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Interview with Mark Abernathy

On December 20, 2018, global-standards creator ASTM International officially designated ASTM A1112/A1112M-18 standards covering new alloys, including cold-formed welded high-strength carbon steel, low-alloy steel hollow structural sections (HSS) among others. This is great news for Bull Moose Tube, as our Stratusteel® line of steel tube is among those new alloys that will now be covered by this new standard, making it much easier for structural engineers to validate using Stratusteel in their designs.

But there’s another reason that we at Bull Moose Tube should be excited about this new standard: it was created with the help of our own Mark Abernathy! In fact, Mark has worked on several standards projects with ASTM over the course of the past several years. He recently shared his experiences with ASTM and his work on ASTM A1112/A1112M-18:

Questions for Mark Abernathy

How were you selected to participate in the development of ASTM standards for HSS/Stratusteel?

It’s pretty straightforward: I volunteered to chair a technical committee to author a new ASTM Standard, and they took me up on my offer. I received plenty of assistance in the form of input and comments from other volunteer members of the technical committee (mainly HSS producers that wanted to have input). Together, we initiated the process of authoring the new standard for HSS and other new alloys.

Is this the first time you have worked with ASTM in this capacity?

Actually, I’ve been on several technical committees over the past 13 years that I’ve been involved with ASTM, but I never had the opportunity to write the standard.

How/when did you first get involved with them?

When I joined Bull Moose Tube back in 2005, the gentleman I replaced was an ASTM Member. It stood to reason that I had better join up myself to provide a similar level of value to Bull Moose Tube as my predecessor had done. I became an ASTM member that same year and have been active with the organization ever since.

What necessitated the development of these standards for HSS?

With all the advancements in the creation of new alloys, too many products out there were not covered by an existing ASTM Standard. For example, there was no ASTM Standard for Grade 70, 80, 90, 100 & 110 HSS. Structural engineers wishing to utilize these exciting new products in their design often faced difficulty in getting approval on a project for the simple reason that they weren’t covered by a standard – even though these products were inherently superior to other grades of steel. By finally creating a standard for these new High-Strength HSS alloys, we’ve helped to eliminate the ambiguity that existed without a standard.

What does the development of ASTM standards entail?

There are several steps involved in the process. Initially, we set about writing the standard, gathering information and input from the committee and receiving comments from our Tech Group. Once we felt the standard was ready for review, we sent it to the subcommittee for voting. In the case of ASTM Standards, the acceptance level must be 100 percent – no negative votes. Keep in mind that the subcommittee has approximately 200 voting members. If you encounter a negative vote, you have a few options:
You could state your case and try to convince them to change to a positive vote;
You could edit or eliminate specific language in the standard that generated the negative vote
 If you find the subcommittee member to be persuasive in their negative vote, you then have to make necessary changes and re-submit the ballot.

Once you pass subcommittee ballot, the proposed standard moves on to the entire committee for iron and steel products for voting (approximately 800 members). The same rules apply on the full-committee level: no negative votes are allowed. This process, perhaps not surprisingly, took nearly four years to complete.

Were there any unexpected hurdles that the team encountered during the development of the standards?

We initially received a lot of negative votes due to lack of familiarity with High Strength Steels. We spent a lot of time flattening the learning curve for many of the subcommittee members and committee members throughout the process.

Are you satisfied with the current ASTM standards for HSS as they now stand?

Yes, but is important to point out that ASTM standards always evolve during their life. Comments from end users are important to help enhance existing standards. These comments and ideas are voted on, and if they pass, they are added to the existing standard.

How long do you think these standards will remain before requiring an update?

Once it is published (put on the ASTM Website) the new standard is likely to generate immediate inquiries into developing additions. This is customary for any newly developed standard. The initial development process is long, and the 100-percent approval process is so grueling that initial standards tend to be somewhat “generic” in order to make it through the voting process to be published. While additions to a standard must go through the same 100-percent approval process, they don’t seem as overwhelming as passing an entire standard, so the process of amending/adding to a standard does not take quite as long.

Do you anticipate taking part in future ASTM standards testing for other materials?

I certainly hope so!