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Does Your 2023 Budget Accommodate for an ESD Audit?

Despite the current conditions, there is still exponential growth in the electronics industry forecasted for 2023. Thus, the importance of electrostatic damage control procedures is still imperative in your ESD protected areas. When you set your budget for the year, consider the importance of an ESD Audit for your organisation. In this article we uncover the benefits of an ESD Audit and how it assists your in-house training and production using ESD sensitive components.

What Is an ESD Audit?

An ESD audit or site survey is essentially an assessment of your electrostatic protected areas (EPAs), ESD control products and ESD-safe measures. Carried out in accordance with your organisation’s ESD Control Plan, an audit allows you to determine whether you have sufficient equipment to maintain ESD compliance, whether personnel are acting in accordance with ESD policies and whether corrective action needs to be implemented. 

What Are the Benefits of an ESD Audit?

An ESD audit may seem like an onerous exercise, but it can be extremely advantageous for any organisation to carry out regular site surveys. To find out why ESD audits are such an important element of maintaining ESD-safe practices, take a look at some of the benefits they offer:

1. Compliance with International Standards

IEC-61340-5-1 is the International Standard that governs electrostatics and applies to “activities that: manufacture, process, assemble, install, package, label, service, test, inspect, transport or otherwise handle electrical or electronic parts, assemblies and equipment with withstand voltages greater than or equal to 100 V HBM, 200 V CDM and 35 V for isolated conductors.”.

Obtaining and maintaining this Standard can be essential for businesses that want to compete in a national or global market and conducting ESD audits is a critical part of the International Standard. Whether you’re ensuring compliance with the IEC-61340-5-1 or are due for an ISO or British Standard inspection, an ESD audit will identify any potential issues that could put your qualification in jeopardy and allow you to optimise your ESD practices before further assessments take place.

2. Improve Equipment Performance

Organisations that handle, process, manufacture or assemble ESD-sensitive products typically use a range of ESD control products to maintain effective EPAs. If operators use an ESD user bench, ESD heel strap or ESD wrist band, for example, these should be checked regularly to ensure their functionality.

Similarly, anti-static matting, ESD flooring, Earth bonding brackets and plugs should all be routinely tested to ensure they are working optimally. After all, any ESD equipment failures limit the effectiveness of your EPA and are likely to lead to product damage.

When conducting an ESD audit, you’ll check the functionality of your ESD control products and be able to identify potential issues before failures arise. This gives you the opportunity to repair and/or replace ESD control products before losses are incurred.

wrist strap tester

3. Staff Training and Compliance

Although ESD control products are highly effective protecting ESD-sensitive items from static discharge, staff need to use the equipment correctly and comply with organisational ESD practices to maintain an effective EPA. If they fail to adhere to in-house ESD policies, safety is put at risk and the products you’re manufacturing, or assembling, may succumb to ESD damage.

With routine ESD audits, you can determine how and why staff non-compliance occurs and put preventative measures in place. If personnel regularly forget to check the functionality of their ESD wrist straps, for example, extra workstation signage can be placed near workstations and test stations to increase compliance.

Alternatively, if personnel continually enter an EPA without appropriate static control products, an additional caution sign at the entrance to any EPA can work as a useful reminder and prevent unauthorised access. Similarly, if staff are unsure of how to implement any ESD policies, an audit will uncover these knowledge gaps and allow you to improve in-house training.

ESD Warning Sign at EPA Entrance

4. Reduce the Risk of Product Damage

When ESD-sensitive items are exposed to static discharge, they can sustain significant damage and product failure is likely to occur. This is often due to latent damage or catastrophic failure. For any business, this can lead to reputational damage and financial losses, which is why it’s so important to implement an effective ESD Control Plan and maintain EPAs.

As well as assessing on-site protocols, an ESD audit extends to the processes you have in place to protect ESD-sensitive items once dispatched from your location. You may use conductive or static dissipative packing foam or PCB packaging boxes to dispatch items, for example, and, as part of your ESD audit, you can ensure these materials are being used appropriately and are sufficient to protect your products. 

5. Optimise Your ESD Control Program

Your ESD Control Program should govern the way ESD-sensitive items are handled and specify how ESD control products are used, but regular updates may be required. An ESD audit will ensure you can swiftly identify potential gaps in your Control Program and implement appropriate measures to improve its comprehensiveness and effectiveness. By doing so, you’ll improve your organisation’s ESD-compliance and ensure your ESD Control Program remains up-to-date and successful.

6. Maximise ROI

Conducting ESD audits may seem like an unnecessary expense, but they can significantly improve your return on investment (ROI). By reducing the risk of product damage or failure, ESD audits limit financial losses, thus increasing profitability and fiscal performance. Furthermore, the reputational damage and subsequent financial loss that can arise as a result of poor ESD practices can be avoided by implementing regular ESD audits. 

Setting up and maintaining EPAs can be costly and ESD audits do represent an additional investment. However, the relatively low cost of conducting ESD audits and the financial savings they can bring ensure that site surveys are a viable and effective way of maximising returns.

Implementing ESD Audits with Bondline

With so many benefits associated with ESD audits, it’s easy to see why they are such an essential component of ESD management. To learn more about ESD audits or to arrange an ESD audit with our highly experienced team, contact Bondline now on 01793 511000 or email us at sales@bondline.co.uk.

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