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86 PCB007 MAGAZINE I MARCH 2019 Many quality accreditations state that an au- ditor cannot audit their own work. Remember, within a manufacturing facility, all employees work for the same company, the same monthly revenue goals, and the same deadlines. Here is where the game gets a little fuzzy. Imagine that the shipping deadline is 4:00 p.m., the delivery is already late, the customer is demanding their product, and the identification ink on the prod - uct is blurred. Now, someone in that manufac- turing facility is going to make a call on whether they ship it anyway since it's only ink and it's close enough, or scrap it and make it right. Oh, did I mention it was the end of the month too? They are short on their revenue target. How confident are you now? This is where third-party inspection provides you the missing confidence. Many end-user companies require in-process or out-of-the-box inspections. These are cases where an end user dispatches one of their own inspectors to physi - cally go to the manufacturing plant and inspect their product in one of the two aforementioned ways. This inspection process puts the burden on the end-use customer because they must in - cur the cost of their inspector traveling to the manufacturing plant. However, this does satis- fy the customer since they do inspect their own product to audit it is manufactured properly. Again, this is not the ultimate solution. Independent, third-party inspection is where all the pieces fall into place. The third party must remain neutral to either side. The job of third-party inspection is to provide a non- biased review of the customer requirements versus the final product manufactured. This inspection can include both physical and func- tional criteria. In the instance of PCBs, this can be cosmetic, dimensional, electrical, and in some cases, functional. In this neutral playing field, the customer provides the requirements and/or inspection criteria to the third-party inspection entity as well as the procurement order to the manufacturer, which also includes the deliverables. When the product has completed its manu- facturing cycle, it is sent to the third-party in- spection entity. This entity may be local to the manufacturer or located elsewhere. When the product arrives at the third-party inspection entity, it is given an unbiased review based on the requirements of the end-use customer as previously described. When the inspection is complete, the product is either certified to meet the customer requirements or is found to be non-conforming. The strong point here is that the review is unbiased, and the results are binary—either conforming or non-conforming based on the requirements set forth as deliver- ables. The customer is then briefed on the results and provided objective evidence regarding any non-conformances. If all product is conform- ing, it is then shipped to the customer or duly designated receiver. Non-conformance issues require resolution, and after review, the cus- tomer either accepts the product under an au- thorized deviation or the product is returned to the manufacturer for resolution and/or dis- position. There is no grey area with third-party inspection. Ultimately, the product is shipped conforming to the end-use customer, or it is returned non-conforming to the manufacturer. Another key point is that some referee testing can be accomplished. These may be specific to plating (latent voiding), TDR, and other tests that may not be possible at the manufacturing facility. Conclusion With our earlier example regarding third- party inspection in the construction industry, which is required, we see the growing accep- tance and requirement of third-party inspec- tion in many theatres of the manufacturing in- dustry. This is becoming more prevalent with military, aerospace, and medical. When high reliability is an absolute necessity, the require- ment of independent inspection also becomes the necessity. PCB007 Todd Kolmodin is VP of quality for Gardien Services USA and an expert in electrical test and reliability issues. To read past columns or contact Kolmodin, click here.

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