A long history of setting the standard

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It’s one of those things that is rarely thought about, yet touches lives on a daily basis.

Each morning as you put your key in your vehicle’s ignition, turn it, and head off down the road—SAE standards have been implemented. As you board a plane and stow your carry-on baggage and slide into your seat, SAE standards are used. And, when you climb into the cab of your industrial-grade tractor to begin a day’s work of farming, again, SAE standards are there.

No matter the mode of transportation or use—car, SUV, pickup truck, tractor, two-seater airplane, or jumbo jet—SAE standards are at the heart of your vehicle.

SAE standards have made vehicles safer, more reliable, more comfortable, and more cost-effective for manufacturers and consumers. In fact, in the U.S., SAE standards are referenced by many government regulations—a marriage of government safety and environmental efforts and current top technical industry solutions.

“SAE standards are relevant because they are created and developed by the professionals who design and create the vehicles themselves,” said Jack Pokrzywa, Manager, Ground Vehicle Standards. “If it moves on- or off-road, we’ve had our hands—literally and figuratively—on virtually every part of it.”

Ed Manns, Manager, Aerospace Standards, said SAE has been a critical player in the development of the aerospace industry almost since the day that Orville and Wilbur Wright made their famous flight in Kitty Hawk.

“The aerospace mobility engineers who sit on our committees put a life’s accumulation of talent and education into creating standards that benefit not only manufacturers but anyone who has ever stepped on an airplane,” Manns said. “This has been recognized by the leaders of our industry for decades. Our membership rolls are very impressive, including some of the best and brightest aviation minds of the past and present.”

The types of standards developed by SAE International are as varied as the personalities of the people who have helped to develop them. And, the relevance of those standards is crucial for industry and consumers alike. Some recent automotive standards include communications between plug-in vehicles and the utility grid; guidelines for electric vehicle safety; and recommended practice for measuring the exhaust emissions and fuel economy of hybrid-electric vehicles.

“Standards must change to meet technological changes,” Pokrzywa said. “SAE plays a critical role in meeting these challenges, and it’s a role that SAE developers take very seriously.”

Manns noted that, on the aerospace side, SAE created a standard to thwart the growing problem of counterfeit electronic parts. The standard calls for maximized availability of authentic parts, procurement of parts from reliable sources, assuring authenticity and conformance of parts, and control of parts identified as counterfeit.

According to a study by the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry & Security, the number of counterfeit incidents reported by 387 participants climbed from 3868 in 2005 to 9356 incidents in 2008, an increase of more than 140%. About 9% of the companies documented cases related to government applications. Sobering statistics, and SAE is there to help find solutions.

These are just a few examples of the thousands of technical standards that SAE develops and maintains.

SAE now reaches beyond the working professionals to embrace the next generation of mobility engineers. If you know a student who participates on a Collegiate Design Series (CDS) event, he or she for the first time ever will have access, free of charge, to about 50 SAE standards—both ground vehicle and aerospace. The intent is twofold: to help better prepare their vehicle or airplane for their registered competition and to get them acclimated to SAE standards so that they will be more familiar with them once they enter the workforce.

“This is an excellent way to blend present needs with tomorrow’s informational needs,” said Bob Sechler, Manager, Educational Relations. “The CDS students gain much-needed knowledge to help them compete while learning the value of SAE International standards—a value that will help them throughout their careers.”

The program is new and innovative, just like the thinking that goes into the development of every SAE technical standard. Whether it makes an aircraft safer or makes a vehicle or piece of equipment more cost-effective, the standard is created by mobility engineering professionals, in a neutral forum, for consumers.

So, the next time you step onto an airplane or into a car or piece of heavy equipment, take a moment to think about the SAE technical committee members and the SAE standards that have helped to make that vehicle better and safer. In the future, as you plug in your hybrid vehicle, SAE standards will be there, too.

And, rest assured that Ed Manns, Jack Pokrzywa, and the entire SAE standards team will continue the tradition—the crucial tradition—of leading the mobility engineering industry in standards development.

David L. Schutt, SAE Chief Executive Officer

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