the public consultation (open to all) known as a public enquiry. The text of the standard is then enriched with a series of observations before taking on its final form for submission to validation by the standardisation institution: this is approval. The entire process lasts between one and three years. The standards are then reviewed periodically.
How can you take part in standardisation?
Any interested party can request to take part in the work of a standardisation commission. A request should be submitted to the standardisation body. The commissions manage their activity in the form of drafts requiring technical input from participants and their financial contribution towards covering running and logistics expenses. An economic player sitting in a standardisation commission participates directly in producing standards that will, tomorrow, create the market.