The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is a non-profit organization in the United States which focuses on setting standards in a wide variety of industries. Industry members are not obligated to conform with American National Standards Institute publications and recommendations, but they often do, because it makes doing business much simpler, and it can make international trade and other opportunities available.
This organization was founded in 1916 when several engineering organizations merged to create a single body. The stated goal was to create a set of voluntary standards through an open review process which focused on consensus, accepting input from a wide variety of people in the process of developing standards. Some examples of standards set by the American National Standards Institute include paper sizes, formulations and concentrations of laboratory chemicals, product packaging, and so forth.
The American National Standards Institute is the American representative to the International Standards Organization (ISO), an organization which creates worldwide standards. The ISO is responsible for setting broad standards so that people can use products all over the world. For example, videographers can step into a store anywhere in the world to pick up a new roll of film for a camera, or to obtain a new memory card, and they can be confident that the product will fit.
In addition to setting standards, the American National Standards Institute also performs conformity reviews to test products which claim to adhere to ANSI standards, ensuring that these products actually do. The organization is also involved in education and public outreach, and it constantly welcomes new members and recommendations so that it can improve its performance.
Some of the standards initially adopted by the American National Standards Institute were later picked up by the ISO. For example, the system used to measure and calibrate film speed was developed by members of the American National Standards Institute.
Several branches exist within the American National Standards Institute to deal with specific types of products and issues. When standards are developed for a product, the Institute takes input from industry representatives into account, and it also takes feedback from consumers and other people who may interact with the product. Standards may also incorporate existing related products: for example, sizes for film used in still photography correlate with those used in the production of film and television, because historically they were made by the same companies, and being able to produce both on the same equipment helped to save money and time.