A Standards Update - The ISO process
Welcome to this edition of a regular column
about standards in the Automatic Identification and Data Capture
(AIDC) industry. This column will be updated regularly to keep
you current on news of standards and their impact on the
In the coming months, we will try to
educate you on the various technologies covered under the AIDC
umbrella as well as bring news of the standardization process
and its progress. If you have news about standards that you want
to share, or questions you want to ask, send them to
email@example.com and we will try to incorporate them into
the next column.
last month's issue of this column, we looked at the work of
SC 31 in more detail, including the work load and the
prospects for standardization from this committee.
This month we will talk about the ISO
process and how it works. This process is clearly defined for
our industry (AIDC) in the JTC 1 (Joint Technical Committee 1 -
see previous column for more details) procedures (called
directives) and the information below is summarized from this
document. We mentioned the process for the completion of an ISO
standard as follows:
Stage 0 Investigation
Stage 1 (proposal stage): An NP
(New Project) is under consideration.
Stage 2 (preparatory stage): A WD
(Working Draft) is under consideration.
- Stage 3 (committee stage): A CD/FCD
(Committee Draft/Final Committee Draft) is under consideration.
- Stage 4 (approval stage): An FDIS
(Final Draft International Standard) is under consideration.
- Stage 5 (publication stage): An IS
(International Standard) is being prepared for publication.
These six steps form the foundation for the
creation of an ISO standard, so we will go through each one in
turn to better understand the process.
Stage 0: This is a time when a group of
people think that there may be a need for a standard. It is an
optional stage in the process, and usually only occurs when
there is agreement that standardization is likely, but there are
no specific projects identified. This stage allows a workgroup
to create a plan and get international approval for
standardization before significant amounts of effort are
Stage 1: A proposal for a new work item
(NP) can be submitted by JTC 1, a National Body (NB) (USA, UK
etc.), a subcommittee (SC) or Technical Committee (TC), or
certain liaison members of JTC 1. An NP document includes enough
information about the project to allow a NB to decide if it is
going to participate in a project. This information includes the
obvious things like title, scope, and program of work as well as
a business case that sets out the purpose and justification for
doing the standardization. Once an NP is submitted, all the NBs
in JTC 1 have to vote on accepting the work. This is a three
month ballot. In order to be accepted, a majority of the P
(Principal) members of JTC 1 must approve the work and at least
five P members must agree to participate in the work. (Not every
NB must participate in every standard at the working level,
though all P members have a vote to approve the work).
Stage 2: After approval of the NP, it is
assigned to a subcommittee for the work to be done. The
subcommittee establishes a workgroup to take responsibility, and
work starts on the project. The workgroup identifies a project
editor for the project, and work commences to create a document.
This working draft (WD) will typically go through several
revisions as more of the technical detail is created and
consensus of the group is achieved. This process can take some
time, and so JTC 1 has some procedures to flag anything that is
still in this stage at the third year anniversary of the NP
date. At some point the workgroup decides that the document is
materially complete (main elements included), it is in a format
approximating a standard, and there is consensus as to its
content. At this point the workgroup recommends that the WD be
sent for registration as a Committee Draft (CD).
Stage 3: The document is forwarded by the
SC into JTC 1 for registration as a CD. With this recommendation
is a letter which states whether this is a Committee Draft (CD)
or a Final Committee Draft (FCD). If the workgroup considers
that this document is basically complete and that there are
unlikely to be any changes suggested during the ballot process
then it may recommend that this is an FCD immediately. However,
if changes are likely, the CD is the route to go. The document
is put up for CD ballot as many times as needed to get enough
consensus to get it through the FCD ballot. A CD ballot is a 3
month ballot, whereas a FCD ballot is a four month ballot.
However, if a document fails FCD ballot it must go back to the
CD ballot stage, so it is better to be sure of the consensus
before submitting to FCD. In both cases, votes may be for or
against the document, though negative votes must include
reasons. After the close of the ballot the workgroup is required
to consider every comment made and produce a disposition of
comments report that explains their reasons for their actions
(the workgroup is not required to accept all the comments, but
they must explain their decisions). Following a successful FCD
ballot the document is registered for Final Draft International
Standard (FDIS) ballot.
Stage 4: The document is now sent out for a
FDIS ballot. This is a two month ballot, that requires at least
two thirds of the P members approval, along with no more than
one-quarter of the total number of cast votes being negative.
The vote can only be approval or disapproval (for stated
technical reasons) and abstention. If the vote fails, the
document goes back to the CD stage. If it passes only minor
editorial changes are possible to the document before it goes to
the next stage and is published.
Stage 5: The document is finally sent to
JTC 1 to be published.
To summarize, the project may go through a
study period, the outcome of which is an NP. The NP goes for a
three month ballot. If approved it goes into a workgroup for a
period of time (one to three years typically). The document then
goes through a CD ballot (three months minimum), followed by a
FCD ballot (four months minimum), followed by a FDIS ballot (two
months), followed by publication. So we typically have a two to
four year time period to create a standard.
This brief summary, shows you the stages
that a project goes through in the JTC 1 arena. It does not
cover all the possibilities, but is the most common path. The
full text of the directives is available at
Next month we will talk about Fast Track
and other possible short cuts to the system.