Focus on Quality: An IDEA Whose Time Has Come


Independent electronic component distributors provide essential services to electronics manufacturers.  They source hard-to-locate parts, purchase surplus inventory that can tie up manufacturers’ capital, fill shortages, and help manage inventory for production or service and repair needs.  In short, independent distributors rebalance electronic component inventories and send parts where there is demand for them. 

In early 2003, a group of independent distribution executives came together to address common industry concerns.  Their major concern: substandard parts distributed by a few firms that

IDEA quote
tarnished the image of all independent distributors. These executives, including Lee Ackerley of Smith & Associates, founded the Independent Distributors of Electronics Association (IDEA).

IDEA’s purpose is “…to promote the independent distribution industry through a media advocacy campaign, to improve the quality of products and services through a quality certification program, educational seminars, and conferences, and to promote the study, development, and implementation of techniques and methods designed to improve the business of independent distributors.” (

A Developing IDEA
In the four years since its founding, IDEA has grown to nearly 40 members.  More importantly, the membership has defined guidelines on business practices, quality control and inspection methods, and has provided training materials that have proven to be important resources for IDEA members and the industry as a whole.
Following are some of IDEA’s key accomplishments:

Mid 2003 IDEA’s Business Practices and Ethics Committee defines ethics requirements and recommendations to be met by all IDEA members
January 2004 IDEA publishes an Electronic Components Inspection Manual
February 2005 IDEA issues expanded Inspection Guideline and Recommended Inspection and Product Handling Equipment List
June 2005 IDEA issues its RoHS White Paper
September 2005 IDEA issues its Export Guide (developed by an IDEA Member)
December 2005 IDEA issues its Pb-free Part Marking Status guide

A Comprehensive Inspection Standard and Tool for the Electronics Industry

The release of IDEA-STD-1010-A in October 2006 provided an inspection standard for independent distributors and the electronics manufacturing industry as a whole.  The standard details inspection processes for electronic components, characteristics of good components, and examples of quality and substandard parts.  The Standard is not only being utilized by IDEA members but has also been made available for purchase to other independent distributors and electronics manufacturers.  Nearly 30% of the copies have been sold to electronics manufacturers, some of whom are now requiring that independent distributors conform to the standard to remain on the manufacturers’ approved vendor lists (AVLs). 

IDEA-STD-1010-A was developed by IDEA General Manager Debra Eggeman, and a committee of the association’s members.  Eggeman has more than 25 years’ experience in the electronics industry in the areas of manufacturing, product development, and quality control.  Billy Pursley, vice president of trading at Smith & Associates and an IDEA board member, along with members of Smith quality team, were also instrumental in the development and production of the Standard.

New IDEAs Emerge at Annual Meeting
IDEA has a number of new initiatives in the works: inspector certifications, seminars, and workshops; a comparative analysis of service providers to the industry; a purchasing practices guide; and an auditable quality management standard specific to independent electronic component distribution.
At the IDEA Annual Meeting in April 2007, members and guests heard examples of IDEA’s ongoing efforts to strengthen the independent distribution industry and to continue its push toward excellence. 

Inspector Certification
IDEA’s Inspector Certification program is currently in the works and set to launch mid-2007.  “The best component inspectors in the world work for independent distributors,” says Eggeman, “unlike their counterparts in franchise distribution, independent distributors’ inspectors have to concern themselves with more than quantity, part number, and date code.  Inspections that scrutinize component characteristics and specifications to detect nonconforming parts were developed in this industry.”

Applicants for the IDEA Certified Inspector exam will be required to have a minimum of two years inspection experience and their primary job responsibility must be the inspection of electronic parts.
The exam format will be open book, with the focus on accessing the information required to properly inspect parts.  The certification will require knowledge of many industry standards beyond IDEA-STD-1010-A.  Topics include:

  • General industry knowledge
  • The inspection workbench environment
    • Electrostatic discharge (ESD) safety
    • Ergonomics/lighting
    • Humidity and temperature control
    • Cleanliness
  • Inspection tools
  • Inspection criteria
  • Recognizing non-conforming conditions

Candidates for the certification will be required to score 95% or better to pass. 

Inspection Workshops—IDEA plans to hold Inspection Workshops and Seminars beginning in Q3 of this year to assist inspectors with preparation for the exam and to raise awareness of the IDEA standards and certifications.

Service Providers—An IDEA member committee is currently planning comparative analyses of service providers to the industry, with the first on Internet part search engines due for release during Q3 of this year.

Purchasing Guidelines—Another committee of IDEA members is working on a set of Purchasing Practices & Guidelines for independent distributors, which will be included in the organization’s ethics recommendations.

Industry-Specific Standard—An industry-specific quality management system (QMS) standard, which will include third-party auditing, is slated for late 2008.

A Compelling IDEA for the Electronics Supply Chain
Quality is the watchword in electronics manufacturing.  Electronics OEMs and EMS providers are closely screening and auditing their suppliers.  They expect quality, service and value from their suppliers.  IDEA members proactively address manufacturers’ demands for greater levels of quality, service, and value from the open market.  In a rapidly changing global marketplace, IDEA and its members are developing and adhering to increasingly stringent standards to meet and exceed these demands.

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