Status of Technical Manuals Specifications and Standards 11/1998

Claudia Bach

Editor

This report covers specifications, standards, and amendments received in the period from 1 September 1998 through 30 November 1998. Special emphasis has been placed on documentation in the category TMSS (Technical Manual Specification & Standards). However, other documents with widespread appeal are also included.

AREA CMAN:
Configuration Management
MIL-DTL-31000A, Amendment 1, 10/15/98: Technical Data Packages.

This three page amendment contains pen-and-ink changes for this important data interchange document.

AREA DRPR:
DOD Standard Drawing Practices
MIL-STD-12D, Cancellation Notice 1, 9/25/98: Abbreviations for Use on Drawings, and in Specifications, Standards and Technical Documents.

The standard has been superseded by ASME-Y14.38M.

AREA QCIC:
Quality Control/Assurance and Inspection
BSR/ISO/ASQ-Q9000 Draft, 1998: List of Proposed Changes to ISO 9000, ISO 9001, and ISO 9004, First Committee Drafts.

As discussed last column, these drafts represent significant changes to the ISO 9000 series documents. The first committee drafts are now available for public comment and review.

AREA TMSS:
Technical Manuals Specifications and Standards

No Activity to Report.

The European Viewpoint: Renegade America
Last column we discussed the ANSI summit and the difficulties the U.S. is encountering in the international arena. In reviewing these issues with representatives of various European standards bodies, I was surprised to find that there is a corresponding confusion about the U.S. agenda and participation in the global standards process.

There is a perception in the U.S. that harmonization is being achieved in the European Union at the sole expense of the U.S. However, among Europeans, there is an acute awareness that participation in the EU comes with a high price for all players. It is not understood why the U.S. does not have mechanisms that correspond to the processes in place in Europe. Also, it is not understood why the American standards process is not fully representing all U.S. standards bodies.

For example, the British Standards Institute is the designated publisher of the English language European Norm (EN) documents for CEN/CENELEC, the regional organization who develops standards to meet the requirements of the European directives. BSI votes as one of nineteen members of this organization; votes are weighted to favor the larger participants. Standards are adopted by CEN/CENELEC by vote and once approved the participants have six months in which to adopt the harmonized standard, withdrawing any conflicting or overlapping standards (or portions of standards). Thus, BSI is required by law to accept the harmonized EN documents, even if BSI feels that the harmonized standard is inferior to the pre-existing British Standard.

CEN/CENELEC is also "pulling down" the ISO/IEC standards into the European regional document set. Again, the requirement to adopt and withdraw all conflicting or overlapping national standards is in force. It is expected that if there is interest in an international level document, when the document is complete and ratified it will be adopted at the various regional and national levels.

This notion of harmonization (with wide adoption of international standards) is not reflected in the U.S. system. For example, there may be many Americans participating in an IEC committee. But once the IEC standard has been adopted with clauses agreeable to the American participants, there is no methodology for insuring that the international level document is brought back to the American standards process and adopted as a U.S. national standard. American participants will simply start using the IEC document. However, Europeans feel that the Americans are manipulating the international standards process to create standards that they themselves are unwilling to adopt.

Standards development in Europe currently then is a political exercise, with participants experiencing both wins and losses on a regular basis. Of course, since the European nations are experiencing enforced harmonization, then why not the Americans? It is all the more frustrating for Europeans when U.S. organizations like ASTM and the like begin to promote themselves as being "de facto" international standards organizations, with standards sets the equal of ISO, IEC, and ITU. Of course the Americans are proceeding from a technical viewpoint, the Europeans from a political one.

The European expectation is that ANSI (the American National Standard Institute) will act as the one point of contact for the U.S. standards organizations. ANSI is expected to bring U.S. standards into the international process, and to bring back international standards into the U.S. process. In this way, an orderly move to harmonization will be maintained. But because ANSI does not represent all U.S. standards activities or standards interests, there is confusion at the international level.

Also, Europeans are surprised that there are as yet no methods for introducing products meeting U.S. standards, rather than the European standards, into the European market without costly testing in European labs. One can hope that the use of the EU standards process to create a "fortress Europe" will be less of a problem over time.

All in all, harmonization has proved a formidable task. Certainly, it may be easier to promote regional consolidation prior to developing one set of true world-wide standards. Europe is proceeding under the belief that the benefits of harmonization outweigh occasional technical losses, and the collection of EN standards is growing at a rapid pace. It is still unclear if the U.S. bias towards technical superiority can allow for the kinds of political compromise that Europe is currently engaging in.

Claudia Bach is President of Document Center, Inc., an information delivery service based in Belmont, CA. The company has complete collections of specifications and standards from both government sources and industry associations. She can be reached by phone at (650) 591-7600, by fax at (650) 591-7617, or by e-mail at info@document-center.com, or see http://www.document-center.com.  

For more information on standards see Document Center's Home page Welcome to Document Center . This article was originally published by the Society for Technical Communication. If you'd like to know more about this association for technical writers see: www.stc-va.org