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Standards - published specifications - are an invaluable world-wide resource and the process that leads to standardisation is big business. Globally there are well over half a million published Standards. These are the products of over 1,000 recognised Standards development organisations worldwide. These figures don't take into account the innumerable internal Standards, which underpin any successful business.

This massive collection of accumulated knowledge and expertise does not come cheaply. It is an expensive exercise to develop a publicly available Standard. Criteria for such a Standard are that it represents a consensus from a committee of technical experts specifically chosen to bring a broad range of viewpoints to the committee deliberations; and these experts contribute their knowledge and time to develop the Standard free of charge. However there is an economic cost to their contribution and worldwide this amounts to a very significant figure.

In Australia alone there are around 9,000 technical committee members. It is estimated that their contribution is worth over $30,000,000 per year, when considered as an opportunity cost.

The size of the global commitment to the standardisation process is not readily available, but a reasonable estimate is possible. For example in Germany there are around 50,000 technical committee members and in the UK there are 31,000. In the US there are over 400 industry-based Standards development organisations, each with many technical committees, some of which have a significantly larger membership than equivalent committees in the rest of the world.

Based on available figures, a conservative estimate of the number of people currently involved in the standardising process worldwide is over half a million. Using the Australian opportunity cost as a reasonable median value, it is realistic to suggest that approximately $1.5 billion is being invested globally each year in the creation and management of Standards.

A brief history of Standards

Standards have been around a long time. Relics from ancient civilisations such as Babylon and early Egypt provide ample evidence that standardisation was being used as far back as seven thousand years ago. The earliest Standards were the physical Standards for weights and measures. They provided a single reference point against which all other weights and measures in that society could be standardised. As trade and commerce developed, written documents evolved which set down mutually agreed Standards for products and services such as agriculture, ships, buildings, weapons and so on.

A uniform set of criteria evolves

Initially such Standards were unique documents and part of a single contract between the supplier and purchaser. Later the concept of common Standards evolved, where the same Standard could be used across a range of transactions. This portability, offering a uniform set of criteria, is the basis of modern standardisation. It uses common knowledge, requirements and needs to avoid reinventing the wheel.

After the Industrial Revolution

After the rapid industrialisation of the early nineteenth century, the general absence of national standardisation caused huge inefficiencies. Lack of conformity was a major cost and evidence of this is still apparent today in the number of different railway gauges that exist. After the Industrial Revolution, occupational injury also became a major issue and workers approached any nineteenth century machinery with a legitimate degree of fear. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), one of the first voluntary standardising bodies, was established in 1880 when, according to their records, over 50,000 fatalities a year were being caused by explosions in pressures systems on land and at sea.

Standards in contemporary society

It wasn't until the latter years of the 19th Century that the value of standardisation in specifications, materials, testing and conformance was recognised as a national priority. By the turn of the century standardisation was flourishing and has continued to where it has now become intrinsic to modern society. It has extended far beyond its original industrial focus to include consumer safety, occupational health and a myriad of other topics, all of which serve to improve the quality and comfort of our everyday life.

Standards are the tools we use to organise our technical world and the measures we employ to establish norms for management procedures. They underpin consumer expectations that products purchased will be safe, reliable and fit-for-purpose. Indeed, Standards have become such integral components of our economic, social and legal systems, that they are often taken for granted and their crucial role in a modern society is often not recognised.



Company History 


Standards Australia, originally called the Australian Commonwealth Engineering Standards Association, was founded. Main Committee of the Australian Commonwealth Engineering Standards Association had been gazetted in 1922.


Australia joins the International Electro-technical Commission [IEC] with the Australian Commonwealth Engineering Standards Association as its representative.


Renamed the Standards Association of Australia (SAA) to recognise wider role in society.


The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is established with SAA as founding member.


SAA receives a Royal Charter to develop Standards in the national interest.


SAA incorporated under a Royal Charter.


SAA becomes an inaugural member of the Pacific Area Standards Congress [PASC].


SAA drops 'Association' from name and becomes Standards Australia. Signs a memorandum of understanding with the Federal Government which recognises Standards Australia as the peak non-government Standards development organisation.


Standards Australia establishes a wholly owned subsidiary business, Quality Assurance Services Pty Ltd (QAS).


Standards Australia acquires the Industrial Design Council of Australia (IDCA) and its Australian Design Awards (ADA) program.


Standards Australia launches new application and assessment process for the Australian Design Award, making it one of the first on-line design award programs in the world.


Standards Australia is one of the first national Standards bodies to develop an Internet delivery system for its Standards and technical publications. ADA becomes Australia's promotional member of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID).


Standards Australia changes its name to Standards Australia International Limited (SAI Limited) and becomes incorporated as an Australian public company limited by guarantee.


Standards Australia moves its headquarters to Sussex Street in Sydney's CBD.


Standards Australia acquires parts of the former Australian Quality Council [AQC] including the Australian Business Excellence Awards program.


Standards Australia signs revised memorandum of understanding with the Commonwealth Government.


Standards Australia sells its commercial assurance business and grants an exclusive license to publish and distribute Australian Standard® brand standards for an initial term of 15 years to SAI Global Limited, a newly founded company that is floated on the Australian Stock Exchange.

2007 ​Standards Australia moves its headquarters to Bridge Street in the Exchange Centre.
Australian Design Awards opens its entry criteria to include all professionally designed products on the Australian market and changes its name to the Australian International Design Awards (AIDA).
2010 ​Standards Australia formally divests AIDA to Good Design Australia​


History of Standards Australia Chairman 

1922​ - 1926 ​Sir George Knibbs

1926 – 1939

Sir George Julius

1939 – 1948


1948 – 1956

T.H.Upton OBE

1956 – 1958

Sir John Tivey

1958 – 1965

Capt. G.I.D.Hutcheson CBE

1966 – 1980


1981 – 1988

R.W. Mitchell

1988 – 1994

J.A.Davidson AO

1994 – 2001


2001 – 2003


2004 – 2010

J.Castles AM

2010 – 2014

Dr A.Morrison

​2014 - ​W.R.Brooks


History of Standards Australia Chief Executive Officer

1924 – 1953
1953 – 1974 A.Stewart
1974 – 1979 I.Stewart
1979 – 1988 J.Paton
1988 – 1996 S.Horwood
1996 – 2003 R.Wraight
2004 – 2009 J.D.Tucker
2010 – 2013 C.D.Blair
2013 - Dr B.J.Evans