Are You an Electronics Supplier that Uses the IMDS? AIAG Needs to Hear from You!

By Kelly Scanlon, director, EHS policy and research

The International Material Data System (IMDS) is the automobile industry’s system for managing information on materials used in auto manufacturing; it enables companies to meet national and international standards, laws, and regulatory obligations for materials declarations. Some suppliers may have used Recommendation 019 (REC 019) materials in their IMDS declarations in the electronics supply chain. REC 019 provided a modular approach to electronic components reporting, including components containing lead (Pb).

In September 2019, the IMDS Steering Committee voted to deactivate REC 019 because suppliers may not have diligently followed the required reporting process, leading to unacceptable risks. Deactivating this process removes the modular reporting and may now require a full materials declaration, a change that will increase resource requirements for all electronic components previously using REC 019 materials.

The IMDS Steering Committee is seeking feedback from suppliers on enhancements to the IMDS that would reduce impacts to suppliers due to the deactivation. To that end, the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG) is hosting a free webinar on 18 October from 9:00–10:00 am ET to provide a forum for suppliers to discuss impacts. The AIAG welcomes suppliers to bring examples of how the Material Data Sheets for their IMDS entries will change if they must use full material disclosure. They will be providing all information from the webinar to the IMDS Steering Committee later in October; thus this webinar is very timely and important for those who want to express their concerns about potential impacts and enhancements to the IDMS to resolve the issues.

Click here to register for the AIAG webinar and be sure to share your concerns about potential impacts and bright ideas for resolution.

IPC Joins European Industry Group on Responsible Sourcing of Minerals

By Chris Mitchell, vice president, global government relations and Ken Schramko, senior director, North American government relations

On an issue of long-running concern to the electronics industry, IPC has joined the European Partnership for Responsible Minerals (EPRM) as part of its continuing efforts to help IPC members avoid undue regulation and navigate the challenge of responsible minerals sourcing.

The EPRM is a multi-stakeholder partnership aiming to break the links between minerals extraction, conflict, and human rights violations and to increase the proportion of responsibly produced minerals in in conflict and high-risk areas (CAHRAs), especially the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). For years, the United Nations has reported that serious violations of human rights are widespread in the DRC, including acts of violence by government forces, criminal networks, and other armed groups that derive illegal revenues from smuggling and taxation of minerals from DRC mines.

In response, the EPRM is building partnerships and sharing knowledge about due diligence related to four minerals – tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold (3TG) – which are used in many electronic components in key sectors such as automobiles, health care, ICT, aerospace and defense.

The group is especially focused on assisting small and medium-sized enterprises with their due diligence requirements. Specifically, the EPRM is preparing to launch an initiative in November called “Due Diligence Ready,” through which companies will be able to access information, tools, and training materials to prepare for new EU rules coming into effect in 2021.

IPC decided to join the EPRM at the urging of members of our European Government Relations Committee. The choice was clear: The electronics industry could put its head in the sand and ignore the issue; or it could work voluntarily with peers and stakeholders to encourage the responsible sourcing of minerals. The committee chose the latter course for two reasons. First, electronics companies, as consumers of these minerals, want to avoid any association with these conflicts and human rights abuses. Second, by engaging with policy makers and influencers, the industry hopes to avert and minimize undue regulatory burdens on industry. Our members’ actions, however strenuous, cannot fix the root causes of conflict in these regions.

IPC has been involved in the conflict minerals dialogue for years, representing our members in proceedings and negotiations with policymakers; developing standards and guidance to promote industry compliance; and participating in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as it developed international guidance.

For example, after the Dodd-Frank legislation was signed into law in the United States, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) finalized its conflict minerals regulation, IPC and its partners developed and released IPC-1755, a standard that helps industry suppliers and customers share conflict-minerals data along the entire global supply chain. Currently, this standard is undergoing revision to be better aligned with the OECD guidance, with a new version expected in early 2020. The IPC E-31H Conflict Minerals Data Exchange Task Group is conducting the revision process, and one of its co-chairs, Environmental Compliance Manager Nikki Johnson of Total Parts Plus (TPP), is serving as IPC’s representative to EPRM.

