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Going Beyond IMDS with iPoint Approval

The race to introduce a product to the market is a fierce one; where companies are constantly trying to shorten the product cycle. One of the items that needs to be checked off the list is a material report. Completing these reports manually is manageable when there are a few, but when there are hundreds it becomes cumbersome. What if there are hundreds and the information required to complete the reports exists in different systems? Now the reports become even more tedious and require the utmost attention to make sure they are free of mistakes. This was just one of the many reasons why a large OEM decided it needed to change its current system and implement one that makes reporting go from complex to simple but effective.

The Goal

Some of the automotive OEM’s goals for this rather large project were to reduce reporting time, simplify their data gathering process, as well as design for compliance and sustainability and improve time to market.

Together, with iPoint, the OEM gained the tools to make sure they could reach their corporate goals. Here’s how they did it.

The Background

There were two large information databases, one contained information about the materials used in the manufacturing plant itself, and the other contained information about the materials used in the vehicles being produced. Although these two systems both contained material information, they were not able to communicate with each other or be accessed in any way by the other database. This system was working for the OEM for many years, up until REACH was introduced.

REACH – Or why a change was needed

With the introduction of REACH came additional reporting requirements; OEMs now had to report on both vehicle material information and manufacturing plant material information. For this OEM, this would not be an issue if both material information databases could communicate, or were at least consolidated into one database; however, this wasn’t the case. This is one of the biggest reasons why they saw a need to make a change to their current systems – it would not be efficient long term.

How to avoid reporting the same information twice

The REACH regulation did not distinguish between materials used in the plant versus materials used in the vehicle, so duplication issues arose when reports started being generated in each of the systems. To avoid reporting the same information twice, employees at the OEM had to manually sort, verify and identify duplicated materials. While this manual effort was manageable in the short term, in the long term this was not sustainable as many man hours were required and it wasn’t an effective use of time. Especially because other REACH-like requirements started appearing, such as US TSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976), CalProp65 (California Proposition 65) and the Canadian CMP (Chemical Management Plan), which required that chemicals, mixtures and parts data be reported, so a new plan needed to be sorted out.

We know that as time goes on, new technology is introduced which outdates the existing technology – and this is exactly what happened to this OEM’s software and system that was used prior to iPoint’s involvement. The software languages used to build the previously running systems were outdated and no longer supported, which slowed down progress.

Suppliers and OEM employees also had to get access to the information in separate databases and combine it for reporting, again increasing manual efforts due to REACH. Avoiding this time consuming and manual effort combination of work was part of the OEM’s vision for the future of their data submission and reporting – and this is where iPoint brought this vision to reality.

The Benefits – How we empowered the company to evolve

Working together with iPoint, the OEM was able to launch a single system that could integrate both separate existing systems into one system which was able to do the follow:

  • Provide a single database to store all material info
  • Contain a single restricted substances list to analyze all materials processed and used in plants and facilities, as well as materials used in production vehicles and service parts
  • Provide a single supplier portal to manage suppliers’ data entries, communications, compliance status reviews, cascading requests, etc

This was all created in an effort to reduce the burden on both suppliers and the OEM, improve data accuracy, minimize non-compliance risks as well as reduce the cost to use the system, since only one system exists now, and maintenance is lower for one system rather than two.

IMDS vs iPoint Approval – How to manage the fundamental IMDS dilemma.

While IMDS is used by almost all OEMs and suppliers for vehicle production and reporting today, it has a number of issues and a questionable future ahead of it. More automakers are looking to be proactive, get ahead of issues and manage the fundamental IMDS dilemma.

IMDS was designed over 20 years ago, and one key issue with it is that it’s only able to provide part information after the part has already been produced for production. The part then goes through PPAP (Production Parts Approval Process), meaning that it could cause a vehicle to be delayed to the market if non-compliance is found in this stage.

This process doesn’t allow the OEM to combat any issues that may arise, due to non-compliance, early enough. Being fast and first to the market is advantageous in every industry, especially automotive – so why take the risk of being delayed when there are better systems out there? Late design changes (after parts have been produced) require engineering to become involved again, increasing costs for redesigning, testing and retesting parts until the product is cleared for production, again.

iPoint Approval was created and designed to help resolve these issues.

With iPoint Approval, the process to verify materials are safe to use by applicable regulations worldwide can be started up to 4 years before final production launch of the vehicles. For example, prior to the final paint/coating selection chosen for the vehicle’s colors, the suppliers and OEMs spend a few years developing the materials. Working with the OEM, the suppliers and iPoint Approval, the materials can be run through the approval tool prior to production to ensure compliance – which is not possible with IMDS.

Not only does early compliance guarantee quality and performance of the materials, but with the information being approved early on, OEMs can prevent bad substances from getting into the vehicle, avoid stop-shipping, reduce non-compliance risks, as well as costly recalls.

The bottom line is that Approval’s ability to work years in advance sets companies up for smooth production, deliveries and reporting.

Bing Xu

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