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Many of you will probably have heard of the IPC standards. In the most favorable case, you may have an IPC standard in your possession or one may even be on your desk. If you are already thinking of “here we go again” and you are about to drop out, we would like to challenge you to continue reading this article. You will probably belong to the target group for which we have written this article. The information we provide in this article cannot be found in an IPC standard, but the information below does have many (legal) consequences. Let’s start from the beginning.
The most important document, which is not IPC related, is the contract that is agreed between you and your customer! The contract contains agreements that you must adhere to. Possibly supplemented with a so-called AABUS Document (as agreed between User and Suplier). You will probably now think “that makes sense”. The contract is also our starting point in this article.
All IPC documents indicate in chapter one that the contract is the most important document. In addition to the contract, detailed drawings can also be very important. If you approved the contract and/or detailed drawings, then these also have legal consequences. Especially if you do not meet the agreements laid down in the contract. It is the supplier’s responsibility, in conjunction with every order, to ensure that the existing production documents are in accord with these specifications. In conjunction with quotations and before production is started up to the supplier, after examination of the production documents, to submit a written disclaimer in respect to points for which the cited specification can´t be followed, or the interpretation will be that the supplier will meet these requirements. So far we have not yet mentioned strange or deviating matters that are not known to everyone.
But what do the IPC standards and the contract have in common? To be honest “nothing at all.” Unless the contract refers to or quotes one or more IPC standards and/or an IPC product class. If one or more IPC standards and/or an IPC product class are referred to or cited in the contract, this also has legal consequences.The legal consequences differ per IPC standard and per cited IPC product class. It is impossible to discuss all options and / or consequences in this article.
PRODUCING ACCORDING TO IPC-A-610
Something that we regularly see in contracts is “production according to IPC-A-610” (and perhaps even with a product class designation). It is very nice that an IPC standard is quoted, but legally there is a lot of nonsense here. The IPC-A-610 is not a production standard. Producing according to IPC-A-610 is impossible and therefore not possible at all! The IPC-A-610 describes the acceptance requirements of electronics assemblies and these have absolutely nothing to do with the production process.
If “producing according to IPC-A-610” is included in your contract, this indicates that there is little or no knowledge in the field of IPC standards! From a legal point of view we are talking about a so-called deception. You have made agreements that you cannot fulfill and the customer can then take legal steps such as terminating the contract, claiming for damages, demanding that you still comply or outsource the work to third parties and recover the costs from you.
If it says in the contract “delivery according to IPC-A-610” (and hopefully with a product class designation). Then this is something completely different. This means that the assembled printed circuit boards are visually checked to see if they comply with the IPC-A-610. But what are the legal consequences?
If the contract says “delivery according to IPC-A-610” then this means that you must comply with the IPC-A-610 standard. This standard includes, among other things, a section on “personnel proficiency”, or demonstrating that someone is competent to perform the work (workmanship). This is also a paragraph that many companies take too easily, but which has many legal consequences.
Only having the IPC standard is therefore not nearly enough! The above paragraph clearly states that all personnel who perform work on the products to which the contract applies must be competent in doing their job. You must therefore, as a company, be able to demonstrate this.
Now of course you get the question how do you demonstrate this professional competence (workmanship)?
The IPC-A-610 standard describes two options herein.
The first option is to develop your own training. This training must be submitted to the customer for approval. In this training program you must indicate, among other things, how you will train the staff, which topics you will discuss, how you will test whether the staff possesses the skills, how you will record this, the frequency with which you will test your skills, etc. etc. A lot of work that almost nobody is waiting for.
Another very annoying problem is that there is copyright on the IPC standards. Because of this you are not allowed to use anything from the IPC standards for making this own training. In other words you cannot meet the requirements in the standard because you are not allowed to copy anything from the standard. Because of this you cannot train the staff in the relevant IPC standard. So you should already design your own quality manual (acceptance standard) in consultation with your customer.
The second way to prove that your staff is competent, and actually the easiest way, is by submitting a valid IPC certificate. To obtain an IPC certificate, people must follow an IPC training. By submitting a valid IPC certificate, you can prove that you are competent in the relevant standard. After all, you have met the requirements for the training, otherwise you would not be in possession of having an IPC certificate.
A remark must be made here. Some companies only train their staff in the mandatory module. From a legal point of view, this is also a fail. This is because, in addition to the mandatory module, staff must also be trained in the module(s) they need for their work/competencies. These are listed separately on the IPC certificate. Only if there are several modules listed on the certificate, you meet the legal obligations of the contract and therefore the relevant standard.
But what if you now hire new staff who are not yet in possession of a valid IPC certificate? There is also a solution for this, namely on-the-job training or simply OJT. With an OJT the non-skilled staff are placed under the supervision of a skilled person (read in possession of a valid IPC certificate). All work performed by non-skilled staff must be checked by a qualified person before they are released. The people continue to work under supervision until they are in possession of a valid IPC certificate.
After gaining the certificate, They can then carry out the work independently.
PRODUCING ACCORDING TO IPC CLASS 2
But what if a product class is quoted instead of an IPC standard? Suggest that the contract says “produce according to IPC class 2”. What does this all mean?
If this is stated in your contract, this has many (legal) consequences. For example, the design shall comply with the IPC-2220 series (design standard) and may only be done by a Certified IPC Designer (CID). The printed circuit board (PCB) shall, among other things, comply with the IPC-A-600 and the IPC-6010 series etc. (here too people must be in possession of a valid IPC certificate). But in our article we limit ourselves to the assembly process.
It all starts with the incoming goods. The incoming inspection of PCBs must then, according to the contract, take place according to the IPC-A-600 standard (think of the IPC certificate). The PCBs must be stored according to the IPC-1601. Moisture sensitive components must comply with J-STD-020 and J-STD-033 etc. etc.
But let’s look at the production process itself. According to the contract you must also comply with the J-STD-001 (soldering requirements). This very thin document and not so popular, but it has a huge impact on the entire production. (Of course we no longer have to state that everyone involved in the production process must also be in possession of an IPC J-STD-001 certificate.)
There are numerous references to other IPC standards in the J-STD-001, which you must also comply with. For example the J-STD-002, J-STD-003, J-STD-004, J-STD-005, J-STD-006 etc. In the J-STD-001 it is also stated that you have to implement an ESD policy that complies with ANSI-ESD S.2020 or IEC-61340 or equivalent document. For the assembly process you must comply with the IPC-9191 and IPC-9194 (SPC or Static Process Control document) or equivalent document, etc. etc. For the amount of contamination on printed circuit boards there is also a reference, for example, the IPC-CH- 65 that you must meet. Or Rework, Repair and Modification according to IPC 7711/21. And so there are plenty of other references in the J-STD-001 and additional documents that you must meet according to the contract!
Reading this, you probably understand that many companies indicate that they can produce according to IPC class 2 and even class 3, but that most of them cannot even satisfy the production of IPC class 1 products! Especially because they have not implemented the J-STD-001! This is a hard statement from us that unfortunately proved to be true in practice.
Many companies and their customers do not know what the legal consequences are if they put something in the contract while they hardly know what it means or what they are asking. Of course, agreements are made with the best intentions, but because there is a lack of knowledge, it often turns out to be (legally) wrong! Sometimes companies think too easy because things have always gone well so far. But that is of course no guarantee for the future!
When an IPC standard or product class is cited in your contract, you now understand from the above article that this means much more than just having one or more IPC standards in your possession. So be very careful with what you put or state in your contract and how you formulate this. Do you need advice or help? Or do you want to know more about your contract or what you are asking? Then contact ETECH-trainingen via (+31 045) 711 23 90.