Going forward, IPC will be working closely with EPRM members including Intel, Apple, Samsung and HP to implement supply chain practices that promote support responsible sourcing channels for minerals. EPRM is working to achieve this goal through four main objectives:

• Develop and operate a knowledge platform to inform stakeholders on due diligence;
• Educate SMEs in Europe about the importance of responsible mineral sourcing;
• Facilitate connections between upstream, midstream, and downstream actors; and
• Align “mining intervention strategies” and expand resources to support artisanal and small-scale mines to improve their practices and access global markets.

Our focus is on making sure that our industry demonstrates its commitment to meaningful voluntary approaches because we have heard directly from European Commission officials and Members of the European Parliament that mandatory reporting requirements are being contemplated.

U.S. Policy Direction in Suspense

Meanwhile, in the United States, IPC continues to believe that collaborative, industry-driven approaches like those favored in Europe would be more effective than the current U.S. regulations, which were issued in 2012 under Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law.

In 2014, a federal court ruled that a portion of the SEC rule violated the First Amendment. In April 2017, the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance issued new guidance indicating a lighter approach to enforcement. That said, the rule remains on the books, and the SEC could still initiate enforcement action if companies did not report on their due diligence as required.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a mandatory annual report on the issue, concluding that little has changed since 2017:

• In 2018, 1,117 companies filed conflict minerals disclosures—roughly the same number as in 2017 and 2016.
• An estimated 56% of companies were able to report whether the minerals in their products came from the DRC or neighboring countries. That number rose significantly between 2014 and 2015 and has since leveled off.
• Of the 56% who were able to report, 38% of companies reported their minerals came from a covered country, and 61% reported they could not definitively confirm the source of the minerals in their products, with both figures about the same as in prior years.
• Approximately 94% of companies required to conduct due diligence reported conducting it, and of those, 89% reported using the OECD’s due diligence framework.
• Violence continues to be prevalent in the regions of concern.

The GAO notes that as of June 2019, a revision of the SEC rule was on the agency’s long-term regulatory agenda, “which means— according to SEC staff—that any action would likely not take place until after March 2020.”

Please contact Ken Schramko if you have questions about responsible sourcing of minerals, IPC’s advocacy programs on this issue, or our membership in EPRM.

Take Advantage of IPC Educational Opportunities

John Mitchell, IPC president and CEO, provides information on certification and training courses currently available from IPC.

Weaving Advocacy into E-Textiles

By Kelly Scanlon, director, EHS policy and research

Electronic textiles (e-textiles) – fabrics that have electronics embedded in them to achieve certain functions – are of growing interest in the electronics manufacturing industry, and thus they are of growing interest to the IPC Government Relations team as well.

E-textiles and their requisite parts on display at the Drexel Center for Functional Fabrics

E-textiles are being developed and/or used for a variety of interesting applications, from sensing physiological changes in medical patients; to monitoring vital signs of military service members; to displaying warning lights on clothing that can call attention to first responders.

To learn more, last week I attended IPC E-Textiles 2019, a conference at the Drexel Center for Functional Fabrics (CFF) in Philadelphia, where designers, suppliers, engineers, and innovators met to exchange knowledge, network, and tour the CFF.

I learned that the IPC D-70 E-Textiles Committee has finalized an industry standard called IPC-8921, Requirements for Woven and Knitted Electronics Textiles Integrated with Conductive Fibers, Conductive Yarns and/or Wires, which is the first standard of its kind. I also heard from more than a dozen experts on the latest developments and challenges regarding materials, processing, testing, and applications.

As a member of IPC’s Government Relations team and as an environment, health and safety (EHS) professional, my objective was to bring the IPC spirit of innovation and collaboration to develop an advocacy strategy for e-textiles. As this field continues to evolve, IPC will be working to learn more from our members, educate policymakers, and advocate for policies that will support further progress. We’ll also be looking to collaborate with other associations and organizations touched by e-textiles – including in the military, medical, and automotive industries – to develop a comprehensive agenda backed by varied stakeholders with shared interests.

Advocating for innovation requires educating those outside of the innovation space. The IPC GR is well positioned to connect those on the inside with those on the outside to lessen the distance between the two.

