17 Dec 2019

What If There Is No Standard

As covered in our previous blog, there is little question that standards can be confusing. But what if there is no standard or the standard you have is indeterminant?  What is a manufacturer or product designer to do when things are not clear?

Indeterminant Standards
Generally, there are two types of problems with standards that exist but are indeterminant.  Typically, either the written instructions are unclear, they are missing or do not match the given situation. To proceed, it is important to identify what is unclear: The standard?  The process? Something about the product itself? If not these areas, then consider what else might be unclear or missing.

Start by asking questions.  Open-ended questions, which require information and detail to answer may help identify the missing elements.  They require finding details, organizing information and articulating answers.  If that can be done, there may be issues with the standard.  Simple yes/no question can also work to quickly identify an issue like missing data or errors in wording or math.  As you ask questions, document the results. This not only helps ensure you won't have to ask again, but it also serves as a roadmap for any next steps and adjustments.

Deviations may be only a small change to the details of the standard to accommodate an unforeseen situation that still complies to the intent of the standard. If the intent of the standard is not being met in a given situation, or if the application of the standard no longer meets the scope, these are not simple deviations.  Instead, it means there is not an applicable standard for the scenario.

No Standard
Sometimes there is no standard, often because of new or changing technologies.  This is especially true for industries rapidly evolving at a rate the standards cannot keep up with.  For example, there is still a shortage of cybersecurity standards for connected products. When there are no standards, how can manufacturers assure users that products are safe and perform well? Some options are:

  • Validation testing, which can be used to verify marketing claims, safety, security and performance.  Experienced testing personnel can use existing test methods, guidelines and standards to conduct validation testing. 
  • Failure testing, which identifies the point when/where a product fails and determines why the failure occurred.  These results can be used to make corrections to product design and manufacturing processes.
  • Performance testing, which evaluates how a product performs under certain circumstances.  Intended use and environments are used to determine what type of testing will provide the desired data.

Unclear or missing standards may seem like a roadblock in product development, but they don't have to be.  There are still ways to use standards or to otherwise illustrate a product's overall safety and performance.  Get more insights on what to do if there is no clear standard, including more information on various failure test methods, in our free webinar recording.


Alex Porter,
Global Director of Engineering


Alex Porter is a Global Director of Engineering at Intertek. With more than 20 years of experience in the testing industry, Alex has experience working with standards, materials, robotics and space station components. He has Bachelor's and Master's degrees in engineering from Western Michigan University, and has written several articles and a book on testing methods, particularly accelerated stress testing (AST).