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The Importance of Robust Documentation

June 11, 2014

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Today’s electronics industry truly supports the paper and digital information industry, given the large amount of documentation required in support of customer supply chain requirements. The requirement is not only relevant to the military and defense industry. Whether you are an expert who knows the difference between a Certificate of Compliance and a Certificate of Conformity (yes, they are both termed a C of C, but are legally different)  or a buyer executing on your company’s standard operating process, it is almost always overwhelming.

As a member of ECIA and the owner of a value­ added connector distributor, I am often summoned by my team to address customer inquiries in regards to a shipment’s documentation requirements. Often these requests are easily satisfied as we comply with industry standards in the accompaniment of C of Cs, PPAPs (production part approval process), manufacturer’s authorization letters, material declarations and just about any other information our customers need. But these requests (while important and often legally required) do require extra time, effort, money, systems and training to be properly delivered in accordance with a customer’s shipment requirements.

Every one remembers when RoHS came to light and the daunting amount of work involved in documenting which items in our inventory met those requirements, especially before all our electronic component manufacturers had it all sorted out. Like us all, ECCO believes in being socially responsible and that verifying our purchased material’s origin and authenticity is key to running a good business. So, this practice relies on all of us in the supply chain to work together as partners and keep the material well traced, using quality processes, robust documentation and good communications to satisfy the ongoing/increasing requests being demanded in the marketplace.

ECIA has taken a strong stand in support of authorized distribution and the use of C of Cs for  component traceability and authenticity, stating in its whitepaper NIGP 115.00, dated September 2013, “ECIA member distributors support the practice of providing an Authorized Distributor Certificate of Conformance as an integral part of packing lists with each order”. It goes on to say, “The Authorized Distributor Certificate of Conformance statement will confirm that the components delivered were procured from the original component manufacturer and maintained exclusively within the manufacturer’s  authorized distribution channel; that they carry the original component manufacturer’s warranty; and that traceability documentation, showing an unbroken chain of ownership via authorized channels and available for customer review upon request”.

As our customers demand more from us, and associated costs have gone from infrequent to ‘almost always’, we need to share best practices and find ways to more easily satisfy documentation demands. The good news is that we now live in a digital age where storing information cheaply and efficiently is readily available with most enterprise resource planning and/or warehouse management systems in use today. Still, as a distributor we may periodically get a customer asking us for unusual information. When those situations occur, we take note and try to determine if that unique request today may become tomorrow’s ‘always required’ for doing business. So, when that occurs we simply buck up, start up, and put up the best effort to satisfying those documentation demands. While not always easy, we can sleep well knowing we are striving for transparency and quality in support of being a reliable partner in our customer’s supply chain.

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