A subtle difference

Normierung – norm-ing – is defining a unified measurement (dimensions, proportions) for products and processes. Norms are not only practical, they save money. Up to 17 billion Euros per year, according to the German Institut of Norms (DIN).

DIN is well known to all Germans, even if they don’t think about it. DIN-norms were introduced to them as early as grammar school when they began to work with stardardized pape sizes such as the A4. 

But what exactly is a norm?

The German Chamber of Commerce writes (loosely translated): “A norm is a rule (regulation, code of practice). It is legally accepted. It was established via a standarized process. It solves a problem, addresses a situation, addresses factual circumstances.”

Manufacturers can invoke or refer to a norm in order to save time and money. However, noone is obligated to follow a norm. They are often, nonetheless, written into production contracts, thus defining measurements and processes.

In that sense production proceeds deductively, base on theory or the norm. Industry norms are more firm, more binding, than industry standards, which are not generally accepted, which can be defined by manufacturer to manufacturer.

Interestingly, the English language does not distinguish between a norm and a standard. Perhaps this gives us deeper insight into German thinking.