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A standard is a document that provides requirements, specifications, guidelines, or characteristics that can be used consistently to ensure that materials, products, processes, and services are fit for their purpose.
In layman's terms, you can think of a standard as an agreed-upon formula for the best way of doing something.
A voluntary consensus standard is a type of standard developed or adopted by voluntary consensus standards bodies through the use of a development process characterized by openness, balance, due process, consensus, and the right to appeals.
Consensus means that substantial agreement has been reached by stakeholders. It signifies more than a simple majority, but not necessarily unanimity. Consensus requires that all views and objections be considered, and that an effort be made toward their resolution.
Types of voluntary consensus standards include:
Consortia standards are voluntary standards whose development is generally initiated by groups of companies agreeing to work together to address a single commercial/market need. Participation is often limited to members of the consortia—historically heavily comprised of the interested companies, though some consortia have been expanding their membership structures to enable participation by government agencies, universities, and/or corporate end users (rarely individuals).
Standardization is the process of bringing a product, process, or system into conformity with a standard. The term is used to encompass the development of standards plus the conformity assessment measures that demonstrate compliance to standards.
Conformity assessment is a process for demonstrating that specified requirements have been fulfilled. Common conformity assessment activities include testing, calibration, inspection, validation and verification, and the certification of products, processes, services, persons, and management systems.
ANSI’s affiliate ANAB is a global leader in conformity assessment activities, assessing the competence of conformity assessment bodies around the world under every internationally recognized accreditation standard.
Certification, a type of conformity assessment, is written assurance provided by an independent body that a product, process, service, person, or management system meets specific requirements (often those contained in a standard).
ANSI is not a certification body and does not certify any product, process, service, person, or management system. ANSI’s affiliate ANAB accredits independent certification bodies, assessing competence, consistent operation, and impartiality in their services.
Generally, accreditation is third-party evaluation of a conformity assessment body, standards developer, or other entity to carry out specific tasks according to standards or other requirements in a competent and impartial manner.
ANSI's accreditation activities can be described as follows:
The United States Standards Strategy (USSS) is a statement of purpose and ideals to guide how the United States develops standards and participates in international standardization. It provides a vision for a U.S. standardization system in which standards meet societal and market needs and do not act as barriers to trade.
With private-sector leadership and public-sector support and participation, the U.S. standardization system represents a robust public-private partnership that enables flexibility and responsiveness to meet market needs and address national and global priorities.
Standards are developed by a multitude of diverse standards developing organizations (SDOs), trade associations, industry and consortia groups, academic institutions, domestic and international committees, and other consensus bodies in the United States.
In accordance with the U.S. Standards Strategy, the relevance of a standard is not determined by who developed it, but rather by market/societal need and compliance of the developer's process with recognized principals of open and equitable voluntary standards development, as reflected in ANSI's Essential Requirements: Due process requirements for American National Standards and the World Trade Organization's Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (WTO/TBT).
An American National Standard (ANS) is a voluntary consensus standard that is developed in accordance with ANSI's Essential Requirements: Due process requirements for American National Standards and subject to ANSI’s neutral oversight, accreditation of consensus procedures, approval process, appeals process, and procedural audit.
ANSI's Essential Requirements: Due process requirements for American National Standards are a set of provisions designed to ensure that the development of American National Standards is a fair and responsive process that is open to all directly and materially interested parties.
Many American National Standards include "ANSI" as part of their designation/name, which may lead people to incorrectly assume that ANSI developed these "ANSI standards." But ANSI does not develop standards. Rather, ANSI approves American National Standards developed by more than 240 independent ANSI-Accredited Standards Developers (ASDs) when ANSI’s due process requirements have been met. The ASD may then choose to include "ANSI" in the standard's designation.
No, voluntary consensus standards are not the law; organizations choose to follow them to meet customer or industry demands. However, voluntary standards can be (and often are) incorporated by reference (IBR) into laws or regulations, becoming mandatory.
Reliance on private-sector leadership, with strong government participation, is the primary strategy for government engagement in standards development. Through this public-private partnership, the U.S. is able to respond most effectively to the strategic needs of the nation.
The U.S. government is one of the biggest users of standards, and government agencies participate in a large number of voluntary consensus standards bodies, and many also develop agency-specific standards.
Incorporation by reference (IBR) is the process by which federal agencies can comply with the requirement to publish rules in the Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations by referring to material already published elsewhere.
"IBR standards" refers to standards that have been incorporated by reference into law or regulation, in order for agencies to tap into the technical expertise and efficiency of private sector–led standards development while meeting regulatory needs. IBR standards retain their copyrights, but are made "reasonably available" for public viewing via tools like ANSI's IBR Standards Portal.
OMB Circular A-119, "Federal Participation in the Development and use of Voluntary Consensus Standards and in Conformity Assessment Activities" and the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1996 (NTTAA) establish and clarify U.S. policy to increase federal reliance on voluntary consensus standards.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce that promotes U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life.
