What are standards?
1,500 new standards are published in Belgium every year and as a result, NBN now has a portfolio of more than 42,000 standards. But what exactly do we mean by standards and standardisation? Find out here.
Standards: good workmanship on paper
Standards are everywhere, in both our professional and private lives. Sometimes they are clearly visible – like both the A4 format or the kilogram – and sometimes they are behind the scenes, like the standards relating to the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. But there is one thing that all the different types of standards have in common: they record agreements on good workmanship for products, services or processes.
Users can choose to apply standards in order to take their organisation to a higher level and benefit from the knowledge and know-how of experts. Sometimes, standards are even referred to in contracts or regulations, making them binding.
Something else that is good to know: standards are also protected by copyright!
Standardisation: the process behind every standard
Standards don’t just appear out of nowhere. They are the result of commitment and intense collaboration between professionals and specialists from various organisations – from commercial companies through research institutions to public authorities and NGOs – who sit on standards committees.
The experts on those committees work out best practices for a wide variety of fields. The thousands of standards they put together help organisations to carry out their daily operations and formulate their strategic plans.
Benefits of standards: everyone’s a winner
Standards provide answers to one simple question: ‘What’s the best way to do that?’. It is a question that can relate to not only weights and measures but also the circular economy, knowledge management, the safety of toys or medical packaging, for example. That is how we can ensure that our products, services and processes are safe, reliable and of a high quality.
A few of the benefits are outlined below:
- Companies will see reduced costs as a result of more efficient and sustainable operating processes as well as a higher level of customer satisfaction, and will have an additional advantage in exports.
- Authorities have powerful tools that they can use to protect the interests of the environment, employees and consumers, for example.
- Consumers can be certain that products and services are user-friendly and meet all the relevant health and safety and environmental standards. In Europe, it is even a mandatory requirement for around 30 product groups to bear a CE mark, which is a kind of quality label.
Innovation and standards: a match made in heaven
Innovation can take many different forms such as a new or significantly improved product, an updated organisational structure, an innovative service or even the process of tapping into foreign markets. Whichever form it takes, innovation is one of the main prerequisites for economic well-being and successful organisations.
Standards are an important element in this. Anchoring their own innovative activities in a standard can enable organisations to launch their products quicker. In addition, a lot of organisations use existing standards when researching and developing new products, processes and services.
What standards are there in your sector?
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