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Responsibility for Revised Specifications

At our finishing shop we have been discussing the handling of spec revisions. When a customer includes a spec on a drawing is the expectation that as/if the spec is revised the finisher will implement the new revisions and also contact them if this creates any problems? Or is it the customer's responsibility to propagate spec changes down to the supplier? In other words is the supplier or the finisher responsible for monitoring spec revisions, evaluating, and/or implementing them or is it driven by the customer? Any thoughts or comments would be appreciated.

Jim Weil
Metal Finishing - Detroit, Michigan

One of our readers who is a spec expert will probably prove me wrong but, as an engineer, I feel it is the engineer's job to decide what is needed. His needs don't change just because the spec changed. And even if the plating shop tracked the spec changes and transmitted them back to the purchaser, that doesn't mean the engineer even becomes aware that people are changing his design.

Let's say, as a thought experiment which hopefully will never happen, that he's written a cadmium plating spec, and the spec agency decides that the plating spec now allows tin-zinc plating as an alternate to cadmium. The plating shop tells the buyer that they're switching to tin-zinc. Tin-zinc might be ludicrously unsatisfactory for the purpose and the engineer might not even hear about it if the specs flowed from the plating shop back up to the customer instead of down from the purchaser.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

First of two simultaneous responses --


The answer to your question depends on the nature of the standard and the customer. If it is a standard developed by one of the major SDO's (standards developing organization) like SAE, ASTM, ISO, etc., and your customer requires that you be certified according to QS9000, then it is your responsibility to maintain the standard, including acquisition of new revisions. If the standard is a third-party standard (automotive OEM) that your customer references (automotive supplier), and the QS requirement still applies, then the situation is the same-- you are required to maintain standard at the latest revision level. I am guessing that your situation falls into one of these two categories, but feel free to post again if it does not.

Toby Padfield
Automotive module supplier - Michigan

Second of two simultaneous responses --

This is a complicated situation, as Ted says. When we develop specification at ASTM, SAE, etc. there are usually constant updates to keep the specifications within the state of the art AND correct to the job shop and the end customers. Problems come up when a customer has a specification on the print. When the specification changes -- for instance from ASTM XXXX-01 to ASTM XXXX-04 (reflecting the date changed in 2004) there may be changes in the specification that improve it. These changes may or may not be good for the customer.

If the print or specification supplied by the customer simply says to do the job per ASTM XXXX, you should be using the latest update of the specification. If the print says to do the job per ASTM XXXX-01, there needs to be correspondence with the customer to clarify whether the latest changes are acceptable to him. MOST shops would use the latest specification if there is any doubt, since changes are usually made to improve the standard to which we manufacture parts.

Sometimes specifications are canceled in favor of other specifications. If a canceled specification is on a print, it is important that there is a paper trail to the new specification which should be used to replace the obsolete specification.

When in doubt, you should always ask the customer. It is easier to check first and make sure that you are doing it right than to redo the parts or scrap them. Customers SHOULD be up to date on specification changes and inform you, but this will not always be the case. MANY customer prints have specification on them that have been obsolete for many years.

lee kremer
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Lee Kremer
Stellar Solutions, Inc.
supporting advertiser
McHenry, Illinois
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A plater needs to cover their own back side. If we found that the specification was out of date, we would not plate the part until the customer changed his purchase order or said to plate it to that spec--in writing! Lee is correct, we once got a request for a job that had been cancelled for over 25 years, but the military had ordered that replacement part to be built to that spec number.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida

You have a difficult problem because the rules are different for different industries and customers. I was one of the Nadcap chem process auditors. Aerospace is different from automotive or from common commercial requirements. You have to read your customers' purchase orders and supplier quality system requirements for each order you process. Some process changes are implemented immediately, some with the next purchase order, some within a certain time period (e.g.: the "eighteen month rule") and some require "re-substantiation" and a new delta FAIR if the process was "frozen". Sorry, no single answer.

Doug Hahn
- Rocky Mount, North Carolina

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