An Inside Look at the IPC Committee Process

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As IPC committee meetings were in full effect at this year’s APEX EXPO, Nolan Johnson and Barry Matties have a discussion with many of IPC’s directors and program managers—Teresa Rowe, Chris Jorgensen, Deb Obitz, John Perry, Andres Ojalill, and Patrick Crawford—to gain a better understanding of how committees work.

Barry Matties: Welcome, everyone. Thanks for getting all together to talk about committees at IPC. There are, I think, about 135-plus committees. And before we dive into any specifics, let’s start with the overall goal or purpose of the committees.

Teresa Rowe: A committee is the lifeblood of standards development. The volunteers that make up that committee bring the energy and technical content to the standards as we know them. 

Matties: That’s one area that we were looking for some distinction. One is a project and the other is a requirement or a standard. But do the project teams or committees fit into a standard or requirement, or are they working on some specific problem-solving task?

Chris Jorgensen: The task group is the group of volunteers that’s typically working on a standard project, but as you said, there could be some other special projects that they work on. You typically have a large number of volunteers on those task groups; it can range from 20 to hundreds. But it’s difficult to try to write the content of a standard when you have dozens of people involved, so, maybe four years ago, we started the concept of A-Teams. These are smaller groups of subject matter experts from within the task group that can work on any number of things, from developing the draft document, collecting data for a standard, or other matters of importance to a particular area of technology.

This is not a group that’s off developing the standard on their own for them to put their stamp of approval on it. We still have a standardization process that needs to show openness, fairness, and consensus. These teams speed along the process of developing a standard, because rather than having dozens of people working on the content, the smaller group can focus on the content of the document with limited distractions. Once the group feels it has taken the document as far as they can, we submit it for comments by the full task group. When the larger group gets the draft document, they’re able to provide input to help improve and further shape the standard itself.

As staff liaisons, we have seen great success with this process, and our task group members across the board have embraced it.

Deb Obitz: I had a team that called themselves the Rhinos and they dealt with a lot of cleanliness issues. They came up with white papers, but they were a smaller group that fed into the larger group, although not the similar subject matter experts. We actually cross over into other groups at times. I also have the 7-11, which is a test method, and those tests methods are within many of our committees; Chris, Doug, and John Perry create these test methods and then it comes back into the 7-11 once they’ve been validated or reaffirmed so that they can get released as actual test methods that all of the industry uses.

Nolan Johnson: An A-Team may not necessarily be a subset of the committee?

Obitz: Correct, the A-Team can be from a different group that has expertise in a specific area that impacts another task group. An example is the committees 5-22a (IPC-J-STD-001H) and 7-31b (IPC-A-610H) that have sections dealing with conformal coating and we have a 5-33a Conformal Coating Task Group which can provide expertise for that particular section of their document.

Matties: When we look at these groupings, for example, e-textiles, there’s nine. How does that number weigh in terms of importance or energy being put into a topic?

Jorgensen: If you’re using the e-textiles as an example, the subcommittee and committee levels—those like D-70, D-71, D-72—are oversight groups, and they’re not really the groups that are developing the standards, except for one—D-71. The activity happens at the task group level, and that’s where you might see the groups use a designator, such as the “a”, the “b” and the “a-eu”. But looking at the number of active task groups that we have would give you a good idea of the importance of that area of technology, or at least the utilization of that area of technology. For instance, e-textiles is a new committee that formed within the last three or four years; even though that may seem like a long time, this committee is still a baby compared to our other groups. But if you were to look at John Perry’s groups with printed board fab and design, or Teresa Rowe’s groups with board assembly, you will see a much larger grouping. Now they may not all be coded in one group like D-70, but there are dozens of groups within those technology areas.

Matties: John, what are you covering?

John Perry: I cover standards for printed circuit board design and fabrication. And when I speak fabrication, I’m talking about acceptance of the fabricated board prior to its shipment to the assembler. As an example, IPC-6012 is our primary specification for accepting rigid printed boards after they’ve been fabricated. We have some addendum groups that create standards that are meant to be used with the base document, and these will typically list exception requirements to the requirements in the base document for a specific end use application. There is a new medical device addendum to IPC-6012E, for example. We published that earlier this year, and it’s our first ever document focusing specifically on rigid printed boards intended for medical device applications, diagnostic equipment and things that are human implantable.

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


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