By Mike Pankonin, AEM Senior Director of Technical and Safety Services

Why Industry Standards MatterImagine a world with infinite technological possibilities, but without consensus standards and regulatory requirements.

In this world, cars possess steering wheels on both the driver’s side and passenger’s side in certain models. Accelerators, clutches and brakes can be found on either side of the vehicle, requiring motorists to determine where everything’s located before driving away. Travelers purchase a bushel of adapters in order to be able connect to the internet. Which one to use depends on the hotel chain, state or country a person is in at the time.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to live in a world where a farmer needs to purchase a toolbox full of adapters to get an implement’s hitch and PTO to fit the tractor, depending on the makes or models involved? Well, aside from the fact that it would be a challenge to run the tractor at the correct RPM for the implement.

Many of us have seen the need for electrical adapters and even voltage converters when we travel internationally. One of my electric shavers recently succumbed to a misapplied electrical plug adapter. It worked GREAT for all of about 15 seconds, then “kaput,” never to hum again.

Each of us use products built to a specific set of rules -- either voluntary consensus standards or regulatory requirements -- on a daily basis. As a recent New York Times article stated, “--- technical standards, (are) the silent and often forgotten foundation of technological societies.” 

The article cites buildings that could have been saved in a 1904 Baltimore fire, if only the fire hoses from neighboring municipalities would have fit the Baltimore fire hydrants. How frustrating it must have been watch a city burn because of threads that simply would not fit!

AEM Support for Industry Standard Development

For AEM and its members, voluntary consensus standards serve as the foundation upon which market access and product safety are based. They are the lifeblood of the industry, allowing products to be sold on a global basis and helping protect the industry against “technical barriers to trade.” Many involved in AEM's technical groups remember the long-standing AEM motto related to standards work: “Do it once, do it right, do it globally.”

In many ways, the standards work done by AEM and its members focuses on achieving usable goals, without prescriptive solutions, steering regulators away from mandatory governmental regulations. 

AEM technical committees provide a forum for more engaged members to communicate the most important elements of a developed standard to a broad group of interested AEM members, thereby improving the safety and utility of the equipment. It is widely recognized that any accident or customer inconvenience is bad for the industry, not just the equipment or OEMs directly involved. 

For nearly two decades, AEM has – through the use of its general funds – financially supported ISO Committees in their development of a wide variety of voluntary consensus standards. AEM is not a Standards Development Organization (SDO), but it does provide funds to a number of North American-based SDOs to support the National Standards development process. Through AEM, the costs associated with developing standards is spread across a wider universe of OEMs. They, in turn, benefit from the end product: the published standard.

Without AEM funding, industry OEMs would need to provide direct, out-of-pocket funds in addition to the time and travel required to develop a standard.

Through AEM, the following industry sectors are supported in the standards development process funding:

  • Agriculture
  • Construction
  • Forestry
  • Mining
  • Utility

The industry supports, through AEM funding, a wide group of Standards Development Organizations, including but not limited to:

  • The American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE)
  • The American National Standards Institute (ANSI)
  • SAE International
  • Industrial Truck Standards Development Foundation (ITSDF)
  • Scaffold and Access Industry Association (SAIA)

The AEM financial support of standards development benefits all five AEM industry sectors. Below is a pie chart showing the proportion of AEM’s 2018 standards support dollars and the industry sector they benefit:

As technology advances, the need for standards development continues. And as these standards take shape, they provide a platform from which to develop safe and effective equipment for use throughout the global marketplace. AEM quietly continues with its commitment to support the standards required to ensure open markets for safe and effective products.

For more information on AEM's involvement in the development of industry standards, don't hesitate to email me at mpankonin@aem.org.

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