The National Conference on Weights and Measurement is a professional association that includes state, federal and local officials, as well as manufacturers, retailers, consumers and other governing bodies. Responsible for the development of weights and measures standards since 1905, the NCWM’s standards have been adopted in order to ensure that scales are accurate and commerce is fair. An association whose job, in part, exists to keep consumer and business confidence high, the NCWM does more than just fret over measuring standards.
Still, fretting over measuring standards and weights so that industrial and commercial scales are accurate is an important job, and throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, each state in the U.S. adhered to their own standards of weights and measures. This lack of federally recognized norms became a problem over time, hampering economic growth and trade between the states. In 1905, The National Bureau of Standards called on the states to discuss how to achieve consistent standards and regulatory oversight. The National Conference on Weights and Measurement was formed the following year, and by 1915, they had developed and published standards that could be utilized in every state.
These days, the NCWM’s original job remains even while they have expanded in order to keep up with technology, new industry, marketing, business practices, innovation and more. Here is a closer look at some of the variety of work undertaken by this important association and its members.
One area where the membership of the NCWM keeps working is that of helping to develop its members. The Professional Development Committee, or PDC, assists in providing both education and certification to both public and private entities that utilize weights and measures. Through the provision of curriculum and testing, the PDC ensures that standards are communicated and met. The PDC also plays a vital role in safety awareness issues and has a hand in helping to determine educational topics for the NCWM’s annual meetings.
While it originally developed as a way to keep weights and measurements uniform among the 50 states, the global marketplace and advancing technology has made it necessary for the NCWM to be involved in international and technological standard upkeep and participation. Regulatory officials, manufacturers, retailers, federal officials, consumers, technology experts, inventors — The NCWM is dependent on all these people and more to continue developing, testing and analyzing their quality standards both internationally and in the United States. The NCWM has a very specific process by which an idea or concern affects their standards:
- A problem is identified with a current standard or lack of standard.
- A person or group develops a solution to that problem and gets it on their regional association’s agenda.
- A proposal is made.
- The regional association must find the solution meritorious enough to forward to NCWM.
- The proposal is published in the January Interim Meeting’s agenda.
- Discussion and open hearings ensue, where the proposal will be given a status of: Informational, Developing, Voting or Withdrawn.
- If it’s voted on and passes, the solution becomes a standard.
Staying Ahead of — and In-Step With — Technology
As technology continues to change all aspects of modern life, weights, measures and standards are no exception. The federal government’s standard-bearing arm, The National Institute of Standards and Technology (formerly known as the National Bureau of Standards), works with the NCWM to: “Promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life.” To that end, the two organizations work together to keep abreast of technological developments that affect the field.
The NTEP Program
The National Type Evaluation Program is a program with the NCWM that examines devices of weight and measurement to make sure they comply with the standards set forth by the association. Only devices involved in commercial and trade applications must meet NTEP standards, and all but four states require devices adhere to NTEP requirements. It’s how the NCWM ensures its standards are being met in all devices used in commerce in the United States.
The NCWM also oversees and administers a number of professional certification programs, such as:
- Retail motor fuel dispensing
- Small capacity weighing
- Package checking
Regardless of whether what’s being measured is weighed in tons, bushels, liters or grams, the National Conference on Weights and Measures has played a large role in the accuracy of that measurement. From professional development and cooperation with federal agencies to staying current with technology, the NCWM is an association of people working to ensure that weight and measurement is known and trusted.
About the Author: Glen Akin is a contributing writer. He lives in Iowa with his family. He works at a grain elevator.