A Guide to ANSI Standards: Definition and Importance

4min read



Have you ever wondered how computers can communicate with each other so consistently or how laptops from different companies can run the same software?

These connections are made possible by technical standards; ANSI is a central figure in this arena. So what does ANSI stand for, and how do the ANSI standards impact computing?

What is ANSI?

ANSI is the American National Standards Institute. This organization works on vital computing standards, including the Small Computer Systems Interface (SCSI) and the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII).

The institute doesn't work alone; it coordinates its efforts with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). The distinction between ISO versus ANSI is that ISO is a global regulatory body, whereas ANSI is specific to the United States. ANSI represents the U.S. at ISO and IEC meetings, ensuring compliance between systems. 

ANSI reviews documentation and approves procedures set by various organizations, ensuring standards in current and emerging technology sectors are clear and consistent.

Any stakeholder in the standards specification process can join ANSI. This includes companies developing products or technologies, government agencies, academics, and consumer or trade organizations.

What does ANSI do, and why is it important?

ANSI’s work guarantees interoperability between products made around the world.

Without its standards, even something as simple as displaying consistent letters and symbols between operating systems would be difficult. ANSI’s character codes ensure operating systems understand letters, numbers, commonly used special characters, and punctuation.

ANSI and the ASCII standard are still used in many systems. ASCII may be simpler than other electronic data interchange (EDI) standards, but this maximizes its compatibility and enables easy data conversion between standards. For example, ANSI text can be serialized into JSON for use in various applications.

Through longstanding standards, such as ASCII, ANSI is a driving force in standardizing emerging technologies. From digital healthcare tools to IoT supply chain technologies, ANSI membership offers input into a huge variety of cutting-edge technologies.

The history of the American National Standards Institute

ANSI's history can be traced back to the founding of the American Engineering Standards Committee (AESC) in 1918. The AESC became the American Standards Organization (ASA) in 1928.

As global trade became easier, it was decided that international standards bodies should work together. In 1946, the ASA and 25 standards bodies from other countries came together to form the ISO.

Twenty years later, the ASA was reformed as the United States of America Standards Institute (USASI), and a few years later, in 1969, the USASI changed its name to ANSI.  

Today, the institute has more than 1,400 members who work together to improve technology standards across various fields. Many members are organizations that work with numerous companies, ensuring ANSI represents the real-world needs of diverse industries when developing the next generation of standards.

ANSI's main functions

To consumers, ANSI's behind-the-scenes operations are almost invisible, but the institute fulfills vital functions, such as the following:

  • Membership: Many companies, academic institutions, nonprofits, and other organizations are members of ANSI, and these members all get a voice in their industry’s standards.
  • American National Standards: The primary objective of ANSI is to develop standards for America. It reviews and approves the procedures used by standards bodies to ensure they conform to the American National Standards requirements.
  • International standards: ANSI represents the interests of the United States with the IEC and ISO, which set standards internationally. For example, it's part of the ISO/IEC JTC 1, a joint technical committee setting IT standards.
  • Standards coordination: The institute works with various organizations to oversee standards in emerging technologies.
  • International trade and development: By engaging with numerous private and public organizations worldwide, ANSI helps form and maintain standards to support international trade. It assists with the development of robust infrastructure and simplifies regulatory compliance.
Accreditations and certifications by ANSI

ANSI also offers accreditation for standards developed by other organizations, ranging from consumer groups to government agencies. This guarantees standardized terminology and definitions, as well as interoperability between products. Today, there are more than 230 ANSI-accredited standards developers worldwide covering myriad industries.

Accreditation is achieved via ANSI’s affiliate, the ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB). ANAB typically accredits public and private sector organizations, such as laboratories. 

What about ANSI certification? It’s vital to understand that ANSI is not a certification body. This means it can’t certify any products or processes. This limitation also extends to ANAB, meaning an accredited conformity assessment body must perform certification.

ANSI compliance and Orderful EDI streamline communication

If you use computer software to communicate with your suppliers, clients, or partners, that software most likely operates according to a standard, such as EDI X12. Your computer hardware and software were probably designed in compliance with many ANSI standards, ensuring your tools work together seamlessly.

Orderful’s EDI solutions adhere to ANSI standards, drawing on decades of wisdom about technology and communication to ensure compatibility and consistent data transfer between applications.

If you're looking for an EDI solution to improve your digital communications, contact Orderful today to book a no-obligation consultation.


Go live with new trading partners in days, not months. Orderful’s modern EDI platform standardizes integrations and streamlines testing, getting your business connected with partners 10x faster than other solutions.

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