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Standard - short version

The best way we know at this moment; standards in the lean system change as we discover better ways of working; a clear, simple image of what should be happening.

Standard - long version

A technical standard is an established norm or requirement. It is usually a formal document that establishes uniform engineering or technical criteria, methods, processes and practices.

A technical standard can also be a controlled artifact or similar formal means used for calibration. Reference Standards and certified reference materials have an assigned value by direct comparison with a reference base. A primary standard is usually under the jurisdiction of a national standards body. Secondary, tertiary, check standards and standard materials may be used for reference in a metrology system. A key requirement in this case is (metrological) traceability, an unbroken paper trail of calibrations back to the primary standard.

This article discusses formal technical standards. In contrast, a custom, convention, company product, corporate standard, etc which becomes generally accepted and dominant is often called a de facto standard.

A technical standard may be developed privately or unilaterally, for example by a corporation, regulatory body, military, etc. Standards can also be developed by groups such as trade unions, and trade associations. Standards organizations often have more diverse input and usually develop voluntary standards: these might become mandatory if adopted by a government, business contract, etc.

The standardization process may be by edict or may involve the formal consensus of technical experts.

Types of standards

The primary types of technical standards are:

A standard specification is an explicit set of requirements for an item, material, component, system or service. It is often used to formalize the technical aspects of a procurement agreement or contract. For example, there may be a specification for a turbine blade for a jet engine which defines the exact material and performance requirements.
A standard test method describes a definitive procedure which produces a test result. It may involve making a careful personal observation or conducting a highly technical measurement. For example, a physical property of a material is often affected by the precise method of testing: any reference to the property should therefore reference the test method used.
A standard practice or procedure gives a set of instructions for performing operations or functions. For example, there are detailed standard operating procedures for operation of a nuclear power plant.
A standard guide is general information or options which do not require a specific course of action.


The existence of a published standard does not imply that it is always useful or correct. For example, if an item complies with a certain standard, there is not necessarily assurance that it is fit for any particular use. The people who use the item or service (engineers, trade unions, etc) or specify it (building codes, government, industry, etc) have the responsibility to consider the available standards, specify the correct one, enforce compliance, and use the item correctly. Validation of suitability is necessary.

Standards often get reviewed, revised and updated. It is critical that the most current version of a published standard be used or referenced. The originator or standard writing body often has the current versions listed on its web site.


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