IMDS compliance in the automotive supply chain

9th July 2018
Alex Lynn

Each year, 25 million tons of material is sourced from old cars. In fact, 80% of the car you drive today will eventually be recycled. The International Material Data System (IMDS) was created to ensure automotive OEMs use materials in the most efficient and recyclable way. But, what responsibility falls on parts manufacturers?

Author: Chris Johnson, Managing Director of SMB Bearings.

The inception of the IMDS was based on the principle that you cannot recycle a car if you don’t know what it is made of. The internet based system provides a record of materials used in automotive manufacturing and is designed to facilitate industry recycling efforts.

It was originally a joint development of Audi, BMW, Daimler, EDS, Ford, Opel, Porsche, Volkswagen and Volvo, but has since become a global standard for the industry. There are numerous regulations around the world that require automotive manufacturers to report on the content of their vehicle. However, IMDS creates a common system to simplify compliance requirements when trading parts and components globally.

While it was once relatively unknown, IMDS compliance is now unavoidable for suppliers to the automotive industry. Often, automotive OEMs will refuse to accept delivery of components without an IMDS number. Even for parts manufacturers with longstanding relationships with OEMs, new requirements for IMDS data can hold up shipments until an IMDS number is produced.

Getting an IMDS number

To generate an IMDS number, suppliers are required to submit their component data to the online system. Each listing must include the weight, size and material composition of the part and every component that is contained within it. Sounds simple enough, right?

Unfortunately, the system isn’t particularly intuitive and learning to operate it efficiently takes time, patience and man hours. For many smaller manufacturers, this can become a costly exercise. However, it is often essential for supplying into the automotive supply chain. To further complicate proceedings, there is often more materials data to a component than a parts manufacturer might initially think.

Consider the wing mirrors of a vehicle as an example. The basic materials for this part might include a stainless-steel surround, glass for the mirror and plastic coverings for the signal indicator light, if the mirror includes one. However, IMDS also requires data for any smaller components. That includes every nut, bolt, bulb and bearing within the mirror.

IMDS in the supply chain

Gaining data for smaller components may require the manufacturer to backtrack through their supply chain. This can be longwinded and time-consuming if component suppliers are not responsive or do not hold accurate data for specific parts.

This is not an uncommon issue when dealing with mass manufacturers in China. Often, these suppliers service a multitude of industries, not just automotive, and therefore IMDS is not a priority.

However, even when manufacturers can acquire an IMDS number from suppliers, time is still required to merge this data into their own product entry, as IMDS requires the chemical make up for an entire part, rather than several entries for each component. It sounds complicated but collecting IMDS numbers directly from component suppliers can simplify this process.

An automotive part manufacturer experienced this when supplying a rotating dashboard to Bentley Motors. As a Volkswagen subsidiary, parts supplied to Bentley require full IMDS data. Among many other individual components, the dashboard required chrome steel metric miniature bearings bearing to facilitate the parts rotation.

SMB Bearings is the official UK distributor for Sapporo Precision’s EZO bearings. Sapporo Precision’s high levels of quality control in its manufacturing facility meant that SMB Bearings could easily provide the manufacturer with full materials data for the bearing.

Automotive parts manufacturers cannot ignore IMDS. However, by choosing suppliers that can provide an IMDS number for their components, they can simplify the process when selling their product onto OEMs. For parts suppliers, being aware of IMDS is equally as important, even if the automotive industry is not a primary market for them.

Over 80% of the materials used in our cars will eventually be recycled. The IMDS assists this process and could see this figure increase by more over the next decade. IMDS is here to stay and parts manufacturers and suppliers must take steps to simplify compliance, both for themselves and their supply chain.

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