By Diana Wyman
Many of the products people use every day are tested and certified for safety, quality and regulatory compliance. As such, there are standardized tests for everything from power cords to art supplies. They are critically important for making valid comparisons between (a) different lots of the same product or (b) rival products of the same type. The results can be used to promote the key features of a product or to compare them with those of its competitors.
In some cases, the criteria for these tests are mandated by law, while in others, they are simply agreed upon between buyers and sellers of the products in question. Either way, standardized testing provides a common language for communication between various parties, with a passing grade providing confidence to them in a smooth transaction.
Standardized tests are vital to the wide-format printing industry, as well, particularly with respect to new and increasingly commonly used materials, such as textiles intended for graphic applications.
According to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the primary principles for developing an international standard are transparency, openness, impartiality and consensus. This means multiple perspectives need to be considered.
Test methods developed by a single person or company can end up with intentional or unintentional biases. Standardized test methods, on the other hand, are developed specifically to be fair and unbiased, with a variety of manufacturers, buyers, researchers and users from across the corresponding industry providing input.
Standards developing organizations (SDOs) ensure this process allows everyone the opportunity to comment and offer suggestions. Their committees are generally open to all interested parties. While a small task force may be put together to draft a new or revised testing method, the entire committee votes on the results at the end of the process.
Indeed, in many SDOs, every voice is heard; even if only one out of 100 members votes against an item, the group must consider that voter’s position. An individual is not simply overruled by the majority.
The co-operative efforts of industry stakeholders have advantages beyond promoting fair trade between them. Standardized testing also benefits from the collective knowledge of numerous industry experts, with a variety of perspectives leading to a more robust test method. What one person misses, a team can catch.
While an industry as a whole benefits from better methods, individual companies operating within it will also benefit from distribution of the work involved in test development. Some large organizations can support internal test method development, but their resources can go even farther by working with others on multiple projects, while small organizations that cannot afford the time or funding for independent test method development can play an important role in collaborative development.