1960–1970: Far from N-O-R-M-al

The 1960s are the era in which society is both shaken and stirred. The Cuba crisis, the Vietnam war, the student movement, flower power, the construction of the Berlin Wall, the moon landing and the advent of the pill are just a few of the events that sum up the decade. Individuality is the name of the game socially and culturally, but in the world of business the work of national and international standardization is continuing to establish itself. Companies have an unbridled interest in harmonization, which gives them access to new international markets.

Foundation of CEN – strengthening of the European economy through standardization work
The European Committee for Standardization (Comité Européen de Normalisation – CEN) is founded in 1961 with the goal of strengthening the European economy and promoting environmental protection. Uniform European standards will free goods and services from technical trade barriers and enable them to compete successfully in the global market. The foundations are already laid for CEN in Zurich in 1960, and the organization is headquartered in Brussels.

Today, more than 200,000 experts are involved in the CEN’s work and the results of its activities reach more than 600 million people. CEN has 34 national members, each of which represents their country. Switzerland and its interests are represented by the SNV. CEN is the official European standards organization for all sectors except electrotechnology ( CENELEC) and telecommunications ( ETSI).

Picture caption: Standards serve as door openers and promote exports

The SNV is constituted as an association
The 1960s are also a significant decade for the Swiss Association for Standardization (SNV). In 1962, those responsible find the right organizational structure for the SNV – one that continues to apply to this day. The SNV is constituted as an association with Willi Ruggaber as the Chairman (1962–1972).

In 1968, the SNV celebrates its 50th anniversary and looks back on half a century of successful activity with several hundred involved specialists. In the 25 September 1968 edition of the NZZ newspaper, Willi Ruggaber explains standardization to NZZ readers as follows: “The main objective of standardization is to improve performance in the worlds of technology, business, administration and science. From an economic perspective, savings on material costs, wages and general expenses will improve profitability, but the biggest influence of standardization will be on pricing and competitiveness. The reduction in the number of different types will result in significant cost savings for the manufacturer and free up capital for the user by reducing inventory. Standardization means that bulk goods in particular can be manufactured more economically and sales prices can be cut, with the result that an evergrowing portion of the population can afford evergrowing quantities of goods. From that, it can be deduced that standardization can be an important means of improving living standards.”

In the same 1968 edition of the NZZ, Alfred J. Furrer, the then Director of Rieter-Technik and future Chairman of the SNV Board (1981–1991), explains how textile standardization has been vital in enabling the Swiss textile industry to export successfully. The characteristics in question include the length of natural and synthetic threads on spools, colour fastness tests, fabric shrinkage during washing and care labelling of textiles.

Flower power with standards
While young people in particular rebel against social conventions in the 1960s, unbeknownst to them their lifestyles are heavily influenced by standards. Did the supporters of the flower power movement realize that various Swiss standardization experts had probably contributed to their colourful and individual clothing? Or that international road and rail traffic and the lighting and sound systems at concerts had been simplified thanks to uniform standards?

Sources: SNV archive, CEN, Wikipedia, NZZ newspaper, www.das-musikinstrument.de

How does a standard come into being?

Standardization has been influencing daily life for a long time, although not all areas are equally affected. There is little international standardization of musical instruments, for example. In 2017, the Standardization Administration of China (SAC) submitted a proposal to the International Organization for Standardization ( ISO) to establish a committee to decide on standards for musical instruments. The proposal was declined as too few members wanted to commit to it.

If a proposal is accepted, however, the appropriate working group begins its standardization work. Standards are not developed by the legislator, a government authority or a national regulator, but by the interested parties themselves. All parties interested in the specific topic can get involved with the professional work within the standard committees and contribute their expertise. To ensure that the market accepts the standards drawn up, it is important to maximize the involvement in the standardization process. In this way, a wide range of opinions and interests will be incorporated into the standard. Every standard is submitted to the professional public for comment before it is finally adopted. In this phase of the public survey, the draft standard is published outside the competent standards committee for the first time, and is also available to specialists who are not members of a recognized standardization organization.

An up-to-date overview of the draft standards submitted for comment can be found on the draft standard portal of the Swiss information center for technical rules (switec draft standard portal).

The following diagram shows how a standard is created:

1. Development

If an application for standards is submitted, interested specialists organize themselves in a working group and develop a draft standard.

2. Public survey

The draft standard is submitted to the public for comments. Comments received are evaluated in the working group.

3. Publication

If there is consensus in the working group on the final draft standard, it is then published as a standard.

4. Review

Every three to five years, the standard is reviewed to ensure that it is up to date and either confirmed, revised or withdrawn.

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