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Complying with standards

4 weeks ago
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Businesses are often to be heard talking about standards and quality – but what are standards and what does quality really mean? And, more importantly, what is their impact on your business?

In some cases, standards are set by governments and observing them is a legal requirement.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a standard as “a definite degree of any quality, viewed as a prescribed object of endeavour or as the measure of what is adequate for some purpose” and quality as “the standard or nature of something as measured against other things of a similar kind” so is not exactly helpful. In business, a standard is a specification of a product or a service. This may be specified by reference to national or international standards. For example, ISO 21049:2004 pumps – shaft sealing systems for centrifugal and rotary pumps specifies the requirements for sealing systems for pumps mainly used in hazardous conditions. Standards may be specified by self-appointed interest groups and these can become quite influential. Think Fairtrade Labelling Organisation and the Forest Stewardship Council or, in technology, the Global System for Mobile Communications or, in agriculture, good agricultural practice (GAP – which started in Europe and has been widely replicated). Standards may also be specified by your customers though, more likely than not, customers will reference national or international standards, but some companies (such as the large multinational retail chains and the oil industry) insist on using their own standards. In some cases, standards are set by governments and observing them is a legal requirement.