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Standards — A Strategic Business Issue

NPES news

January 2007
Are you overlooking a strategic business issue? You may be, if you are not involved in the development of standards that may impact your business.

Because technical participation in standards development generally yields direct and measurable progress that can be tied to a company’s “bottom line” financials, such participation is easily justified. A study conducted in Europe in 1997- 2000 showed that industrywide standards not only have a positive effect on the economy as a whole, but also provide benefits for individual businesses that use them as strategic market instruments.

In today’s market, a company cannot wait until a standard has been published to begin to build to it. By that time, those who actively participated in the work are well along the path of integration and implementation of the standard and are ready to take it to market.

Innovation is an important factor in maintaining competitiveness and economic growth, but is of limited value unless this innovation is effectively disseminated. Standards are one means of disseminating new ideas and technologies.

Therefore, in today’s global economy, standards should be addressed as part of your company’s strategic plan.

Multinational agreements (such as those incorporated into the European Free Trade Agreement and the North American Free Trade Agreement, and those adopted by the European Union) are making proactive participation in the development of both national and international technical and safety standards a necessity. To remain competitive, many companies have recognized the importance of active participation, and have made the transition from simply using standards that were developed by others, to actively participating in the development of safety and technical standards that may directly affect them.

The basic strategic decision your company must make is whether it wants to follow standards or to actively participate in, and perhaps lead, the standards-making activity in a particular area. Whichever is chosen, a company needs to take a proactive stance to standards activities.

To be effective, a company needs to identify one or more people who have, as part of their job description, responsibility for the management of the company’s involvement in standards. This person must identify the standards development work that may impact the company; participate in key technical work on standards that may impact the company and its products; help to drive the standards development process to reflect the company’s business interests; adopt and implement standards that are consistent with the company’s business direction; and maintain a consistent, visible presence in the standards development arena.

NPES, through its management of accredited national and international committees developing standards for our industry, provides its members with a means to become actively involved in the development of industry standards, both at the national and international level.

The Association administers two committees operating under the accreditation of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to develop national standards. The Committee for Graphic Arts Technologies Standards (CGATS) consists of several subcommittees developing and maintaining technical standards that address a variety of topics, including densitometry, process control, data exchange formats, color characterization data sets for various printing processes, color calibration, etc. The ANSI-accredited B65 Committee develops national standards relating to the safety of equipment used in the printing and binding/finishing process.

The work of both CGATS and B65 often forms the basis for, or provides significant input into, the development of international standards under the International Organization for Standardization’s Technical Committee 130 (Graphic Technology). NPES administers the U.S. input into the ISO TC 130 work, and provides the convener or assistant convener to four of the five TC 130 working groups. NPES also administers two of the working groups: WG 2 (Prepress digital data exchange) and WG 5 (Safety and ergonomics).

For information on current activities at both the national and international levels, and how you can become involved, contact Mary Abbott, NPES Director of Standards Programs, at (703) 264-7229 or; or visit the NPES Standards Workroom at standards/workroom.html.

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