Reading time ( words)
I started coming to committee meetings around 15 years ago. I was working at an aerospace company as an instructor and process control engineer. When I say aerospace, I mean space flight. At that time most of our contracts were with NASA and I participated in the monthly workmanship telecons. They would answer emailed questions and we had a few inputs to updated NASA standards. The big news was about a new document, an addendum to the J-STD-001. That sounded familiar. A colleague of mine that I worked with back in the ‘80s was heading up the effort. He was giving a presentation at a conference in Baltimore in the spring of 2001 and some Ball Aerospace instructors were attending. I had submitted my resume and they wanted to talk to me about that. My first interview was in the hotel pub before they got on the plane back to Colorado. I was basically hired based on that interview.
There were concerns about companies using the J-STD-001 Space Addendum. NASA wanted people from the different sites and their contractors to attend the committee meetings. My management had changed but I received permission and funding to start attending APEX EXPO conference meetings. At first, I only attended one meeting and just held on, trying to get the hang of things. Eventually I started attending other meetings, participating, and submitting comments. My company was quite pleased as we had some issues with current criteria and the comments were discussed and resolved. We felt they supported manufacturability while still retaining reliability.
About four years ago, I was asked to co-chair the J-STD-001 task group for Revision H. My IPC liaison suggested that I read the IPC Chair Handbook, where I noticed under “Roles and Responsibilities” it listed “Drive for Consensus.” This helped me clarify that decisions didn’t need to be my way. Some comments are dispositioned and resolved easily and some others take a little bit more time. Sometimes when we can't find consensus it's because we really haven't talked about the problem enough.
The last time we met in person (IPC APEX EXPO 2020) was my first time I met my Emerging Engineer, who hadn't attended the professional development classes yet. We did talk a bit about the committee meetings. When I met with him the next day, I told him the “secret” to getting a comment passed in committee was that there that wasn't a secret. In order to get a comment to pass, it has to be the right comment. It helps if it's adequately explained and with data provided, if needed. We are extremely fortunate to have some of the industry leaders participating in our committees. We also try to make the documents easier to understand with simple wording, so it’s easier to be translated and used globally.
In my current position at my company, I have a lot of other roles and responsibilities but it's my work on the IPC committees that I seem to enjoy the most. Maybe the reason is I feel like I make a difference, even if it's just a small part. Sometimes it’s an ad hoc working group closing an action item and sometimes it’s FDIR (First Draft Industry Review). Everybody submitting comments and participating in committee meetings are actively making the document better for industry.
If any of this sounds intriguing to you, I encourage you to get involved with an IPC committee. You really can make a difference.
This article originally appeared in the May 2021 issue of SMT007 Magazine.