The electronics industry has rushed to develop standards to help companies put together their materials declarations, but OEMs and contract manufacturers (CMs) needed to gather materials content data before the standards were approved and released. The Association Connecting Electronics Industries (IPC) of Bannockburn, Ill. developed its IPC-1752 standard for materials declaration in record time. But that wasn’t fast enough. A good portion of the electronics industry has been busy for months collecting data in advance of the July 1, 2006 RoHS deadline. The IPC-1752 standard is expected to be released in February.
Without a standard for conveying data, OEMs, CMs and their suppliers are overwhelmingly using Excel documents to communicate materials content data. “Almost all of our custoemrs are using Excel-based survey forms,” notes Larry Yen, president and CEO of Pacific Oaks Technology, a South Pasadena, Calif. company that helps OEMs and CMs manage environmental compliance data.
Yen notes that Pacific Oaks Technology customizes a survey-form-reader to import data into a management system. He also notes that some companies are doing data collection online using survey forms as web pages so suppliers can enter the information on the spot. “The results of that are pretty poor due to the complexity of the required information,” says Yen.
In the absence of a standard, companies are developing their own individual forms. “Some companies have two or three different kinds of survey forms depending on the type of suppliers they are gathering information from.” He notes that companies have developed one type of survey for components, another type for sub assemblies, and a third type for packaging materials.
As for IPC-1752, Yen doesn’t see the standard showing up on his customers’ radar. “None of our clients are using IPC-1752, and none of them are even talking about using IPC-1752,” says Yen. “It’s a bit late for the market to consider using the standard form.” He also notes that IPC-1752 may be limited by the type of products it is designed to serve. “With my understanding, IPC-1752 could only cover the declaration for components or simple sub-assemblies, with BOMs of two layers or less,” says Yen.
Excel spreadsheets have become the informal medium for conveying materials declaration. With this in mind, a consortium of industry companies has developed an Excel-based standard that is designed to be compatible with IPC-1752. The standard is called the Eco-Compliance Declaration (ECD) Exchange Form. Consortium members believed there was a need for an Excel-based standard, since IPC-1752 is based on a PDF format. So the group developed an Excel-based standard that compliments IPC-1752. The consortium includes National Electronic Distribution Association (the trade group that represents authorized distributors), HP, Solectron, Kemet, Future Electronics and Agile among others.
The ECD was developed partly in response to the length of time it took IPC to develop a standard and partly because the industry was already informally standardizing on Excel spreadsheets. “IPC-1752 was frustratingly late, so the open-source ECD was developed,” says Michael Kirschner, president of the San Francisco-based consulting company, Design Chain Associates. “ECD is more powerful than the PDF form.”
Kirschner notes that IPC-1752 does two things, “It defines an XML format and defines the form so you can get data in and out of that format.” He notes that ECD does the same thing, but in an Excel format. “Excel has more flexibility,” says Kirschner. The Excel-based standard is also more appealing to small- to mid-size companies that don’t have the IT infrastructure to manage PDF formats.