In reality it's sad that we are our own worst enemy when it comes to innovation. Why does a researcher concentrate on the 5% that may be questionable about a new product but neglect the 95% that can truly change for the better the way we do things?
As an industry we need to embrace new products and technologies that can help us perform our job better, faster and cheaper. Why does each state have to run their own test program even though 10 states have already preformed similar testing?
If we want to progress we need to change our ways from the top down. The industry needs to allow manufactures into the research and development process, and embrace the fact that a typical manufacturer will not release a product into the industry that does not work.
One place to start is to shorten the time it takes ASTM to develop quality specifications that will allow a user to understand a recommended procedure and let the industry decide if the technology or product is viable.
States need to collaborate on test programs or better yet allow or incentivize contractors to try new technologies on their projects.
Who holds the key?
Why is ASTM the key to rapidly introducing new technology into our industry?
Most states or contractors will not allow any device without an ASTM standard to be used. So this presents manufactures a true catch-22.
Most ASTM task groups or committees want to see field data to validate a device. However, to further complicate and slow down the process, data presented by the manufacturer is immediately considered suspect, when in fact, typically it's the most comprehensive, and accurate data that could be presented.
Providing independent field data is a slow, time consuming and costly process. In some applications, without an ASTM Standard obtaining this type of data can be near impossible.
Manufactures are the true experts of the technology they invent, but our industry chooses to discount this and assigns "experts" who in many cases have a limited understanding of the technology and its application. This has to stop if we want to move new technologies forward within our industry.
Recently the president of ASTM, James A. Thomas, wrote a column where he discussed the role of ASTM when it comes to standardization and innovation and how the two must go hand in hand.
The fact is the innovation cycle and development time has shortened in recent years. In order to foster this relationship we need to develop standards during the early stages of development not at the back end of deployment.
Standardization is necessary and often forms the basis for successful innovation. Our industry needs to listen and embrace this mindset.
If we were to function with this approach it would not take four-plus years to develop one specification on a new technology that by the time the standard is approved the technology is out of date.
Too many times task groups within ASTM take on the academic mindset of vetting new technology ... this is not their job and is very costly for our industry.
It's time for our ASTM representatives to reevaluate what their roles are. It's imperative they look outside their own committees and see what other committees are doing in ASTM. Review how these committees are forwarding new standards on ground breaking technology all around us.
These representatives need to truly understand and embrace the relationship of standardization and innovation. We need to establish trust and cooperation between manufactures and researchers.
Task groups and committees must understand that manufacturers' goals are indeed different than academic intuitions. No manufacturer or inventor should be required to publish peer-reviewed papers or put proprietary information in print to get a standard approved.
Manufactures need to be viewed as the experts of their innovations and allowed to present their data accordingly. Lastly it's time for practitioners to get involve and make their voice heard. We can change this culture if we get involved.