RMAs: Negative Experience or Valuable Opportunity?

John Talbot, Tramonto Circuits | 06-29-2018

Returned product is inevitable if you work in manufacturing. That does not imply that it is easy to address. No matter what the reason for the returned material, it disrupts the normal flow of the quality and manufacturing teams. An inspector must first review the defect and agree that it is indeed a defect. This seems like a simple task and can be if the material doesn’t match a customer specific requirement.

However, if the material must adhere to an industry-wide standard, such as an IPC standard in the circuit industry, it becomes a little more tedious. In most cases the manufacturer will be more familiar with the specification than their customer. Also, they are more likely to keep the latest revision of the requirements in their library. This can cause a situation where the customer has identified a reject that isn’t agreed upon when compared to the standard it was built to. Tedious indeed!

As well, there are other cases that have been witnessed by the author that create a lessthan-easy situation. For instance, if the customer sends back rejected material that wasn’t built by your company. This is typically easy to determine by company markings. Or they send back materials that have obviously been damaged by handling at their own facility. It complicates an already difficult process.

How does it happen?

In the flexible circuit industry (and any other industry, for that matter), there are times when all the material delivered to the customer fails to meet the specifications. This can happen for a number of reasons and typically depends on the final inspection process. Two common final inspection processes used are sampling and 100%. When a product utilizes the 100% inspection process, every part that is shipped to your customer will also have been inspected. A sampling process is intuitively a partial inspection, typically 10-25% of the total, and is used on products that have a long history of zero defects.

To read the full version of this article which originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of Flex007 Magazine, click here.