At least 24 ISO 9000 standards exist or are under development, and as many as 19 ISO 14000 standards may exist by 1999. However, not all 43 of these documents are actually standards. Some are conformance standards, the majority are guidance standards, but a few are, or will be, technical reports. Do you know the difference? I did a little homework and learned the following.
A conformance standard, as most of us are now aware, is a document stipulating requirements to which a management system must conform in order to achieve registration. A guidance standard, by contrast, provides recommendations regarding what to consider or implement when developing aspects of a system. Simply speaking, conformance standards provide "shalls" while guidance standards provide "shoulds." Some ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 guidance standards either already do or eventually may be used to establish criteria such as auditor certification and environmental labeling programs. All standards are meant to play a substantive role in guiding the establishment or enhancement of management systems, but that is another issue.
What, then, are technical reports? Basically, ISO Technical Reports are informative documents that support ISO Technical Committees' efforts as they develop standards. TRs also provide guidance and information to organizations in general or to particular industries that use related conformance and guidance standards.
For example, Technical Committee 176 approved ISO/TR 10006, titled "Quality Management Principles and Guidelines on Their Application," during a meeting in Rio de Janeiro in November 1997. This document provides guidance and information about using eight quality management principles. All groups within TC 176 that are involved in revising the ISO 9000 standards will use this report. TR 10006 also offers much to companies interested in learning more about these principles and their application to improve their quality management systems.
Why should you care about TRs? Because of plans to increase their use within TC 176 and other ISO committees. At TC 176's Rio meeting, an automotive sector task group began developing a TR that will provide information on automotive quality system requirements with linkage to ISO 9001. This TR, used with ISO 9001, will serve as a pilot project and may eventually replace QS-9000, VDA 6.1 and the other national automotive standards, although nothing is definite. The ISO Technical Management Board also has indicated it may direct TC 176 to develop future sector-specific standards as TRs linked to ISO 9001, should the automotive project prove successful.
TR approval requires a simple majority vote for adoption by participating member countries-- known as P-members--while a standard requires a two-thirds majority. The ISO Rules on Technical Reports defines three types of technical reports. Here's a brief rundown of the three and how they are used, based on what the ISO rules state.
A Type 1 TR is the publication of a draft standard that has failed to obtain the necessary two-thirds majority of P-members required for approval as an international standard. The foreword to a Type 1 TR must indicate that the document was intended as a full standard but met enough opposition internationally or faced other issues to prevent the needed 67-percent approval. A Type 1 TR is published primarily to provide informative guidance about the results of the standardization effort.
A Type 2 TR is generally used for "prestandardization purposes" to provide information without writing a formal standard, normally because development of technical requirements is not sufficient to support standardization. A Type 2 TR requires notice in the foreword that it is intended as the basis for a "prospective standard." After a three-year period, the report is reviewed and one of the following actions is taken:
The report is updated if further technical progress is needed.
Work is initiated to develop a standard if technical progress has been sufficient.
The work item is suspended due to inadequate progress or lack of interest in standardization.
A Type 3 TR is a documented informative resource that resulted from standardization work. It will clearly indicate that the contents are not meant to be used in standardization.
A TR does not have the stature of a standard but may equal or surpass some guidance standards in terms of impact. What type of TR will the automotive pilot produce? No one I've spoken with seems to know for sure, but why get technical?
About the author
James G. Mroz is senior editor of The Informed Outlook, a twice-monthly newsletter providing information and guidance on ISO 9000, QS-9000 and ISO 14000, published by INFORM (International Forum for Management Systems Inc.), 15913 Edgewood Drive, Montclair, VA 22026; telephone (703) 680-1436, fax (703) 680-1356 and e-mail jmroz@ qualitydigest.com.