Standards govern much of the economic activity that surround us, and you have likely come across them in various areas of your life. For example, many have heard of the ISO 9000 standards for quality management – or maybe even directly worked on implementing them in their company. And for online learning, standards such as the ISO/IEC 29140 “Information technology for learning, education and training – Nomadicity and mobile technologies” and the IEEE 1484.20.3 “Standard for Learning Technology” help making different learning management systems more interoperable.
But have you ever wondered how to access those standards? Unlike many other documents that have an impact on public an economic life, most of these standards are not free to access. This is where the ANSI Webstore comes in – let’s have a look!
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What is ANSI?
ANSI is a private non-profit organization founded in 1918. It operates independently and represents the United States in international standardization bodies, such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). ANSI’s influence extends across various industries, impacting products like electrical equipment, construction materials, healthcare devices, IT, environmental standards, manufacturing processes, occupational safety, and automotive components. Investing in ANSI standards depends on regulatory compliance, quality assurance, market access, safety, industry reputation, and potential cost savings. Evaluate the cost-benefit ratio for your specific situation, consult industry experts, assess regulatory obligations, and consider the impact on your business goals before deciding on ANSI compliance. In many cases, the investment can be justified by the benefits it offers in terms of safety, quality, and competitiveness in the market.
Diversity of industries influenced by ANSI standards
ANSI‘s reach extends across a wide spectrum of industries and products. While ANSI itself does not sell products, it plays a pivotal role in the development and maintenance of standards that profoundly impact various sectors. Here are some examples of products and industries influenced by ANSI standards:
1. Electrical and electronic equipment
ANSI standards often cover safety, performance, and compatibility requirements for various electrical and electronic devices. These standards ensure that products in this category meet essential criteria.
2. Building codes and construction materials
In the construction industry, ANSI standards dictate the specifications and safety guidelines for construction materials and building design. These standards contribute to the structural integrity and safety of buildings.
3. Healthcare equipment
Healthcare relies on standards to ensure the safety and performance of medical devices and healthcare facilities. ANSI standards play a vital role in this sector.
4. Information technology
From computer hardware to software and data communication protocols, ANSI standards are essential in the realm of information technology. They establish compatibility and performance benchmarks.
5. Environmental standards
Environmental protection is a global concern. ANSI contributes by developing standards related to emissions, waste management, sustainability, and other environmental considerations.
6. Manufacturing and industrial processes
ANSI standards cover a diverse range of industrial processes and equipment. These standards aim to ensure safety, efficiency, and quality control in manufacturing and industry.
7. Occupational safety
Workplace safety is paramount, and ANSI develops standards for occupational safety. These include guidelines for personal protective equipment and safety procedures.
8. Automotive standards
In the automotive industry, ANSI standards influence the design and manufacturing of automotive components and systems. These standards prioritize safety and performance in vehicles.
While ANSI doesn’t directly sell these products, it provides the standards and guidelines that manufacturers and industries follow to ensure safety, quality, and compatibility. Manufacturers and businesses adhere to ANSI standards when designing, producing, and labeling their products, benefiting both consumers and industries alike.
What is the ANSI Webstore?
The ANSI Webstore is an online platform that plays a pivotal role in the world of standards. It serves as a hub for purchasing and accessing both U.S. and international standards, offering a vast selection from over 150 standards publishers. For users, it provides the convenience of immediate standard downloads. However, the cost associated with purchasing standards through ANSI can vary, and it’s essential to understand the factors contributing to these costs.
Why are not the standards freely available?
Given that standards affect us all, you would expect them to be freely available. However, this is not the case in general. When considering the cost of ANSI standards, several key factors come into play:
1. Supporting the standards development process
Behind every standard lies a complex process involving volunteers and experts in the field. ANSI plays a vital role in coordinating these efforts. This includes organizing meetings, distributing documents, and notifying the public about standardization activities. Both ANSI and Standards Developing Organizations (SDOs) employ staff to support these efforts, and these operational costs contribute to the overall price of standards.
2. Supporting the standards users
Once a standard is developed, it needs to be accessible to those who require it. This involves maintaining catalogs and indexes, as well as providing assistance to users in finding the relevant standards. These operational expenses are covered through the sale of standards, ensuring that users receive the necessary support.
3. Intellectual property and commercial value
Standards are considered intellectual property. Those who use them, especially when incorporating standards into products or services, are typically expected to pay for their use. This reflects the commercial value associated with adhering to recognized standards.
4. Electronic dissemination
While electronic distribution is generally more cost-effective than print, there are still expenses associated with production, warehousing, and distribution. These costs encompass manpower, facilities, and equipment necessary for the electronic dissemination of standards.
And for standards that are not published by ANSI, they are just passing on the costs of the licenses that those partners are setting.
Accessing standards in the ANSI Webstore
You can purchase access to standards in three different ways – as individual standards with a one-time fee, the Standards Connect subscription service, and packages of standards that combine several relevant standards for a specific purpose.
If just buying a single user license, the cost of a standard is normally less than $100 – so a very small amount compared to the costs of implementing a standard, which will often cost thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars.
If you are looking into standards and determining whether to implement them in your organization, an individual license is probably where you’ll start out – or possibly a standards package if you don’t know which specific standard you’ll be needing. Once deciding to implement them, more people will likely need to be involved on an ongoing basis in the implementation and management, and the Standards Connect service will become more interesting.
Before deciding whether ANSI standards are worth the cost for your organization, it’s advisable to consult with industry experts, assess your regulatory obligations, and thoroughly evaluate the impact on your business goals and bottom line. In many cases, the investment in complying with ANSI standards can be justified by the advantages it offers in terms of safety, quality, and market competitiveness. But as it’s a relatively small cost, I would recommend buying the standard earlier in the process to have direct access to the source documents.