Saving time through IPC activities

Going to IPC committee meetings takes time, but RIM feels that volunteering actually saves the company time

September 20, 2010

by Terry Costlow, IPC online editor

Saving time is a watchword in the streamlined environment of most companies today. Shorter design cycles, downsized staffs and increased competition are forcing workers throughout the fast-paced electronics industry to make the most of every minute.

The cell phone industry is among the fastest of the consumer industries, cranking out smart phones that have more and more functionality in compact packages. Leaving his office at Research In Motion Ltd. for a few days to help the industry create a standard might not seem to be the best way to save precious time, but Dr. Bev Christian feels time spent at IPC committee meetings reduces his team’s workload.

“If you had to take the time to devise a company-based standard, it would take far more time than anyone spends on IPC standards,” said Christian, RIM’s Materials Interconnect Research Director. “You’d either have to think of everything yourself or gather everyone in the company who was involved, which would take a ton of time.”

A range of people from companies throughout the supply chain share ideas during IPC meetings. That gives attendees insight they might not otherwise get, and it also provides varying points of view. There’s also a personal side that can have a big payoff and save time when problems arise.

“In committees, you get to put faces with names, and you work with people in small, informal groups where you can interact,” Christian said. “I’ve been coming to IPC standards meetings since around 1995, and I’ve formed friendships with people I know and trust. I know that even with their busy schedules they will take time to help me solve a problem.”

While he’s a proponent of taking time off to create standards, Christian has to limit his sojourns.

“All the IPC meetings I need to attend are held in North America. When they’re geographically close, everyone can meet face to face,” Christian said. “You can have teleconferences and videoconferences, but nothing beats face to face meetings. There’s body language and you also have more time for the actual meeting.”

IPC is setting up task groups locally in Asia and Europe.

Producing standards in a timeframe that keeps pace with the rapid advances of the electronics industry has been a challenge for standards bodies over the past few years. The cycle can be shortened by using the Internet for instant communications.

Christian feels he’s come up with an approach that leverages the Web to save a fair amount of time. RIM routinely uses IPC guidelines. But when RIM was contracting out a project, he needed to provide a pass-fail for underfills like those routinely found in other standards.

He set the criterion using a shortcut he devised. “I wrote up some requirements and shared them on TechNet. Then I got feedback and revised the document and went through a few iterations,” Christian said.

Now, he’s finished a document that works for RIM. It may provide more universal benefit. “I passed it to the IPC’s underfill task group. It looks like that may be used as a new standard or added to the next generation of an existing standard,” Christian said.

“I believe this is the first time this has been done, it may be a model that could be successful for fairly specific, tightly-focused topics.  It’s definitely not the way to create something like a handbook,” Christian said.