Written by Florian Kastl
Everything has its rules in Germany. It is not only a standard cliché but also true in many cases – especially when you take a look at the so-called DIN, the Deutsche Institut für Normung (German Institute for Standardization). This institute might be as German as Bratwurst and Sauerkraut. But besides confirming a cliché, it also makes the country and especially its economy work like a well-oiled machine.
The Origins of the DIN
It all began in times of war: When the German Reich was participating in World War I, every capacity of German industry was used for producing the goods they needed for the battles, especially shells, products of armor and machinery. For that purpose, factories in every part of the Reich had to contribute their parts. When they later have been assembled, they often just didn’t fit. That is why there was the need to standardize those goods – the so-called Deutsche Industrie-Norm (German industry norm) was born. The first step was to create production standards for heavy machines – they consist of uncountable different and sometimes even tiny parts, a proper fitting was, therefore, obligatory. The first part to be standardized was thus the taper pin, many other followed.
The war ended, and the German Kaiserreich stopped to exist, but the DIN was still alive and gained more and more importance. In the year 1920, the Deutsche Industrie-Normen became a voluntary association, and in the following years, it published those norms that are not only still in use, but the best known until today, for example, the DIN 476 that defines the different sizes of paper. It is not only used today (for example as size A4) but was also taken over by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to an international norm. Another popular standard was established in that time, the DIN 1451 that is still defining the letters of traffic signs in Germany.
The Principles and Importance of the DIN in Germany
Soon, not only industrial goods were standardized by the DIN, but also other products of daily use. In the 1970s, the foundation even signed a treaty with the German government that proves that the DIN will be consulted in every matter of standardization of public goods and also that it will represent Germany in international affairs of standardization. Today, the DIN-norm (DIN 820) even defines the fundamental principles of the DIN: It says, for example, that norms are made for the public and not for the benefits of single companies and also that they are made to improve every part of life.
For that purpose, everybody can ask for a norm for something by just addressing the DIN and explaining the reasons why standardization would be necessary in this particular case. After publishing, they become a kind of recommendation towards industry, manufacturers, distributors and the customers: Nobody should be forced to follow the norm, but most of the affected persons and companies would normally do – it just makes things much easier. But in some cases, the German government even takes advantage of the DIN’s work by referring to their norms when passing new laws. Then, the norms become obligatory. So appreciate the work of this German institution when writing on a sheet of A4 paper the next time.