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issue: October 2004 APPLIANCE Magazine

The Open Door
The Impact of Global Standards


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by Charles T. Zegers, program director, International Policy, American National Standards Institute

One would be hard-pressed today to find an industrial sector that is not influenced in some way by activities in other parts of the world. Because standards have a role in nearly every conceivable industry, from appliances to homeland security, the global impact of a standard is carefully considered during its development and implementation.

Charles T. Zegers is program director, International Policy, American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and general secretary of the U.S. National Committee of the International Electrotechnical Commission (USNC/IEC).

International standards contribute to making the development, manufacturing, and supply of products and services more efficient, safer, and cleaner. They make trade between countries easier and fairer. They provide governments with a technical base for health, safety, and environmental legislation. They aid in transferring technology to developing countries. In general, international standards serve to safeguard consumers and the users of products and services.

Developing a standard that will be accepted and implemented on a global scale is not easy. Appliance designers and standard professionals alike must consider cultural differences, regulatory requirements, and market requirements. The true test of an international standard is whether that standard is actually used globally.

This is a concept reflected in the “global relevance” policies of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). Global relevance reflects a broad effort in international standardization that embraces a more inclusive approach, taking into account the needs of all countries, considering infrastructure, environment, and social differences during standards development. This affects the technical design of products, as well as testing and rating procedures, which strive to be repeatable and reproducible all over the world. While both the ISO and IEC promote globally relevant standards, their policies approach the goal in distinct ways.

Let’s consider a specific standard to see how this might work in the IEC, which recently released the third edition of the standard IEC 60436, Electric Dishwashers for Household Use—Methods for Measuring the Performance. This version supercedes the previous edition, published in 1981. An important reason for the third edition was the necessity to take into account the needs of all countries, which comprise varying voltages and frequencies, different water supply temperatures and water hardness, and availability of specified soiling agents.

Drawing on local experience in all regions, an IEC working group began the process of a complete revision of the IEC standard in late 1996. IEC 60436 defines the important characteristics for determining the performance of household electric dishwashers and describes the standard methods for measuring these characteristics. The new IEC test procedure contains many changes, namely an improvement in the reproducibility and repeatability of results by the introduction of a reference dishwasher, an evaluation of dishwasher filter systems, and alternate food soil drying methods. Also, the standard has updated the formulation of the detergent and rinse agents to reflect currently marketed products in different regions. This revision represents a major change in the development of international performance testing of dishwashers with the inclusion of test methods beyond the traditional European methodologies. Now, the same standard can be referenced anywhere in the world, even though some requirements for implementation can differ depending upon location.

Similar considerations are incorporated into the ISO global relevance approach. The organization states that “the desired characteristic of an International Standard is that it can be used/implemented as broadly as possible by affected industries and other stakeholders in countries around the world.” The ISO global relevance policy recognizes both differing technical requirements as well as differing market requirements. The goal of the ISO policy is to achieve the objective of “one standard, one test, accepted worldwide.”

Standards aim to find the best technical solution to the problem being addressed. When incorporated into the beginning of the design process, standards and guidelines can help products and services to be made one way and also be accepted across the globe. A level playing field is required so that designers from all economies—whether representing a developing or a developed nation—can participate as equal partners. While ANSI and its members actively promote American interests on the international stage, we do so with the view that the recommendations we support in other regions, or within ISO and IEC, must be appropriate for implementation on a global scale. The path to global markets must begin with the endorsement of an open, consensus-based process for the development and implementation of standards and the programs that assess conformance to those standards.

 

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