Reading time ( words)
SMTA International is the perfect time to get updates on IPC happenings. One that I’m always curious about is the Validation Services programs. At the busy show, I managed to find a quiet spot so Randy Cherry, IPC’s director of Validation Services, could fill me in on the latest.
Patty Goldman: Randy, I’m ready for my semi-annual update. Tell me what's happening in the world of Validation Services.
Randy Cherry: Good morning Patty, and thank you for this opportunity; it's always great to speak with you. Validation Services has been doing quite well in 2017. I've been very happy with the results. Things have picked up. There is more awareness of the program now, and people understand that IPC has a department called Validation Services. People are getting used to that concept because for a long time IPC was just about meetings, standards, shows, and training. Now, with Validation Services, people are starting to see its value. We've got a lot of success stories coming out of it.
As you know, my flagship program is the audit certification programs. The first one is the Qualified Manufacturers Listing (QML), and we've been doing very well with the soldering program, which is the J-STD-001 and IPC-610, requirements and acceptability for soldering. We have about 25 total companies on the QML and that list is growing.
Goldman: That’s a nice number! Is this for EMS companies only, or has it expanded?
Cherry: It includes EMS providers and OEMs who are still doing in-house manufacturing. About half the companies are in Asia, some in North America, and then spread throughout the rest of the world.
This year we had two major milestones. Certification is for three years, as I've said before, and in 2017 we started the first year of the re-certification, so customers are now coming back the second time. We had a company on in Baltimore who was our first re-certification in May, and that went very well. We also did our first QML down in Argentina. It was an automotive company and that went extremely well.
Goldman: Which is for suppliers, am I correct?
Cherry: You are correct. The second program includes the work I’m doing with Doug Sober, and that is with the laminate suppliers. I know Doug's nickname is Mr. Laminate. We put together a QPL program based on IPC-4101, and that's gone very well. In Q1 we completed our first QPL over in Asia, and Doug is working on the second one here in October; we’ve got a couple more planned after that. Doug is very busy right now on that program, and he’s doing a great job.
Then the third program is our standard gap analysis, or SGA program. As we talked about before, this is not an audit. This is where I go in and help companies. It’s more of a problem solving, troubleshooting program. For instance, we had one company where we did a couple of SGAs, got them ready, and they gained understanding of the IPC standards. We identified some gaps, took care of those and then about six months later we came in and did the QML audit. They passed with flying colors.
Goldman: When you say troubleshooting, are you actually trying to find some gaps in what they're doing?
Cherry: That's correct.
Goldman: Is it mostly paperwork type gaps, or is it manufacturing type gaps, or what?
Cherry: Mostly paperwork, but sometimes it can be training too.
Goldman: Training must be an important part.
Cherry: Yes, and basically when we go into these places, these are not your large EMS companies or large OEMs, but these are companies that may not have many resources or not fully understand all the IPC standards. I’ll come in there, standards in hand, and we'll walk through the manufacturing process. There's no prep work. I want to see exactly how it is every day, and we point out some things. At first you learn if it is a Class 2, or Class 3 facility, and then you target key processes where improvements can be made and it works very well. I have several customers who have benefited from the SGA program and have hired us for follow up visits.
Goldman: Is there any thought to including training under your umbrella?
Cherry: We haven't discussed that yet, but it's kind of an open slate right now. We're still brainstorming, working on some things, but I wanted to mention that we’re talking about some rebranding. Validation Services has now been around for about four years, so we're probably due for a little tune-up.
Goldman: So did you go to Argentina for that QML audit? How was that?
Cherry: Yes, I did, and it was fantastic; I really enjoyed it. It required three very long flights. You're down at the bottom of the world and it's quite interesting; I went in July, which is their winter.
Goldman: Oh of course. How was their winter?
Cherry: The temperatures weren't that bad, but the days were very short.
Goldman: What's coming down the pike in the next quarter, or next half year?
Cherry: One thing that’s been very popular for a while is component counterfeiting, component traceability, intellectual property, or what we call ‘the trust documents.’ IPC has some guidelines on it, but we're going to do more work with other organizations and work much harder to come up with some good programs for that.
Goldman: Counterfeit parts are certainly something everybody is always concerned about.
Cherry: There's been a lot of discussion on these topics, that’s for sure. IPC is taking a proactive approach.
Goldman: I imagine there’s a lot to do in that area.
Cherry: We're in the early stages, and partnering with other organizations will help speed that along.
Goldman: Good to hear. Have we covered everything on your agenda?
Cherry: I believe we have. It’s always a pleasure talking with you.
Goldman: And with you. Thanks for the update and we’ll talk again in the spring.