Standardization News

Partnerships To Help the World Work Better

Through strategic partnerships and collaborations, ASTM International is further helping to make the world a better and safer place.
Cicely Enright

ASTM International is an organization of inclusion — offering global access to fully transparent standards development, resulting in the highest technical excellence in standardization.

That’s how ASTM International operates. It is an approach that permeates the organization from the full body to the individual technical committee, as embodied in one word: partnerships. 

“Partnerships are important,” says Katharine Morgan, ASTM International president. “Just as ‘every voice is unique so every voice matters’ in ASTM, so it is with organizations. We each have different lenses and capabilities, yet we are often tackling mutual challenges. It just makes good sense to collaborate, and to do so strategically. We can learn from each other, and we can leverage our respective strengths to solve the global challenges before us. Successful organizations do not work in isolation; we build together on everyone’s behalf.“

Here’s a sampling of partnerships that are helping our world work better.  

READ MORE: Standards Promote U.N. SDGs

The United Nations and OECD

Sara Gobbi, ASTM’s director of European affairs, notes ASTM’s work with international organizations on global initiatives such as the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s (UNECE) gender-responsive standards development and with the International Organisations Partnership (IO Partnership) through the Office of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). 

The UNECE’s Declaration on Gender Responsive Standards and Standards Development stresses the involvement of women in the process and in standards. ASTM President Morgan signed the declaration during ASTM’s annual business meeting in May 2019.

Tracking alongside this is ASTM’s approach to diversity and inclusion (D&I), demonstrated most recently with the formation of a council to encourage D&I across ASTM’s global membership and governance as well as its staff. 

Gobbi also highlights the work on standards related to the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which she says resonate with ASTM International principles. These principles, included by the World Trade Organization in its Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, make up the very fabric of effective partnerships: impartiality and consensus, effectiveness and relevance, openness, transparency, coherence, and the development dimension. “Partnering with organizations helps us better serve our global stakeholders,” Gobbi says.

“For more than 120 years, ASTM has been bringing people together to develop international standards that make products and materials safer, that lower carbon footprints for manufacturers and suppliers, and that drive research to innovation,” she adds. “All this is in line with and can support the achievement of the SDGs in many economic sectors.”

Jeff Grove notes the larger movement toward greater technical alignment, which focuses on consistency and efficiency in approaching standards work as well as regulations. Grove is ASTM vice president of global policy, cooperation, and communications. He says, “Partnering with other leading organizations is true to our mission and purpose. It fosters greater understanding and knowledge sharing. Together we can leverage technical expertise, expand our global reach, and positively influence society — helping our world work better.”

ASTM International is also part of OECD’s IO Partnership, a broad agreement that represents more than 50 organizations — international, intergovernmental, standards setting, and trans-governmental regulatory networks — and aims to address the challenges of an increasingly integrated world and world economy. 

Celine Kauffmann, Ph.D., is the former deputy head of the Regulatory Policy Division, Directorate for Public Governance, OECD, where she led efforts on international regulatory cooperation. In her recent Standardization News interview, she said, “Ultimately, the objective of this initiative is to help build greater understanding of and confidence in a variety of domestic players in international rules, including regulators and legislators, and support the greater use of high-quality international instruments.”  

Kauffmann noted that the world is connected by global trade growth, new information technologies, and daily cross-border financial transfer: “In the face of this reality, cooperation and international rulemaking are needed to address the inherently and increasingly trans-boundary policy challenges faced by governments in all countries and jurisdictions.” 

Product Safety on a Global Basis

Consider consumer products, from personal items for hygiene and devices to connect to the world, to household items used on a daily basis, to everything that a consumer can purchase. These form a web of supply and manufacturing industries globally. Segments such as toys and games, electronics, and personal care represent hundreds of billions of dollars. And no matter what other attributes might be required — durability, storage space, color, or size — one further characteristic is needed, and that’s safety. 

Product safety, essential in children’s goods and toys but needed to some degree in any product, often becomes part of regulations. Toys sold in the United States, for instance, can be manufactured anywhere but must meet the consumer safety specification for toy safety (F963). 

Partnerships with organizations like the United Nations have given the work of ASTM committees a global reach.

To consider product safety issues, health and safety officials from Australia to Ireland and China to Canada find an important resource in the International Consumer Product Health and Safety Organization, or ICPHSO (pronounced ick-fa-so). The global nonprofit provides a neutral forum to bring stakeholders together to share information.

Morgan says, “ICPHSO is an organization that ASTM is proud to support because it is an international, neutral forum for product safety stakeholders to learn, network, and share information, much like ASTM. Through the collaboration, ASTM and ICPHSO both benefit from the insights gathered and use them to enhance product safety for consumers around the world.”

Marc Schoem leads ICPHSO. In a recent SN interview, he said that “ICPHSO’s strength and success as a health and safety organization is directly related to its ability to recognize global emerging consumer product-safety issues and present them during our conferences. As a result, stakeholders can hear early on about these issues from global-safety professionals who may have already addressed the issue with some best practices.”

