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48 SMT Magazine • February 2017 by Michael Ford MENTOR GRAPHICS CORP. IPC has created a new standard and speci- fication for traceability practices across all lev- els of electronics manufacturing, and specifical- ly for electronics assembly. The IPC-1782 stan- dard defines four levels for material and process traceability 1 . With this new standard, compa- nies that are practicing basic levels of traceabil- ity can evolve to higher levels (Table 1). Imple- menting this standard means that companies will be able to clearly define the expectations of what is required for compliance and confor- mance to customer needs. Traceability is often a key component of quality standards across the electronics in- dustry. But it has been approached from vari- ous points of view, and it can be defined as any combination of material traceability, prod- uct tracking, and process recording. And even within material traceability, views can differ on what should be recorded, how detailed it is, and how accurate it needs to be. Materials traceabil- ity could mean tracking specific materials to a work order, to a specifically identified PCB with- in a work order, or even to a specific component placement on that PCB. It may include all types of materials or perhaps only high-value, safety- critical parts or serialized parts. It may include or exclude parts replaced at repair stations or where an alternative or substitute part has been used, and it can include many more examples where a choice in the depth and breadth of re- cording is needed. Accuracy is another area of contention. Pro- cess operational efficiency may conflict with the accuracy with which the traceability data is col- lected, as for example trays are re-filled without positive poka-yoke confirmation of verification. These are just some typical variations in the lev- el and degree of material traceability. For prod- uct tracking and process data recording, an im- mense number of other similar decisions have to be made. Individual companies typically have creat- ed their own set of high-level rules for traceabil- ity data that should be collected as part of their conformance requirements. The problem with all of these different specifications, often made without an in-depth understanding of the pro- cesses involved, was that exactly what data should be recorded, from where, and how it was supposed to relate to the product and process was left undefined. This has resulted in the col- lection of traceability data that is unreliable, in- complete, and/or irrelevant. Negotiations around traceability require- ments between the product owner and manu- facturing have become increasingly difficult be- The New IPC Standard for Traceability Makes Compliance and Reporting Easier ARTICLE

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