Standardization News

ASTM Signs 100th MOU

Memorandums of Understanding Promote Standards Development in Emerging Economies
Cicely Enright

Transparent. Practical. Inclusive.

That’s the ASTM process overall, and that holds true for ASTM’s Memorandum of Understanding Program. With its 15+ program years and 100 MOUs with national and regional standards bodies worldwide, the program embodies another way we help the world work better.

Our MOU partners, from Ecuador and Ethiopia to Singapore and St. Lucia, have most recently added Myanmar and Montserrat to their numbers. During the October 2016 ASTM board meetings in Dubai, President James A. Thomas announced the signing of its 100th MOU with the Montserrat Trade Directorate.

“This program has been crucial in supporting the global standards community, starting with our first signatory, Colombia, to Gulf nations including the UAE, to Montserrat, our 100th,” he said. “These signings reflect ASTM’s broad and deep commitment to World Trade Organization principles such as openness, transparency, and the development dimension.”

Most recently, Dinesh Maharaj visited ASTM global headquarters. He works as an inspector in the Implementation Division (construction goods unit) at the Trinidad and Tobago Bureau of Standards, an MOU partner since 2002. Through the MOU program, Maharaj participates in the ASTM committee on steel, stainless steel, and related alloys (A01). Maharaj recently used an ASTM standard — A615, on carbon steel bars for concrete reinforcement — to show that steel delivered to his country was inferior, and he refused the shipment.

Launched in 2001, the MOU program gives partners free access to ASTM’s committees, standards, process, training, and more. MOUs encourage technical experts worldwide to participate in ASTM activities to be sure that standards meet their countries’ economic and trade needs and broaden the usefulness of ASTM standards. In addition, the program addresses the “development dimension” principle of the World Trade Organization’s Technical Barriers to Trade committee. This means that standards developers should include as many nations as possible in creating standards.ASTM’s electronic tools and MOU partnerships encourage all stakeholders to have a voice in the process.

Teresa Cendrowska is vice president of ASTM’s global cooperation arm, which oversees the MOU program. Her vision for the program is that “staff and committee members in MOU partner organizations understand and embrace the multiple path approach to standardization.” She also says that MOU partners use the network and benefits of the program to access the value and quality of offered technical content and opportunities.

Three Success Stories

MOU partners receive these benefits:

  • Free participation in ASTM technical committees;
  • Access to ASTM standards;
  • Education about the ASTM standards development process and technical content;
  • Minimized duplication of effort in standards development at the national level; and
  • Communication, awareness, access to special programs, and more.

These benefits help signatories overcome barriers to trade, contribute to economic growth, and aid in developing national standards, all in support of meeting their citizens’ needs.

For example, Bhutan, situated on the eastern edge of the Himalayas, has vast potential for generating hydropower. The Bhutan Standards Bureau (an MOU partner since 2013) reported that a hydropower company there uses ASTM standards. The company, Bhutan Hydropower Services Ltd., uses ASTM standards for quality control. They manufacture parts for hydropower equipment and use test methods to determine whether the parts will perform as expected.

Another example: César Diaz, executive director of the national standards body in Ecuador, Servicio Ecuatoriano de Normalización, said, “INEN’s collaboration with ASTM International is perfectly aligned with our strategy, which is to do more with less resources for more people.” Ecuador, which signed an MOU 15 years ago, has used or referenced numerous ASTM infrastructure standards for steel, cement and concrete, road and paving, plastic pipe, and more.

In Colombia, the Instituto Colombiano de Normas Técnicas y Certificación, ICONTEC International, was the first national standards body to sign an MOU. More than 1,300 ASTM standards have been used as the basis of Colombian national standards, and more than 200 have been adopted, consulted, or referenced.

Concrete standards have been particularly helpful. In cooperation with ICONTEC, the Colombian Asociación Colombiana de Productores de Concreto (ASOCRETO) manages secretariats for committees that work on standards for cement, concrete and concrete aggregates, concrete pipe, and precast concrete. ASOCRETO director Manuel Lascarro (a former ASTM board member) believes ASTM involvement has also been very useful for the Colombian cement and concrete industry. “Access to ASTM documents speeds up the processes of national standardization, enriches the technical discussions inside the technical committees, and allows us to receive and to share knowledge that helps improve the quality and safety in the construction sector in Colombia,” he said.

Train at ASTM

In 2005, ASTM added a new dimension to the MOU program with the launch of the Standards Expert Program. This monthlong experience immerses MOU partner representatives in consensus standards development. Over the past decade, 32 experts from 28 nations have traveled to ASTM’s global headquarters for in-depth exposure to the ASTM process.