Programs Through Global Cooperation

Teresa Cendrowska is vice president of global cooperation at ASTM and oversees the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) program, as well as other related programs on behalf of partners worldwide. “We’re committed to improving the quality of life and consumer confidence in developing as well as developed countries,” Cendrowska says. “We operate on the concept of global cooperation.”  

While the MoU program was established in 2001, the work to collaborate in accordance with WTO principles (specifically the ‘development dimension,’ but also openness and more) long precedes it through support for standards groups and technical information. The formal MoU partnerships provide for closer work between national and regional standards bodies and ASTM to the benefit of both: They promote communication, awareness, and participation in standards development. 

Most recently, three standards bodies, Institut Algérien de Normalisation; the Libyan National Centre for Standardization and Metrology; and Standards New Zealand, have signed MoUs with ASTM, bringing the number of MoU partners to more than 110.

Programs related to the MoU program offer more focused technical and standards-related assistance, although in-person options are on hold in the current pandemic. The global cooperation staffers, however, continue to work with MoU partners through direct contact and through monthly virtual training sessions on such topics as precision and bias; the connection of the voluntary standards system with international trade, stakeholder engagement; and public relations. 

Partnerships for Innovation in Additive Manufacturing

ASTM International members around the world contribute to standards development in one or more industries, including those growing with innovation such as additive manufacturing (AM). 

With AM, this expanding — but relatively youthful — field takes in many new powder processes and applications as diverse as satellite parts and surgical guides. “This is a highly cross-disciplinary field,” says Klas Boivie, Ph.D., senior research scientist in the production technology division of SINTEF Manufacturing, and a member of the ASTM board as well as the committee on additive manufacturing technologies (F42). 

Through its first initiative of this kind, the ASTM International Center of Excellence in Additive Manufacturing (AM CoE) formed to further standards development and innovation in the industry. Partnering has been built into the AM CoE from the outset — with Auburn University, EWI, the Manufacturing Technology Centre, and NASA. Further collaborations and agreements have followed with, for example, America Makes, the National Institute for Aviation Research, Singapore’s National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Cluster, and Germany’s testing and certification organization TÜV SÜD. 

The AM CoE represents partnering on a strategic and practical front. “We wouldn’t have been able to set up the AM CoE without strong partners,” says Brian Meincke, vice president of global business development and innovation strategy. “Partnering is a key pillar in ASTM International’s global business development and innovation strategy.  Having strong and respected partners has been key to the launch and early success of our centers of excellence in emerging areas such as additive manufacturing and exoskeleton technologies.”

“To unleash the full potential of AM, we need a smart global ecosystem of research, standardization, education, testing, and certification,” says Mohsen Seifi, Ph.D., director of global additive manufacturing programs at ASTM International. The AM CoE partnerships embody that approach, and expand on the work of the F42 committee.

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To further advance AM standards, ASTM International has also signed a Partner Standards Development Organization (PSDO) cooperation agreement with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) committee on additive manufacturing (261) to further AM standards work, reduce duplication of effort, and make the most of resources in the industry.

“Through the PSDO agreement, there is a truly global reach, which can draw contributions from experts who otherwise would have been working on different standards,” Boivie notes. 

As the global market for AM products and services develops, Boivie says, “The standards will be coherent and consistent, relevant for all markets worldwide, and will certainly help to minimize confusion within the industry. The collaboration works because those involved want it to work, and the standards published are some very solid documents.”

He also notes, “One could easily argue that this collaboration agreement has been a fundamental cornerstone to enable industrial application and industrialization of AM technologies. Just imagine what the situation would have been if the world's leading standards development organizations had decided to base their standards for AM technology on different fundamental concepts, using different terms and different definitions, or if existing technical committees had developed their own AM standards based on extended adaptations of their own standards. All with an interest in AM would now have their own standards for AM.”

The first two standards to be published jointly as a result of the PSDO came from F42 standards for terminology (ISO/ASTM 52921) and the AM file format (ISO/ASTM52915. Jointly developed standards have followed, and several have become European Norms. “This means that the industry can trust that a jointly developed ISO/ASTM AM standard will also be the standard that their European partners and competitors will base their work on,” Boivie says. “Transparency, clarity, and fairness.”

More Innovating Partnerships

As innovations occur in areas such as exoskeletons, unmanned and manned aviation, and more environmentally friendly products, ASTM International seeks to provide needed standards to support them. 

The Exo Technology Center of Excellence (ET CoE) aims to accelerate standards, and thus safety and reliability for exoskeletons and their systems, by bringing together industry, healthcare, academia, and government. The ET CoE serves as a hub of knowledge, resources, and leadership.

On the manned aviation front, SpaceTEC and ASTM are partnering through an MoU to help certify aircraft maintenance technicians and other aerospace workers. The MoU will further ensure that people in these positions have the knowledge and skills needed. 

