In a technical sense, companies ares increasingly connected with its environment: other companies, governments, etc. The product of one must match that of the other. The service that one provides must meet the requirements that the other sets for, for example, quality, time and safety. The electronic signal that one sends out must be able to receive and interpret the other. Standards are required for the (often technical) interfaces.
Many companies focus on core activities and outsource other activities. This forces to specify what is delivered. The same suppliers often also supply to others. For them, it would be helpful if the specifications match at least partially for their different customers. This not only concerns specifications of the products or services to be delivered, but also, for example, the administrative processing (for example development and product documentation, stock statements, customer data) and the automation systems that support them. All these coordination activities can be considered standardization, although it is often not called so.
There is not only coordination between one company and its suppliers, but throughout the entire production chain, “from grain to drink” and “from seed to pork chop”. This coordination concerns the raw materials, semi-finished products, products and services, but also the quality and environmental aspects, logistics, transport, packaging, information and payment traffic.
Thousands of companies work with a quality management system according to the ISO 9001 standard, making their organization manageable and verifiable. This can form the basis for quality improvements. The quality management system can be tested on the basis of ISO 9001, by or on behalf of the organization itself, by or on behalf of a customer, or by the neutral third organization: a certification body. As an organization that complies with ISO 9001, it can be assumed that it is able to fulfill agreements about products or services to be delivered.
A quality management system structures the work in the company. This can be done most efficiently if there is also a system in the product range, if the production resources are structured in a structured way and if the information systems are structured logically, in short: if the standardization of products, production resources and information systems has taken place. Standardization brings structure to products, means of production and information systems; quality management brings structure to the way of working with this. Moreover, the quality of the products or services to be delivered can be specified and measured on the basis of standards.
Trade is increasingly cross-border. This creates a need for internationally recognized standards so that trade can run smoothly. This increases the importance of global and European standardization.
The Internet makes it possible to search for suppliers worldwide. But who says these suppliers and their products and services are reliable? When the supplier himself has an approved quality management system, based on ISO 9001, this creates a certain degree of confidence, namely that he must be able to deliver products / services that also meet the standards mentioned by number and name.
The anonymity of the markets and the growing awareness of quality have led to a strong increase in certification: of management systems, products, services, processes and people. Standardization precedes all certification: after all, objective assessment criteria are required. For example, the rise of certification reinforces the importance of standardization.
Government Procurement and Public Procurement
Government procurement has traditionally been an area where national companies receive preferential treatment. In order to achieve a single free European market here as well, governments within the European Union in some sectors (including construction of infrastructure, energy supply, information technology) are obliged to make the tender public for investments above a certain amount. Then companies from other countries can also compete for the contract. However, if reference is made in the specifications to national standards, a trade barrier still arises de facto. Therefore, specifications should refer to European standards, where they exist in the relevant field.
When using a product, something goes wrong occasionally, resulting in an accident or damage. Who is liable in this case, the consumer or the producer? European legislation in the field of product liability places the burden of proof on the producer: he must be able to demonstrate that he has manufactured, transported and stored his product in such a way that nothing can be blamed on him. If the producer can demonstrate that his product meets standards, he has a stronger legal position, because in many cases judges assume that standards lay down the “accepted state of the art”. If the producer also has a quality management system in accordance with the ISO 9001 standard, then he is even stronger. This liability legislation has therefore made working in accordance with standards more important. By the way: in our legal system the evidence is free, in case of disputes the judge allows other information in addition to standards.
Increased attention for the environment and safety leads to standards for safety or environmental aspects of products and services, related information (for example, environmental labeling) and to standards that demonstrate the ability of an organization to operate in an environmentally friendly or safe manner. (for example ISO 14001 for environmental management or VCA, the Contractors Safety Checklist).
CE marking is now mandatory for more than half of all products marketed in Western Europe. With the CE mark, the manufacturer indicates that he meets certain legal requirements set by the European Union. In many cases these requirements are further specified in European standards, or these standards provide test methods to check whether the product meets the requirements. The easiest way to meet the legal requirements associated with CE marking is to use (European) standards. There are now thousands of them. For example, CE marking has led to strong growth in the use of standards.
With CE marking, European directives for tendering and product liability, there is legislation that encourages the use of standards. There are more examples of this, such as Dutch building regulations. Het “Bouwbesluit”, which forms the basis for the granting of permits to build, refers to Dutch standards, which indicate, among other things, how to measure whether the legal requirements are being met. In addition, Dutch Practical Guidelines (NPRs) describe examples for building constructions that meet the legal requirements.