The experts meet with ASTM staffers to learn about the organization and how it operates. Experts also travel to a committee week to see standards development in action firsthand, and they visit the ASTM Washington, D.C., office, as well as other public and private groups there.

Bernice Tay, of the Singapore Standards, Productivity, and Innovation Board, participated in 2014. Tay said, “The intensive program was a great way to gain firsthand insight into ASTM standards development principles, policies, and processes, and to learn from key officers at ASTM and other external agencies.” She particularly appreciated learning about the technology that allows stakeholders to drive standards development.

A related, competitive program for MOU partners is the Technical Visitors Grant Program. This opportunity brings technical experts to ASTM to focus on standards information and related efforts in a sector. Maharaj (mentioned earlier) visited as part of this program and focused on steel.

In addition, Thai Quynh Hoa, head of the consumer products division at the Vietnam Standards and Quality Institute, part of that country’s national standards body, came to ASTM last November as a technical visitor. During her stay, she focused on biodegradable plastics. And in 2014, Nana Gyan, assistant standards officer at the Ghana Standards Authority, learned about standards and pipeline integrity in the oil and gas industry when he participated in the program.

MOU partner representatives may also train at ASTM as attached staff members. Their sessions run from a few weeks to several months, and they train at ASTM in an industry or public policy/standards area.

Winnie Tonui, standards officer, Kenya Bureau of Standards, participated as an attached staffer for three weeks in January last year. Of that experience, she says, “Training with ASTM provides skills in technical competence, standards knowledge, and global experience. This leads to knowledge transfer to the whole organization, making it effective and self-sufficient.”

Additional Opportunities

The MOU program and related global engagement includes training options of interest to partners and other groups.

ASTM regularly offers online technical sessions. For example, in April 2016, MOU partners participated in an online technical session about water quality. Some 50 representatives of standards bodies from Latin America to Africa and Eastern Europe connected for a presentation by Michael Sadar, Tintometer, chair of ASTM’s committee on water (D19) about defining clean water, what contaminates it, and assessing, treating, and demonstrating water quality – plus ASTM’s many relevant standards.

Other regularly scheduled webinars also cover diverse technical topics of interest, and general standards development topics of interest to MOU partners. Sessions are also held in person at industry events or at ASTM, or may be tailored over a period of time for a group, as with a recent additive manufacturing session.

In addition, specially organized groups of MOU and other groups may visit ASTM and area organizations to learn more about ASTM and the use of standards for a particular industry. In 2016, ASTM hosted more than 100 delegates from nine countries.

In November 2016, ASTM hosted a delegation of additive manufacturing professionals from Singapore who wished to make better use of ASTM standards and to increase their understanding of them and to contribute to their content. While here, the delegation met with regulators, laboratories, academics, and manufacturers involved in the work of ASTM’s committees on additive manufacturing technologies (F42) and medical and surgical devices and materials (F04).

“Our focus on international outreach will continue to grow in the years ahead,” says Katharine Morgan, who becomes ASTM president on Feb. 1.  In recent months, Morgan has been around the world, to Latin America and to Asia as well as the Middle East.

For More Information
Teresa Cendrowska
tel +1.610.832.2718

As of press time, the Azerbaijan Standards Institute signed an MOU with ASTM, bringing these partnerships to a total of 101.

Praise from Partners

“ASTM International standards offer a win-win situation for businesses and consumers. They are strategic tools for businesses to maintain a competitive edge and instill confidence in consumers in products and services.”
— B. Guness
Head of the Standards Development
Unit at the Mauritius Standards Bureau

“The standard test method for sulfur in petroleum products by wavelength dispersive X-ray fluorescence spectrometry was adopted as TCVN 6701 (ASTM D2622) because this standard is used very frequently and appreciated in the petroleum industry in my country.”
— Mr. Pho Duc Son
Director of Vietnam Standards Quality Laboratory, a division of STAMEQ

“I recognize the efforts made by ASTM and the standards (more than 10) we adopted are very useful. The MOU signed between BBN and ASTM gives power to various stakeholders to implement the standards in their respective sector.”
— Gervais Nzinahora
Standards Director, Burundi Bureau of Standards and Quality Control

“ASTM standards for steel are the most globally recognized and accepted standards in the steel industry worldwide.”
— Soon Gi Lee, Ph.D.
General Manager,
POSCO America, Houston TSC

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