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Specification - short version

A document that states the requirements to which a given product or service must conform.

Specification - long version

A specification (often abbreviated as spec) is an explicit set of requirements to be satisfied by a material, product, or service. Should a material, product or service fail to meet one or more of the applicable specifications, it may be referred to as being out of specification; the abbreviation OOS may also be used. Specs are a type of technical standard.

A technical specification may be developed by any of various kinds of organizations, both public and private. Example organization types include a corporation, a consortium (a small group of corporations), a trade association (an industry-wide group of corporations), a national government (including its military, regulatory agencies, and national laboratories and institutes), a professional association (society), or a purpose-made standards organization such as ISO. It is common for one organization to refer to (reference, call out, cite) the standards of another. Voluntary standards may become mandatory if adopted by a government or business contract.

Sometimes the term specification is used in connection with a data sheet (or spec sheet). A data sheet describes the technical characteristics of an item or product. It can be published by a manufacturer to help people choose products or to help use the products. A data sheet is not a technical specification as described in this article. In engineering, manufacturing, and business, it is vital for suppliers, purchasers, and users of materials, products, or services to understand and agree upon all requirements. A specification is a type of a standard which is often referenced by a contract or procurement document. It provides the necessary details about the specific requirements.

A good engineering specification, by itself, does not necessarily imply that all products sold to that specification actually meet the listed targets and tolerances. Actual production of any material, product, or service involves inherent variation of output. With a normal distribution, the tails of production may extend well beyond plus and minus three standard deviations from the process average. The process capability of materials and products needs to be compatible with the specified engineering tolerances. Process controls must be in place and an effective Quality management system, such as Total Quality Management, needs to keep actual production within the desired tolerances.


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