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What do standards regulate?
Standards regulate a wide range of tangible and intangible items, such as products, processes, measuring methods, procedures and services, and are used in almost all sectors and specialist areas. Standards usually work in the background and are regarded by many as old and dusty or a relic from the industrial age. Hardly anyone associates standards with the current popular topics of smart technologies and Industry 4.0. However, standards make a significant contribution to meeting the great challenges of today – for example digitalization, climate change, the energy revolution or sociopolitical issues such as the ageing population worldwide.
Types of standards and their fields of application
Regardless of the sector and specialist areas, we distinguish between various types of standards. The type of standard relates to the area of application regulated by the standard. There is a need for testing standards and also terminology standards for the definition of terms, as well as quality and safety standards for both the research into new fields of technology and the development of innovative products and services. In this process, standards ensure that all participants speak the same «language».
The common types of standard are:
- Basic standards
Standards that have a wide-ranging coverage or contain general provisions for one particular field
- Terminology standards
Standards that are concerned with terms, usually accompanied by their definitions, and sometimes by explanatory notes, illustrations, examples, etc.
- Testing standards
Standards that are concerned with test methods, sometimes supplemented with other provisions related to testing, such as sampling, use of statistical methods or sequence of tests
- Product standards
Standards that specify requirements to be fulfilled by a product or a group of products, to establish their fitness for purpose
- Process standards
Standards that specify requirements to be fulfilled by a process, to establish its fitness for purpose
- Service standards
Standards that specify requirements to be fulfilled by a service, to establish its fitness for purpose
- Interface standards
Standards that specify requirements concerned with the compatibility of products or systems at their points of interconnection
Domestic market, European single market or world market?
All standards have an alphanumeric designation before the standard number. This designation shows where a standard comes from and at what level it is recognized. A distinction is made between national, European and international standards. National standards regulate the Swiss domestic market, European standards open up access to the European single market, and international standards open up access to the world market. The respective prefix of the standard number (SN, EN or ISO) indicates which market is harmonized by a standard.
Swiss standard which is primarily of national significance
For example: SN 10130 «Business letter»
- EN or SN EN
European standard or Swiss edition of a European standard, which has been adopted unchanged by all members of one of the European standardization organizations CEN, CENELEC or ETSI
For example: SN EN 71-14 «Safety of toys – Part 14: Trampolines for domestic use»
- ISO or SN EN ISO
International standard or Swiss edition of a European standard which is identical to an international standard and has been adopted unchanged by all members of one of the European standardization organizations CEN, CENELEC or ETSI
For example: SN EN ISO 9001 «Quality management systems – Requirements»
Find out more about standards
Are standards laws?
The use of standards is voluntary. Standards only become binding if they are the subject of contracts between parties or if compliance with them is mandatory by law.
What are the benefits of standards?
Switzerland is an exporting country. The ability to systematically translate new findings and ideas into products, processes and services is decisive for the competitiveness of the Swiss economy.