To learn more or participate in our advocacy efforts, please visit our website and/or contact me.

New EPA Proposal for “High Priority” Chemicals

by Kelly Scanlon, director, EHS policy and research

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposes to designate 20 chemical substances as High-Priority Substances for upcoming risk evaluations. Several of the proposed chemicals are relevant to the manufacture or production of electronics: phthalates, flame retardants, and formaldehyde. The EPA is asking for comments on the proposed designations by November 21, 2019 and IPC will work with you to coordinate comments from the electronics industry and to represent the electronics industry in briefings with members of the TSCA office in Washington, D.C.

The table below lists the proposed candidates for High-Priority Substances. Highlighted text indicates that the EPA has identified uses that may be relevant to the electronics sector. If your company manufactures (including imports), processes, distributes, uses, or disposes of any of these chemical substances, then you will want to consider providing information regarding the chemical’s conditions of use. The EPA will use this information to determine whether the proposed designation as a High-Priority Substance is appropriate.

Please consider the following questions when determining whether to prepare comments to the EPA in conjunction with IPC:
• Did the EPA accurately identify this chemical substance’s use based on your knowledge of electronics manufacturing and production processes?
• What function does the chemical perform in the process or the product?
• What is the chemical’s criticality to the process and the product?
• How would you describe the scenario of use for the chemical substance including potential human or environmental exposure?

The proposed designation of the chemical substances as a High-Priority Substance is not a finding of unreasonable risk, rather this designation will initiate a risk evaluation for the chemical substance. The risk evaluation will determine whether the chemical presents an unreasonable risk to health or the environment under the conditions of use. Risk evaluations will inform risk management actions that impose restrictions on the chemical. We will have opportunities to engage with the EPA at several points during any future risk evaluations, but early engagement and frequent knowledge-sharing with the policy makers will enable development of policies that accurately reflect the uses of these chemicals.

If you have any questions, please contact me at KellyScanlon@ipc.org, +1 202 661 8091.

IPC Names Shawn DuBravac, Global Tech Trends Expert, as New Chief Economist

Today, IPC announced Shawn DuBravac, Ph.D., CFA, will serve as the association’s chief economist. In this role, DuBravac will expand IPC’s research program and provide insights on the biggest issues facing the $2 trillion global electronics industry, including supply chain resiliency/uncertainty, trade wars, skilled workforce shortage, and the expanding role of electronics in the global economy.

“The electronics industry is at the heart of thousands of essential products and services, as well as millions of jobs across the globe,” said DuBravac. “I look forward to working with the leaders and members of IPC to uncover actionable insights about the most pressing issues impacting the health of the electronics industry.”

For more than a dozen years, DuBravac served as chief economist for the Consumer Technology Association, a U.S. trade association representing more than 2,000 consumer tech companies. More recently, he has provided consulting, research, and advisory services to clients on topics including digital transformation, business model disruptions, and global supply chains. He is also the author of the New York Times best seller, “Digital Destiny: How the New Age of Data Will Transform the Way We Work, Live, and Communicate,” and has appeared in Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Financial Times, Washington Post and more. DuBravac is a member of the National Association of Business Economists and currently serves as the president of the Conference of Business Economists.

“Shawn’s expertise in providing insightful analysis on the technological and economic trends shaping our world is perfectly aligned with IPC’s role as a trusted source of industry information,” said Chris Mitchell, IPC’s vice president of global government relations. “He will be an asset to IPC and our members as we look to expand our research, education, and advocacy efforts.”

In Memoriam — Thomas Gardeski

by John Perry, director, printed board standards & technology

It is with deep sadness that IPC announces the passing of one of its valued and storied committee members and leaders, Thomas Frank Gardeski, president of Gemini Sciences, LLC. Tom passed away on July 28, 2019.

Over the course of his career, Thomas furthered the advancement of flexible circuit, chip scale package (CSP) and high density interconnect (HDI) technology while at Sheldahl, 3M, DuPont and finally his own company, Gemini Sciences, LLC.