For training and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or drones, an agreement with Praxis Aerospace Concepts International and ASTM is offering a UAS Approved Training Provider Program (UATPP). The program is using standards from the committee on unmanned aircraft systems (F38) and will evalute training program curricula to see if they are in compliance with standards. Its first offering uses the guide for training and remote pilot command of unmanned aircraft system endorsement (F3266).

And an agreement between the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) and ASTM International recently marked a one-year milestone. The agreement focuses on encouraging technical cooperation and information exchange beginning with two areas of growing and mutual interest: biobased products, including environmentally degradable plastics, and recovered carbon black (rCB) and rubber, specifically tires and rCB products.

“Our agreement promotes greater coherence and interoperability in today’s global marketplace and fosters deeper understanding and trust among leading technical experts that will lay the foundation for future cooperation,” Morgan says.

As the first year of the pilot program comes to a close, both CEN and ASTM are looking forward to the possibility of extending this partnership further. Technical committees on both sides hope to host joint webinars, workshops, and more in the future.

Collaboration Continues

Partnerships at ASTM International take many forms, with just a representative sampling included here. 

Others thrive as well, such as the long-time partnership with the American Petroleum Institute, which impacts the global oil and gas industry; the program assistance to emerging nations through the Standards Alliance of USAID (the U.S. Agency for International Development) and ANSI (the American National Standards Institute); the recent technology agreement with the Madrid, Spain-based AENOR; and meetings that provide members with opportunities to further collaboration on many fronts. 

And, as Meincke puts it, “We continue to be open to collaborations from anywhere in the world to bridge the gaps between research and standards, to further market access, and to advance our organizations on behalf of public health and safety.” 

Collaboration is the aim — and the result as well.

Committee Partnerships: A Few Examples

Homeland Security

Standards needs have been brought to the committee on homeland security applications (E54) by the U.S. National Institute of Justice and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. From ballistic-resistant armor, head protection, shields, and gloves, resulting standards from the E54 committee specify or test the gear, and often, certification programs have been put in place through the Safety Equipment Institute, an ASTM affiliate. Other standards address emergency response and operations, less lethal aerosol devices, and hazardous materials detection and assessment. 

Vacuum Cleaners

The vacuum cleaners committee (F11) works with the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) SC59F, Surface Cleaning Applications, through the IEC/ASTM Partner Standards Development Organization Agreement. The two groups meet jointly once each year, alternating locations between Europe and the United States. When F11 and SC9fF agree to develop a dual-logo standard, participants from both organizations form a joint working group and coordinate its effort. The most recent fruit of this work is the soon-to-be-published Robot Dual Logo Standard, IEC 62885-7/ASTM WK67854. 

“For dual logo standards, both product and standard development are more efficient utilizing the combined resources of the experts from the two organizations,” says Laurence Howard, chair of the F11 committee and president of Laurence Partners Inc. “The end result is products and standards that serve the global market.” 

Amusement Rides

For the committee on amusement rides and devices (F24): “Connections are inherent to what we do. It’s about the people,” says Franceen Gonzales, who is chair of the 1,100+-member committee, a former ASTM board member, and executive vice president, Americas, at Whitewater West. 

Gonzales points to the collaboration between the committee and IAAPA/The Global Association for the Attractions Industry, AIMS International, and other industry associations, with many members participating across the groups and weaving their shared goals into the fabric of F24. “The committee knew that partnerships were key to how F24 was going to get its work done,” she says. For example, the practice for measuring the dynamic characteristics of amusement rides and devices (F2137) has become the way to measure acceleration and has been adopted around the world. 

In addition, the practice for design of amusement rides and devices (F2291) and its evolution represents what Gonzales calls the “collective intelligence” of the committee and its manufacturers, engineers, designers, technicians, park owners and operators, regulators, inspectors, biodynamic experts, industry association representatives, consumer advocates, and others. That’s how these standards can be recognized for their high quality and why they are broadly referenced. 

Ships and Marine Technology

Thane Gilman, a mechanical engineer with the U.S. Coast Guard, leads the committee on ships and marine technology (F25). He explains the integral links between the committee, the shipping industry — with vessels on international voyages subject to certain regulations regardless of the country of origin — and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which is an assembly of governments focused on maritime safety and environmental protection.

“In many cases, ASTM F25 has developed documents specifically to take IMO high-level regulations concerning ship engineering and operations and provide clarity to the industry on acceptable means to comply with those regulations,” Gilman says. Standards from the committee specifically related to IMO work include shore connections for marine fire applications (F1121), shipboard incinerators (F1323), human engineering design for marine systems, equipment, and facilities (F1166), location and instruction symbols for evacuation and lifesaving equipment (F1297), and tank vent flame arresters (F1273).

He adds, “It is important that ASTM F25 be aware of the work continuously going on at IMO, with an eye towards development of standards and guides to further improve the safety and efficiency of shipping as well as protection of the marine environment.” In response, the committee is working on cyber risk management, batteries, and novel fuels, among other new standards. 

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