Among its roles, NIST:
ANSI and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have a long-standing cooperative relationship supporting open communication among cross-sector standardization stakeholders and promoting partnership innovation, education, and capacity-building in the U.S. standards sytem.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) outlines the important responsibilities of ANSI and NIST in standardization, and recognizes the value of the public-private partnership. Its overarching purpose is to facilitate domestic communication and coordination among both private- and public-sector parties in the United States on voluntary standards and conformity assessment issues and promote effective federal agency participation.
An international standard is a document that has been developed through the consensus of experts from many countries and is approved and published by a globally recognized body. It comprises rules, guidelines, processes, or characteristics that allow users to achieve the same outcome time and time again.
The three major global standardization bodies comprising the World Standards Cooperation are the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
In 2000 the World Trade Organization (WTO) adopted a decision setting out principles that standards bodies should follow when developing international standards. Many U.S.-domiciled standards developers develop standards that meet these principles, are used internationally, and are considered international standards.
The globally accepted standardization principles of the World Trade Organization Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement (WTO/TBT) are intended to ensure that standards meet societal and market needs and don't act as barriers to trade. They include:
The U.S. endorses these principles, which align with ANSI's Essential Requirements: Due process requirements for American National Standards.
ISO, the International Organization for Standardization, is an independent, non-governmental organization that develops international standards that support innovation and provide solutions to global challenges across nearly every industry/sector.
Based in Geneva, ISO has a membership of more than 165 national standards bodies. ANSI serves as the U.S. member of ISO.
IEC, the International Electrotechnical Commission, is an independent, non-governmental organization dedicated to the preparation and publication of international standards and conformity assessment solutions for all electrical, electronic, and related technologies.
Based in Geneva, the IEC has a membership of more than 88 national standards bodies, plus 86 affiliate countries. Through its U.S National Committee (USNC), ANSI serves as the U.S. member of the IEC.
U.S. Technical Advisory Groups (TAGs) serve as the national mirror committees to International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) technical committees, developing and transmitting U.S. consensus positions and comments on ISO and IEC activities and ballots. U.S. TAGs are comprised of the range of U.S. parties interested in and affected by the specific international standards developed by the various committees.
ISO/IEC JTC 1, Information Technology, is a joint technical committee of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) developing international standards to support IT advancement across every sector. ISO/IEC JTC 1 and its subcomittees have been responsible for the development of over 3,200 standards for innovative technologies like artificial intelligence, biometrics, and cloud computing.
The U.S. plays a leading role in JTC 1, with ANSI serving as committee Secretariat. With 35 participating national bodies and 65 observing countries, more than 4,000 experts from around the world work collaboratively in JTC 1 to develop effective and relevant international standards for critical, emerging, and cross-cutting information and communications technology areas.
Yes, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is private, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that administers and coordinates the U.S. voluntary standards and conformity assessment system.
No, ANSI is not part of the U.S. government. Rather, ANSI is private, non-profit organization that works in partnership with government and all standarization stakeholders, providing a neutral forum to coordinate standards harmonization activities in priority areas.
This misconception is most common in the global community, where the ANSI equivalent in other nations is almost always a government entity.
No, ANSI is not a standards developer, nor a product certifier, tester, or lab. Rather, the Institute accredits the procedures of U.S. standards developing organizations (SDOs)—currently about 240—and approves their documents as American National Standards (ANS) when they meet ANSI's Essential Requirements: Due process requirements for American National Standards.
In this way, the Institute works to ensure the integrity of the U.S. voluntary consensus standards and conformity assessment system by providing the procedural due-process-based framework for the development of ANS—more than 13,000 to date.
First formed in 1916 by five engineering associations and three government agencies to serve as an impartial national body to coordinate
standards development, approve national consensus standards, and halt user confusion on acceptability, ANSI has responded to the needs of the nation with leadership in standardization for more than 100 years. The Institute's responsibilities have evolved as national and global priorities shift, anchored to the foundation of one of the strongest, longest-standing public-private partnerships in U.S. history.
Yes, ANSI is a membership organization, serving a diverse group of more than 1,400 companies, organizations, government entities, consumer groups, educational institutions, and other public- and private-sector standardization stakeholders across every industry.
Through an array of key roles, ANSI represents and serves the interests of more than 270,000 companies and organizations and 30 million professionals worldwide.
Yes, ANSI sells standards through the ANSI Webstore, an online electronic standards ordering and delivery system for U.S. and international standards and standards subscriptions. The Webstore inventory includes international standards from ISO and IEC, American National Standards, and hundreds of other documents from more than 150 standards developers and publishers.
Yes, ANSI provides four programs for registering unique organizational identifiers into international directories:
ANAB, the ANSI National Accreditation Board, is an ANSI affiliate organization that accredits conformity assessment bodies. These include:
Workcred is an ANSI affiliate organization dedicated to strengthening the workforce by increasing the quality, market value, and effectiveness of credentialing (certificate/certification) programs.