American National Standards Institute

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(CC) Logo: American National Standards Institute (ANSI)
Logo of the American National Standards Institute

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is a non-governmental, non-profit organization that coordinates and accredits the diverse standards developing organizations (SDOs), within the private and public sectors of the United States, that voluntarily develop technical standards for a wide range of materials, products, systems and services. ANSI itself does not develop any standards.[1]

ANSI is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and it also maintains an operations office in New York city. As of 2009, ANSI had 835 members and there were more than 9,000 ANSI standards. It had also accredited about 220 SDOs. ANSI's total revenue and expenses for 2008 amounted to $28,100,000 and $30,300,000, respectively.[2]

History

In 1916, the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (now the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers) invited the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers and the American Society of Testing Materials (now ASTM International) to join in establishing a national body to coordinate the development of standards. These five organizations later invited the U.S. Department of War, U.S. Department of Navy and U.S. Department of Commerce to join them in founding such a national body, which they did.[3]

In 1918, the five national engineering societies, together with the U.S. Departments of War, Navy and Commerce, formed the American Engineering Standards Committee (AESC) with an annual budget of $7,500 provided by one founding bodies.[4]

In its first ten years, AESC approved national standards in the fields of mining, electrical and mechanical engineering, construction and highway traffic. AESC was also active in promoting international cooperation and in 1926 hosted a conference that created the International Federation of the National Standardizing Associations (ISA) which was later to merge with the United Nations Standards Coordinating Committee (UNSCC) to become the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).[3]

As its activities evolved, AESC outgrew its original structure and, in 1928, was reorganized and renamed the American Standards Association (ASA). Three year later, in 1931, it became affiliated with the U.S. national committee of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).[3]

Shortly after World War II, ASA joined with the national standards bodies of 26 other countries to help form ISO in 1947. In 1966, ASA was reorganized as the United States of America Standards Institute (USASI).[3]

ASA changed its name to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in 1969. Throughout its various reorganizations and name changes, ANSI had been steadily increasing its efforts to coordinate and approve voluntary national standards, now known as American National Standards.

In 1987, ANSI accepted responsibility for the administration of the ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee on Information Technology (JTC 1), the world’s largest known standardization committee. ANSI also launched a cooperative dialogue with its counterparts across in Europe. At the heart of this program was the establishment of an ANSI presence in Brussels that would provide for more timely information on European standards activities. Then, in 1989, ANSI also began to increase its outreach to the countries of Eastern Europe, the Far East, the Pacific Rim, South America and Central America.[3]

As of now (2010), ANSI is embracing the needs of the growing service economy and strengthening consumer confidence in the products and services offered by the global economy.

Membership and staff

ANSI has six types or categories of members and two levels of membership. The six membership types are: Company, Government, Organizational,
Educational, International and Individual.

The two levels of membership are Full membership and Basic membership. The table below defines the benefits extended to each of the two membership levels along with the membership categories for which each level is eligible

Membership Levels and Eligible Membership Categories[5]
Level Categories
Full Membership
Includes unlimited representatives per
membership, full participation and access
rights and up to 20% discount on selected
standards purchased through ANSI
Company, Government,
Organizational, Educational
Basic Membership
Includes only one representatives per
membership, limited participation and access
rights and up to 10% discount on selected
standards purchased through ANSI
Company, Government, Educational,
International, Individual

As of September 2009, ANSI had 835 members distributed as: 453 Company members, 29 Governmental members, 319 Organizational members, 15 Educational members, 18 International members and 1 Sponsored/Subsidiary member.[2] Since Full Memberships may have unlimited representative individuals, then the number of individual representatives was probably very much higher than 835.

The permanent staff of ANSI, as of February 2010, amounts to 20 people in the Washington, D.C. office and 79 people in the New York city office.[6]

The standardization and accreditation process

As stated earlier above, ANSI does not develop any standards. Instead, ANSI oversees the development of American National Standards (ANS) by accrediting the procedures used by the of standards developing organizations (SDOs). Accreditation by ANSI signifies that the procedures used by the SDOs meet ANSI's requirements for due process as expressed in the ANSI's document entitled ANSI Essential Requirements.[7][8][9]

The major point stressed in ANSI's essential requirements is due process which is defined as meaning that anyone (organization, company, government agency, individual, etc.) with a direct, material interest in the proposed activity has a right to participate by expressing a position and its basis, having that position considered, and having the right to appeal. Due process allows for equity and fair play. The key components of due process are further defined as:[7]

Openness
Participation shall be open to all persons who are directly and materially affected by the activity in question and without undue financial barriers to participation. Voting rights shall not be conditional upon membership in any organization, nor unreasonably restricted on the basis of technical qualifications or other such requirements.
Lack of dominance
The standards development process shall not be dominated by any single interest category, individual or organization.
Balance
The standards development process should have a balance of interests. Participants from diverse interest categories shall be sought with the objective of achieving balance.
Coordination and harmonization
Good faith efforts shall be made to resolve potential conflicts between and among existing American National Standards and proposed candidate American National Standards.
Notification of standards development
Notification of standards activity shall be announced in suitable media so as to provide an opportunity for participation by all directly and materially affected persons.
Consideration of views and objections
Prompt consideration must be given to the written views and objections of all participants.
Consensus vote
Evidence of a consensus vote, as defined by ANSI, shall be documented.
Appeals
Written appeals procedures shall contain an identifiable, realistic, and readily available appeals mechanism for the impartial handling of procedural appeals regarding any action or inaction.

Participation in international standardization

ANSI is the sole U.S. representative and member of the two major international standards organizations, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). As a founding member of ISO, ANSI plays a strong leadership role in its governing body. Also, since ANSI is the U.S. National Committee of the IEC, the U.S. participation in the IEC is equally strong.[8]

ANSI participates in almost the entire technical program of both the ISO and the IEC, and administers many key committees and subgroups.[8]

References

  1. ANSI Constitution and By-Laws, Approved January, 2009
  2. 2.0 2.1 2008 – 2009 Annual Report
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 1918 – 2008 ANSI:A Historical Overview
  4. P. G. Agnew, Work of the American Engineering Standards Committee, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 137, Standards in Industry (May, 1928), pp. 13-16. (Partially available at Website of JSTOR.org)
  5. Member Benefits, Categories, Levels and Programs
  6. Personal communication with ANSI, dated February 9, 2010.
  7. 7.0 7.1 ANSI Essential Requirements: Due process requirements for American National Standards January 2008
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Introduction to ANSI
  9. Overview of the U.S. Standardization System 2nd Edition, 2007