Standards set out requirements for products, services, processes or systems, each set down in a document. They therefore have an important function in the exchange of goods, within industries and for management, e.g. of quality and environmental protection. Such documents enable trading partners to refer to common standards in the exchange of goods. Products and services become more comparable and safer because they can be certified on the basis of a standard.

What is a DIN EN ISO standard?

This is a national standard used primarily in Germany, or published in preparation for an international standard. DIN standards are published by the German Institute for Standardization (DIN) in Berlin. If the document contains the standard abbreviation "DIN EN", it is the German variant of a European standard (EN) that is accepted by all members of the European standards organization (CEN).

If "DIN EN ISO" precedes the document number, it corresponds to a globally applicable document of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Examples are DIN EN ISO 14001 for an environmental management system or DIN EN ISO 50001 for an energy management system. If an ISO standard is adopted unchanged as a national standard, it is a "DIN ISO" standard, such as  DIN ISO 27001 for information security.

Often, their application is only a recommendation and their use is based on a voluntary basis. This is the case, for example, with ISO 9001 for the implementation and certification of a quality management system. However, the voluntary nature can be limited to a certain extent if a corresponding certificate is a prerequisite for a business relationship. However, there are also areas in which the legislator or authorities make the application of standards mandatory, for example in the case of compliance with fire safety regulations in Germany. This is where DIN 14095 comes into play, which sets out requirements for fire plans for buildings.


How is a standard created?

In principle, a standard can be initiated or applied for by anyone. In most cases, however, the application is made by associations or companies. However, until it is published and valid, it is discussed in the professional community, and experts can test its viability.

The path to publication of a German DIN document can be as follows:

1 Initiation of a standard
The standardization proposal is submitted and presented to one of DIN's 3,600 committees for processing.

2 First draft and discussion
The committee produces first drafts on which all experts must agree. Discussion of the content takes place in public. Companies and consumers have the opportunity to participate as experts in the respective committees. To keep costs as low as possible, it is usually associations that send representatives to the committees. This means that not every company has to send an expert individually.

3 Publication of the draft
After the drafts are made available to the expert public, a period of two to four months begins. Within this time, comments or criticisms can be made on the draft. The comments are reviewed, and if there are no further objections, the document is published.

After five years at the latest, a review is carried out to determine whether the content of the standard still corresponds to the current state of the art (such as, technology). If there is no need for adaptation, the document remains valid until the next review. If the review shows that a standard in its existing form is no longer of sufficient use, the document is either revised or possibly withdrawn.


How is a DIN EN ISO standard structured?

In Germany, the structure and also the design of a standard is itself subject to a standard, namely DIN 820, which regulates all the principles of standardization work.

Standards for management systems are also subject to a uniform basic structure with identical core content and core terms, the so-called High Level Structure (HLS). It was introduced by ISO in 2012 to improve the alignment of different, topic-specific standard requirements and to facilitate integration into an already existing (integrated) management system.


The five most important ISO standards in a visual display

.. as well as the High Level Structure

Newer documents usually have an identical structure of their content. The number of chapters in the requirements section is determined according to the needs of the subject. A standard may have one or more annexes, which are either normative or informative in nature. As an example, the structure of the well-known quality management standard ISO 9001:

(national) Preface
0. Introduction
1. Scope of application
2. Normative references
3. Terms (reference to ISO 9000:2015)
Chapters 4 to 10 - Requirements part, application of PDCA cycle:
4. Context of the organization
5. Leadership
6. Planning
7. Support
8. Operation
9. Performance evaluation
10. Improvement
Appendix A (informative)
Appendix B (informative)

How are standards identified?

All published standards are assigned to one or more sets of regulations, e.g. DIN, DIN EN, DIN EN ISO, etc., usually on the basis of their publisher abbreviations. In addition, there is a characteristic document number, e.g. all large, certifiable ISO standards for management systems end with 01: 9001, 14001, 45001, 50001, 27001, etc. Reference to a part standard is made by a hyphen appended to the document number and a number identifying the individual parts, e.g. DIN 820-1 (Standardization work - Part 1: Principles).

Depending on how detailed a standard designation is to be made, the date of issue can also be indicated. For this purpose, a colon without a space is added to the document number, followed directly by the four-digit year of publication, a hyphen, and the two-digit month of publication. There are additional designation rules for marking drafts or preliminary editions.


Good to know

There are now more than 34,000 DIN standards in Germany. They are all published by the publishing house Beuth Verlag. A large proportion of the products that consumers use every day are therefore standardized - from screws to school satchels. There are also standards for management systems or for compliance with sustainability aspects. According to DIN, the local economy benefits from standards to the tune of around 17 billion euros a year.

One of the best-known standards in Germany is the DIN A4 format for paper. It was developed as early as 1922 as part of the DIN A series and laid down in DIN 476 (today, the A series is contained in DIN EN ISO 216). The standard ensures that all documents and writing papers are of a uniform size and can be used without problems in any printer or folder.


Expertise and Trust

For more than 35 years, we have stood by who we are and what we do: We are your specialist for audits and certifications - for processes and management systems.

Ute Droege

DQS expert for quality management systems, long-time auditor and experienced trainer for ISO 9001.