Thomas joined several IPC standards development task groups in 1999 related to flexible and rigid-flexible printed board technology. In 2003 Thomas assumed the chair position of the IPC D-10 Flexible Circuits Committee. In doing so, Thomas led and supported numerous efforts to develop and revise such IPC standards as IPC-2223 for flexible circuit design, the IPC-420X series for flexible materials performance, IPC-6013 for flexible printed board performance and the various IPC-TM-650 Test Methods related to these documents.

Outside of work, Thomas was a 9th degree Black Belt and was inducted into the International Martial Arts Hall of Fame in 2003. Thomas was also an expert-level big wave surfer and was known to surf at the legendary Banzai Pipeline in Oahu, Hawaii.

His energy, enthusiasm and valuable contributions to the industry will be missed by many. On behalf of the electronics industry, IPC offers its condolences to Thomas’ wife Carole Ann Gardeski and their family.

IPC E-Textiles Europe 2019 to Bring Technical Education to European E-textiles Community

IPC E-Textiles Europe 2019, a two-day technical education conference for innovators, technologists and brands/OEMs, will provide a platform for education and collaboration among a diverse group of professionals interested in producing e-textiles technologies and products. Developed by the e-textiles industry for the e-textiles industry, IPC E-Textiles Europe 2019 will also provide technical insights of interest to myriad market segments, including fashion design, health monitoring, medical, automotive, aerospace and military. The conference will take place in Munich, Germany, November 12-13, 2019.

Presentation highlights of the technical conference agenda include:
• Design and Fabrication Techniques of Textile-Based Embroidered RFID Tags for Apparels
• Reliability and Washability of Textile-Based Circuit Boards
• Warp Knitted Solutions for E-Textile Applications
• Conductive Patterns on Textiles by Laser Welding
• Printed Electronics – Electrifying Textiles for Smart Applications
• The New Drug Delivery frontier – Textiles
• Wearable Sensors for Your Favorite Sports
• E-Textiles as an Enabling Technology to Create More Discreet and Desirable Assistive Technology for Older Adults
• Advanced Inkjet Printed E-Textiles for Health Monitoring in Military Applications
• Design in Confidence in E-Textiles

“Smart textiles, encompassing electronics combined with textiles (e-textiles) have a very promising realm in science and technology,” said Vladan Koncar, ENSAIT, GEMTEXT, University of Lille and IPC E-Textiles Committee Europe chair. “Numerous materials, systems and devices are available for e-textiles applications, but there are challenges to making these materials, systems and devices compatible as a full e-textiles product. As a conference where scientists and people from the industry can meet and exchange experiences and knowledge, IPC E-Textiles 2019 is, therefore, tremendous.”

Unique to any other e-textiles event in Europe, IPC E-Textiles Europe 2019 will also include an IPC E-Textiles Committee in Europe meeting, where participants will be able to collaborate on IPC international standards for e-textiles.

For questions about the conference or joining the IPC E-Textiles Committee in Europe meeting or any other IPC international e-textiles standards activities, contact Chris Jorgensen, director, technology transfer, or visit www.ipc.org/E-Textiles-EU19.

IPC Welcomes Trump Apprenticeship Program but Calls for Clarifications

By Ken Schramko, senior director, North American government relations

The Trump administration deserves praise for taking steps to encourage new apprenticeship programs, but the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) proposal to do so needs further refinement, according to IPC comments submitted to the department this week.

IPC welcomes the administration’s focus on workforce development, because a shortage of skilled workers is our industry’s top business concern. More than two-thirds of IPC’s U.S. members report that an inability to find and retain skilled workers is limiting their growth and competitiveness.

In response to our industry’s needs, and spurred on by President Trump’s Pledge to America’s Workers, IPC is making unprecedented investments in its education and training programs to create 1 million new skilled workforce opportunities over the next five years. As part of that effort, IPC plans to introduce new “earn and learn” programs, and thus we are interested in the administration’s apprenticeship push.

In its comments to the DOL, IPC agrees that the private sector is best suited to identify the occupational skills that workers need to succeed, as we are doing under our Job Task Analysis project. However, the qualifications for the entities that would be empowered to set standards for apprenticeship programs are not sufficiently defined to ensure that the most appropriate entities will be given that role, IPC says. IPC recommends that the standards-setting entities be limited to well-established, industry-recognized associations or non-profits.

