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A technical standard is an established norm or requirement in regard to technical systems. It is usually a formal document that establishes uniform engineering or technical criteria, methods, processes and practices. In contrast, a custom, convention, company product, corporate standard, etc. that becomes generally accepted and dominant is often called a de facto standard.
A technical standard can also be a controlled artifact or similar formal means used for calibration. Reference Standards and certified reference materials have an assigned value by direct comparison with a reference base. A primary standard is usually under the jurisdiction of a national standards body. Secondary, tertiary, check standards and standard materials may be used for reference in a metrology system. A key requirement in this case is (metrological) traceability, an unbroken paper trail of calibrations back to the primary standard.
A technical standard may be developed privately or unilaterally, for example by a corporation, regulatory body, military, etc. Standards can also be developed by groups such as trade unions, and trade associations. Standards organizations often have more diverse input and usually develop voluntary standards: these might become mandatory if adopted by a government, business contract, etc.
The primary types of technical standards are:
Technical standards may exist as:
When a geographically defined community must solve a community-wide coordination problem, it can adopt an existing standard or produce a new one. The main geographic levels are:
National/Regional/International standards is one way of overcoming technical barriers in inter-local or inter-regional commerce caused by differences among technical regulations and standards developed independently and separately by each local, local standards organisation, or local company. Technical barriers arise when different groups come together, each with a large user base, doing some well established thing that between them is mutually incompatible. Establishing national/regional/international standards is one way of preventing or overcoming this problem.
The existence of a published standard does not imply that it is always useful or correct. For example, if an item complies with a certain standard, there is not necessarily assurance that it is fit for any particular use. The people who use the item or service (engineers, trade unions, etc.) or specify it (building codes, government, industry, etc.) have the responsibility to consider the available standards, specify the correct one, enforce compliance, and use the item correctly. Validation of suitability is necessary.
Standards often get reviewed, revised and updated. It is critical that the most current version of a published standard be used or referenced. The originator or standard writing body often has the current versions listed on its web site.
In social sciences, including economics, a standard is useful if it is a solution to a coordination problem: it emerges from situations in which all parties realize mutual gains, but only by making mutually consistent decisions. Examples:
|Mechanical industry companies||Suppliers interchange, stock gains, etc.||Screw thread compatibility||Screw thread standard specifications|
|Pharmaceutical industry and medic community||Enable medical prescriptions, suppliers interchange, etc.||Drug uniformity||Drug standard specifications|