IPC Technical Staff Liaisons—Your ‘Shepherds’ in the IPC Standards Development Process

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If you have ever attended an IPC standards development meeting, whether it be in person or through a web meeting, then you’ve seen or heard us—that collection of IPC staff members within the IPC Technical Department that schedule the myriad face-to-face or online standards meetings taking place at annual IPC events or throughout the year. We’re the ones you hear from when IPC circulates a new standard working draft, promotes it to Final Draft for Industry Review (FDIR) for broader industry input, or notifies you that the document is ready for balloting towards release. But we are more than just a team of individuals scheduling meetings, running around like rabbits attending to various concurrent meetings, taking notes, or announcing when it is time to submit comments to a standard draft or submit votes to one in ballot; we are very much “shepherds” of the IPC Standards Development process, ensuring that IPC standards are moving forward with technology and that the finished efforts represent the needs of suppliers, manufacturers, and end users.

Promoting that Volunteer Mentality
As IPC technical staff liaisons, one of the main responsibilities of our job is to inspire people to get involved and join an IPC subcommittee or task group developing or revising an IPC standard. As an accredited Standards Development Organization (SDO) under the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), our standards are developed strictly through an industry volunteer process; designers, material vendors, process engineers, quality assurance managers, contract assemblers and test houses (just to name a few—the overall list is much larger) all work together on a specific industry standard. Despite IPC being an industry trade association for over 60 years, however, there are still many in the industry who presume that IPC standards are written by staff members in closed groups and that a path to have their company or organization contribute to how those standards are created and/or revised does not exist. 

It’s our job to remind people in our industry that they can have a voice within IPC standards, that their company can be represented in the effort and that they can influence the course of the standard and help ensure the finished document meets today’s technology needs. IPC staff liaisons are not authors or writers of the standards; editors and publishers, yes, but it is the volunteer members that collectively write the content. People come and go within our industry over the years, and thus it is our task to promote the same message: IPC standards can only move forward with technology changes if there are industry volunteers willing to join our subcommittees and task groups and contribute their time, energy, input, comments, and votes.

Ensuring Balance and Industry Representation
IPC staff liaisons work to make sure these volunteer IPC subcommittees and task groups are well balanced and represent, as closely as possible, an equal mix of suppliers and users, as well as others representing design, testing, and perhaps also academia, government, and consultancies. You do not have to be an existing volunteer within one of our standards groups to visualize that if, for example, a subcommittee tasked with developing a qualification and performance specification for a specific material technology composed mostly or entirely of the material vendors will result in a standard that largely favors those suppliers, or that a performance specification for rigid printed boards developed by a committee dominated by the OEM end users will have very stringent requirements. IPC staff liaisons ensure that IPC’s volunteer subcommittees and task groups have balanced representation among users and suppliers and that the published standard represents a compromise between suppliers and customers. The quality of the finished IPC standard depends greatly on the make-up of the subcommittee or task group that developed/revised it.

To read this entire article, which appeared in the May 2021 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.


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