A standard can be as simple as a set of guidelines or a code of practice. A formal standard, approved by a recognised body, is a published document that provides rules, guidelines or characteristics for products, services, processes, production methods or management systems.
There are large number of standards to ensure the quality, compatibility and safety of products and there are many standards on service provision and business management systems.
Why do we need Standards
Standards are found in almost every part of our life. As examples, standards help ensure that prepared food is safe for our consumption, that a light bulb fits a socket, a plug for electrical appliances fits the outlet, that buildings are safe from collapse, that we can receive consistent service from different persons at different locations of the same company. Standards can serve as a convenient means for products to meet buyers' and import requirements and serve as guidelines for a company to achieve quality management.
In short, many products and services are subject to standards :
- for health and safety reasons
- for quality assurance
- for environmental protection
- to ensure that things meant to work together actually do
A standard that has worldwide acceptance will eliminate a barrier to the free flow of international trade.
Benefits of Standards
Standards can benefit businesses of all sizes, from multinational giants to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
- help streamline processes to gain efficiencies, bring time and cost savings
- maximise the number of suppliers, help maintain the prices for standardised parts and materials competitive
- maximise compatibility of products, gain widespread acceptance, increase sales and market access
- enable benchmarking, for SMEs to have an easy and affordable means to benchmark their performance and compare their competitive position with that of other enterprises at national and international level
- offer a convenient and reliable means of meeting regulatory obligations
- compliance helps demonstrate competitive advantage and conveys confidence to customers
- help improve the structure of a business and organisation of work, improve the chance of success
Voluntary vs Mandatory Standards
Most standards are voluntary, as a result of customer or industry demands. Some especially those which deal with health or safety, are mandatory and are enforced by laws or regulations as technical regulations.
Standards vs Innovation
Standards and innovation are complementary to each other. Knowing the latest development in standards is as important as knowing the latest innovation.
- help concentrate on developing new innovative features, save research and development cost, reduce investment risks, and enable faster time to market
- provide a stable platform for innovation, pioneering products can work seamlessly with related products, through standardisation innovation can achieve product and service differentiation
- enable interconnectivity, interoperability and interface, reduce technology complexity, help ensure exchange of information securely and productively.
- help define and measure product performance, leaving the innovator free to use a standard without divulging intellectual property
- create sufficient market and enable mass production to support new technologies