IPC also calls for apprenticeship program credentials to be portable, competency-based, and industry-recognized, not just certificates of completion.

The DOL proposes to recognize standards-setting entities in sectors that lack significant registered apprenticeship opportunities today. IPC is concerned about the exclusion of any industries from the program, which could result in uneven incentives and results.

For more information, check out IPC’s comments on the proposal and explore our education and training and certification programs. Then let us know what you think.

Names to Know: Up and Comers in U.S. Congress

By Ken Schramko, IPC Senior Director, North American Government Relations

When major news occurs in the U.S. Congress, you usually hear the names of top congressional leaders such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

However, it’s a mistake to focus only at the top. There are 435 voting members of the House and 100 senators, all of whom pay attention to their local constituents and issues that affect all Americans.

That is why IPC cultivates relationships with legislators at all levels of seniority, including more junior members who are looking to have a positive impact.

In that context, here are snapshots of eight junior members of the U.S. House with whom IPC is working because of their pragmatism, their familiarity with our industry, and their potential to make positive contributions based on their records and committee assignments.

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) is in his third term representing the northern suburbs of Chicago up to the Wisconsin border. Schneider has 14 IPC member facilities in his district as well as IPC’s world headquarters in Bannockburn. In Congress, he serves on the Ways and Means Committee and the Small Business Committee. His prior experience as a management consultant makes him knowledgeable about the challenges faced by all businesses. He has met with groups from IPC several times and worked with us on issues including tax and trade.

 

Rep. Ann Kuster (D-NH) is also in her third term and represents the western and northern parts of New Hampshire including Nashua and Concord. Kuster has 19 IPC member facilities in her district and serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has wide jurisdiction. Most recently, she worked with IPC in support of federal funding for R&D into the performance of lead-free electronics in high-reliability sectors such as aerospace, defense, automotive, and medical equipment.

 

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) is in his second term representing the northwestern suburbs of Chicago, including portions of Kane, DuPage, and Cook counties. The congressman has 23 IPC member facilities in his district and is well known at several of them. He serves on the House Oversight Committee, where he is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, as well as on the House Intelligence Committee. In addition, he serves as a junior member of the House Democratic leadership, positioning him for broader influence if he continues to be re-elected.

 

Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-NY) is a freshman representing upstate New York including Utica and Binghamton. Brindisi sits on the House Veterans’ Affairs and Agriculture Committees, and he is a Co-Chair of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition and a member of the moderate New Democrat Coalition. He is a leading centrist voice on trade issues, serving on the Problem Solvers Caucus’ USMCA Working Group.

“The people of Upstate New York sent me to Congress to get things done. I’ll work with anyone to find a trade deal that works for businesses, farmers, and workers, bring down prescription drug costs, rebuild our infrastructure, and expand rural broadband. I don’t care what party someone is from, if you are willing to work, I will be at the table with my sleeves rolled up,” said Brindisi.

 

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) has served Alabama’s 5th congressional district, centered on Huntsville and northern Alabama, since 2010. He has 25 IPC member facility sites in his district and is familiar with IPC member company STI Electronics, making him knowledgeable on our industry. In Congress, he serves on the highly relevant House Armed Services Committee as well as the Science, Space and Technology Committee.

 

Among other House members of interest to IPC, Rep. Lori Trahan (D-MA) has 25 IPC member facilities in her district, which covers Massachusetts’ Merrimack valley including Lowell, Lawrence and Haverhill. She serves on the Armed Services and Education and Labor committees. Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL) has 16 IPC member facilities in his district, covering Pinellas County on Florida’s western coast from Clearwater to St. Petersburg. Crist serves on the all-important Appropriations Committee, as well as the Science, Space, and Technology Committee. And Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-CT) has 15 IPC member facilities in her district and serves on the Education and Labor Committee.

IPC recognizes and thanks each one of these members for their leadership, and we hope to have many opportunities to work with them on policies to create more jobs and spur more innovation in the vitally important electronics industry.