British Standards Institution

Year:1901

Duration:Unknown

Cost:Unknown

Country: London, UK

What did this project achieve?

Establish technical specifications for business and industry to improve quality

The British Standards Institution (BSI), also known as the BSI Group, is the UK's national standards body. It sets technical specifications for a wide range of products and services.

What became BSI was formed as the Engineering Standards Committee (ESC) in 1901 by Sir John Wolfe-Barry. Wolfe-Barry was a former ICE president and the designer of London's Tower Bridge. The committee's first meeting was held on the day Queen Victoria died on 22 January 1901.

Wolfe-Barry and his colleague Sir Douglas Fox – also a former ICE president – believed that agreed technical standards for the manufacture of goods and services would speed up production and reduce costs.

One of ESC's first technical specifications was for steel sections for tramways. Other early standards were for Portland cement, locomotives and aircraft materials.

The organisation introduced the now-famous Kitemark in 1903. The symbol is given to a product or service to show it meets an industry standard.

The ESC was given a royal charter and changed its name to the British Standards Institute in 1929.

Now operating worldwide, BSI has 76 offices in 28 countries.

Difference the BSI has made

It's difficult to imagine how mass production of goods and services could have been truly effective without a central body drawing up and setting industry standards and specifications.

A technical standard means a business knows exactly what a product or service is meant to do. This means it's possible to predict accurately how something will fit into a process.

Almost all the most successful business standards in the world were originally British standards – BSI is acknowledged to have led the field in this work.

How standards setting developed

Since its foundation in 1901 as the Engineering Standards Committee, BSI has played a key role in creating and setting technical standards.

In 1942 the UK government recognised BSI as the sole organisation for issuing standards in Britain. By 1946 the now-official BSI hosted a standards conference in London for Commonwealth countries. The event led to the founding of the International Standards Organisation (ISO).

Increased interest in setting standards for consumer goods led to the founding of the Women's Advisory Committee in 1951.

1955 saw the opening of a BSI Kitemark test centre in Hemel Hempstead – the same year as new government regulations were introduced for Kitemarks on car seat belts and cycling helmets.

By the 1970s BSI was starting to focus on management quality systems. The organisation published BS 5750, a standard which led to the ISO 9000 series of international standards.

ISO 9001 is credited with benefiting businesses around the world. Users are said to report increased growth and productivity as well as higher customer satisfaction.

BSI currently has 1,200 committees, covering everything from robot ethics to children's toys.

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The business standards company that helps organizations make excellence a habit.

Mission statement

from the BSI website

Fascinating facts

The BSI Kitemark is recognised by 82% of the British population. Of those people, 91% believe that the Kitemark means a product or service is of higher quality.

The longest running BSI Kitemark was issued for copper pipe fittings in 1945.

BSI suspended its normal standards work during World War 2. Instead, it produced more than 400 'war emergency standards.' One wartime standard, for example, allowed manufacturers to use less tin in the production of gun metal as tin was in short supply.

People who made it happen

  • Founded by Sir John Wolfe Barry, former ICE president

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