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What is the Difference Between ASTM Standards & ISO Standards?

Many key industries and supply chains rely on ASTM and ISO testing standards to guide their decisions as they develop materials, products, and processes that meet customers’ expectations for quality, safety, and performance. Businesses have tens of thousands of ISO and ASTM testing standards at their fingertips to guide everything from simple test procedures to company-wide quality and energy systems.

While ISO and ASTM testing standards often complement each other, these two standards bodies differ in many ways.

What are ASTM Standards?

ASTM standards are created and distributed by ASTM International. Founded in 1898 as the American Society for Testing and Materials, ASTM International is a voluntary consensus group that engages experts to generate industry standards and tends to focus on specific materials, applications, and products.

There are over 12,000 ASTM standards in circulation. Some ASTM standards have been incorporated into law or are required by OEMs, but ASTM International is virtually never involved in enforcing their standards.

There are five categories of ASTM standards:

Test Method Standards

An ASTM testing standard describes an exact procedure for conducting a quality test. Following the exact instructions described in the testing standard is key to achieving repeatable test results.

Practice Method Standards

A practice method standard describes the exact procedure for performing tasks that don’t generate testing data, with the goal of achieving procedural consistency. There are ASTM practice method standards for cleaning equipment, conducting inspections, preparing test samples, training employees, and more.

Specification Standards

An ASTM specification standard describes performance requirements for a product or material. While test method standards are focused on quality, specification standards are focused on outcomes. For example, a specification standard for an automotive hose may include requirements for abrasion, thermal shock, and vibration resistance. However, the requirements outlined in a specification standard are not always associated with an official standards authority or other enforcement body.

Guide Standards

Unlike prescriptive standards that outline specific requirements and procedures, ASTM guide standards provide multiple options for executing a given task. Users must select the most appropriate option based on their goals, the circumstances, and their best judgment.

Terminology Standards

ASTM terminology standards provide exact definitions and explanations for:

  • Terms.
  • Symbols.
  • Abbreviations.
  • Acronyms.

Terminology standards remove ambiguity from procedures and communication.

What are ISO Standards?

Founded in 1946, the International Organization for Standardization, called ISO, has over 25,000 standards in circulation. Unlike ASTM International standards, which focus on specific products and applications, ISO standards tend to be fairly broad. There are ISO standards for quality management, IT security, and more. ISO accreditation may be granted to an entire laboratory base, for example.

Examples of ISO standards include:

ISO 9000: Quality Management Standards

ISO 9000 is considered the gold standard for quality management in many contexts. ISO 9000 does not cover one specific process but rather provides a range of tools and best practices for businesses striving for quality improvement.

ISO 14001: Environmental Management Standards

ISO 14001 refers to the only standard that can be certified to in the ISO 14000 “family” of standards, related to environmental issues and management. A business may pursue ISO 14001 accreditation to comply with regulations and laws or minimize its environmental impact.

ISO 50001: Energy Management Standards

ISO 50001 is a standard focused on energy efficiency and management for businesses. ISO 50001 can help businesses monitor their energy usage and make adjustments to their business practices to increase their energy efficiency.

ISO 22000: Food Safety Standards

ISO 22000 applies to virtually any company or system involved with food safety and the food chain. ISO 22000 describes steps for controlling food safety hazards, from personnel training and documentation to process flow management and monitoring.

ISO 27001: IT Security Standards

ISO 27001 is focused entirely on information security. The standard has recommendations and requirements for people, processes, and technology.

How To Choose Which Standard to Follow

The first step to choosing the right ASTM or ISO standard is understanding what you’re trying to achieve—and your target audience.

For example, in the automotive industry, many automotive OEMs will only work with tier suppliers who have earned ISO accreditation at their manufacturing facilities. A tier supplier seeking to earn the business of these automotive OEMs may invest time and resources into achieving ISO accreditation.

Similarly, an automotive OEM may only accept products or materials that are compliant with a given ASTM testing standard. Tier suppliers must then keep that ASTM testing standard at the center of the research, development, design, and manufacturing process to ensure that the final product is compliant and will be accepted by the OEM.

In some situations, the right standard is not so easy to discern, nor is it necessarily a requirement. For example, many consumers prefer to patronize businesses that take measures to be more sustainable. A company seeking to gain an advantage over its competitors may undergo ISO 14000 certification with the goal of identifying, striving for, and achieving sustainability milestones that are meaningful to their customers.

ISO & ASTM Compliant Products

Alpha Technologies provides top-of-the-line rheology instruments for testing rubber products and materials. Our premium instruments provide reliable, repeatable data for assessing compliance with ASTM and ISO testing standards. Many of our instruments are pre-programmed to conduct ASTM testing at the touch of a button, streamlining the process in a fast-paced environment.

As part of our commitment to exceptional quality on every level, Alpha Technologies is proud to have earned ISO 9001 and ISO 17025 accreditations at our facilities.
To learn more about our rheology instrumentation, talk to a member of our team >

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