Best Practice in Company Standardization

Best Practice in Company Standardization

Henk J. de Vries (Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands) and Florens J.C. Slob (Van Gansewinkel Zuid-Holland, Vlaardingen, The Netherlands)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-086-8.ch008
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This article describes a best practice model for standardization within companies, based on a process approach to the development of company standards. Per process, a best practice is developed based on an investigation within six multinational companies and a review of literature, if any. The findings are benchmarked against experiences in three comparable fields: IT management, quality management, and knowledge management. Though the number of company standards exceeds by far the number of external standards, they have been neglected in standardization research. The authors hope that standards practitioners will benefit from their study and that it will stimulate researchers to pay more attention to this topic.
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By the end of 2003, the People’s Republic of China had 20,226 national standards (including adopted international standards), more than 32,000 professional standards, more than 11,000 local standards, and more than 860,000 company standards (When, 2004). Most other countries do not have a central registration of company standards, but it can also be expected in other parts of the world, the number of company standards outweighs to a large extent the number of other standards. This huge difference is not reflected in the amount of attention to company standards in scientific literature. Main exceptions are some German books in the series DIN Normungskunde (Adolphi, 1997; Hesser & Inklaar, 1997; Schacht, 1991; Susanto, 1988). Professional publications on company standardization include AFNOR (1967), Bouma and Winter (1982), British Standards Society (1995), Nakamura (1993), Ollner (1974), Simons and de Vries (2002), Toth (1990), Verity Consulting (1995), Wenström, Ollner, and Wenström (2000), and Winter (1990). Publications on IT standardization that touch the topic of company standardization include Cargill (1997) and Rada and Craparo (2001). In this article, we will contribute to a better understanding of company standardization by investigating how company standards are developed in company practice and in developing a best practice for this.

A company standard is the result of the standardization by a company or other organization for its own needs (Düsterbeck et al., 1995). Company standardization includes developing standards for use within the company and developing standards to be used in the company’s relations with its direct business partners (de Vries, 1999). Developing does not mean that each company standard has to be designed from scratch. A company standard may have the form of the following (de Vries, 1999):

  • A reference to one or more external standards officially adopted by the company

  • A company modification of an external standard

  • A subset of an external standard (i.e., a description of the company’s choice of competing possibilities offered in an external standard, or a subset of the topics covered in the external standard)

  • A standard reproduced from (parts of) other external documents (i.e., suppliers’ documents)

  • A self-written standard

Companies may prefer external standards from IEEE, for example, but these do not meet all their needs, and therefore, they complement these with all forms of company standards just mentioned. In most companies, the number of company standards exceeds the number of external standards.

This research project stems from a wish of five big Dutch companies to try to improve their own company standardization performance by learning from each other. At a later stage, a sixth one joined the group. The research project aimed at developing a best practice for company standardization. This best practice should be established by comparing the standardization activities of the six companies and, subsequently, by choosing the best way to perform them.

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