The Value and Use of Standards in the Microfilm Industry; No Industry That Creates, Disseminates, and Stores Information Can Reach Its Potential until It Establishes Standards That Will Result in Product and Procedural Uniformity. (Management Wise)

By Thomas, William M. | Information Management, January-February 2003 | Go to article overview

The Value and Use of Standards in the Microfilm Industry; No Industry That Creates, Disseminates, and Stores Information Can Reach Its Potential until It Establishes Standards That Will Result in Product and Procedural Uniformity. (Management Wise)


Thomas, William M., Information Management


There is a widespread misconception about standards that must be dispelled: Standards are OK for some industries like automobile manufacturing, but they inhibit creativity in rapidly developing, technology-based industries.

On the contrary, standards are a vital part of nearly every industry and should be taken seriously. Without standards, there would be a tendency for every manufacturer and service provider to create new and unique products and methods that would be incompatible with other similar and related products and services.

The phrase "reinventing the wheel" seems appropriate to convey the chaos that would ensue if there were no standards or if they were universally ignored. Suppose, for example, there were no standards in the automotive industry to define the parameters for "standard wheels." All wheel manufacturers would be free to create what they considered to be good wheels. They could choose the diameter and the rim width and depth for their wheels. They could select the materials to be used and the number of lug bolts used to secure the wheels to automobiles. In short, every time they decided to create a new kind of wheel, they would be free to do so. The result would be that seldom, if ever, would consumers find wheels from different manufacturers that would fit their cars. It would lead to misunderstanding between car owners and make it difficult for them to trade, exchange, or lend wheels.

However, because wheel users and manufacturers have defined and created standards that define the parameters of a series of standard wheels, wheel users and owners have access to all the characteristics of designated standard wheels. Standard wheels produced by every wheel manufacturer have identical characteristics and wheel users can be certain that when they buy one of the various standard wheels they are receiving wheels that can be safely interchanged with other standard wheels with the same designation.

This example should convince the skeptical reader that standards do indeed serve a valuable and necessary purpose. Still, it is important to understand what standards are and what they are not as well as how they are created and adopted. This will make it easier to determine whether or not it is advantageous to adhere to established standards in one's own work environment.

Why Standards?

In the United States, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) administers and coordinates the U.S. voluntary standardization system. It recognizes by accreditation certain groups as being competent to create standards for their industries. ANSI has established specific procedures that must be followed by these groups in order for their new or revised standards to be approved as American National Standards.

ANSI standards are voluntary standards and neither the members of industries that have created and adopted them nor anyone else is legally required to adhere to them. However, it is common practice for government agencies and other buyers to require that the items or services they purchase conform to specified standards. It then becomes obvious that manufacturers and service providers who expect to sell their goods and services to the greatest possible number of prospects will voluntarily adhere to the specified standards.

For example, contractors who contemplate providing goods and services to the U.S. government, especially its military departments, must be prepared to conform to the various provisions set forth in applicable military specifications. These military standards frequently incorporate and require conformance with ANSI standards. Mil-M-9868 is a notable example. It describes the specific requirements for submitting microfilm documentation for components supplied to the Department of Defense. Even subcontractors supplying the smallest components for major assemblies must conform to this document.

Microfilm Industry Standards

Manufacturers and microfilm users have come together for decades to create and revise standards for their industry. …

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