Turning Point

For a world built on standards and increasingly driven by data, industries need ways to harness the evolving procedures that support their work. ASTM offers a solution.
Gavin O'Reilly

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the problem of working with escalating amounts of data became greater due to the large increase in virtual work. Although data drives innovation, it can also become a flood of revisions, inconsistencies, and confusion. Even in the digital age of information sharing and storage, record-keeping can be a heavy burden on industry.

With greater digitization comes greater accessibility and productivity, but these advantages don’t necessarily make information easier to manage. Key information may become outdated without users’ knowledge, get lost as projects age, or become too dense and unwieldy to help anyone quickly.

A tool that saves paper may not necessarily save time. And in the world of standards development, where standards are constantly revised and applied across the world for many different tasks, the dual needs of data integrity and efficient workflows are critical.

ASTM International’s Compass Points strives to meet those needs.

Compass Points is an important new feature available through Compass, ASTM’s proprietary standards and knowledge-based subscription resource. This add-on responds to the data-management needs of ASTM’s users and members, helping them handle standards more collaboratively, iteratively, and efficiently. 

“Compass Points is inspired by the innovations that are making digital technology more intuitive,” says Lesley West, ASTM’s director of product management. “It pieces the seamless recollection of an autofill function, the portability of link sharing, and other features together into a cohesive workflow solution, built specifically for standards. Information is right there when you need it. This provides a new level of use not previously available to users of PDFs.”

The add-on acts as an authoritative information home from which users can track and reference portions of standards, in a single source that plays well with their own systems. Geared toward any user who handles data such as requirements, measurements, tables, and more, it allows users to pinpoint important components in standards, building a breadcrumb trail to source data for multiple business purposes.

“Our members and customers need different data at different times, from different standards. Being able to use internal systems to stack that data escalates their accuracy and efficiency,” says West. “Our user community is being asked to accelerate the digital transformation of their internal specifications and workflow directives. They need access to source data in normative standards quickly, to help them overcome the challenges of these workflow transformations. And we are responsible to our committees’ work, so Compass Points makes sure data is still viewed in the context of how the committee approved it.”

West notes that the add-on tackles a common user issue. “It’s easy to read a standard, but harder to apply a standard.” It seeks to provide a simple, accessible interface for gathering and tracking data over the long term.

Anyone who highlights part of a standard into a Compass Point can share it via URL. As a result, they are portable reference points, seamlessly working with collaborative management systems, engineering systems, emails, and lab-info management systems. Compass Points will work for anyone who has a Compass license. And in addition to ASTM standards, it will work with other standards publishers’ content – as well as anyone with licensed access to the standards. This makes the tool relevant and useful up and down the supply chain.

Many projects take years to complete, involving many different hands. As information and responsibilities change hands, users need a cohesive record of changes to standards relevant to their work, and a precise way of highlighting them.

In response, Compass Points URLs are evergreen and serve as authoritative references until deactivated. When one user makes a Compass Point and sends it to another, that recipient can also save it to their own version of Compass Points for later reference. If a standard is revised, Compass Points remains in perpetuity.

So when a project brings new staff on board, the platform allows for consistent reference back to the source of information within a standard. That also provides a connection to the correct intellectual property. This way it’s clear whether information comes from an approved ASTM (or other) standard.

The team behind Compass Points says it can help solve a problem that has plagued industry for years: the need for minimizing reworks.

“Sometimes companies have to budget millions of dollars for their rework due to human error,” says Laura Derrico, product manager for ASTM Compass. “Because not everything is digitized, there’s manual error. The hunting, the reading through hundreds of pages, the time and effort – they’re astronomical. It’s critical to have a tool that can eliminate some of that huge cost.” 

The time and money that could be saved and reinvested in greater industry efficiency was, according to Derrico and West, a major catalyst for starting the development of Compass Points.

Regarding the product’s future, its developers expressed excitement about the options it provides to inventive users, with more high-value enhancements to come. Compass Points allows users to hold themselves to a standard but iterate normative content, that is, detail how they use it specifically. For example, if a standard only requires performing a test once, but the user prefers to perform it twice, they can note that difference. However, thanks to strong early interest, its developers are preparing for an even broader range of uses.

“Since it’s system agnostic, we’re able to look at where else Compass Points can be used within documents and workflows,” says Derrico. “In the short time we’ve had it, some users are finding whole other ways of using it within their organization. We’re beginning to see how many possibilities are ahead. It’s just starting to show its full potential.”

To learn more, or get a Compass Points demo, visit go.astm.org/cp

Gavin O’Reilly is ASTM’s communications manager.

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