My customer wants me to submit to IMDS; what do I do now?

As the economy tightens and manufacturers look for ways to trim costs, the largely unknown IMDS requirement gets pushed further down the supply chain. While the IMDS does nothing to improve your bottom line, you're still on the hook for it. What can you do?

This scenario has become a common refrain in plastic-molding companies from coast to coast. If you're successful, it's likely you've been supplying top quality plastic components to the automobile industry for decades without hearing a word about the IMDS. You've always delivered your products on time and within budget. You've even come through when your customer needed a rush order.

Now all of a sudden, there's a problem. The customer who's been so appreciative and responsive in the past is being unreasonable. You can't ship your products until you complete an additional step, an added requirement, some kind of paperwork issue.

Worse, automakers and their subsidiaries have started refusing to accept delivery of parts without an IMDS number. One empty line in the paperwork is holding up your entire shipment.

What is the IMDS?

IMDS stands for International Material Data System. An internet-based platform that you can find at, it was designed to facilitate recycling efforts that target scrapped vehicles. To recycle a car, you first have to know what it's made of.

The IMDS, therefore, is a universal database of the materials used in automobiles. The IMDS contains the list of every part in every car for every participating international automobile manufacturer. Each listing, or database record, includes the weight, size and material composition of every single component.

Begun as an agreement among nine automakers, the IMDS now is the global standard for classifying parts used by the automotive OEMs. By using a global system, all OEMs ensure that their many suppliers are in compliance with national and international law. While all cars sold in Europe must meet the terms of the IMDS, automakers have gone above and beyond by requiring IMDS data on all parts used anywhere in the world. So a plastic part going into an F250 Super Duty pickup being assembled at a Ford plant in Kentucky still needs data.

Your IMDS options

So what can you do when your customers ask you to supply an IMDS number? You have four options:

1. Learn it yourself

2. Go to school to learn it

3. Force your suppliers to do it

4. Contract out the work

Learn it yourself

Obviously, you can read the free manual and figure it out yourself. It's not rocket science. You probably have an engineering degree or at least some engineering experience. Once you learn your way around the IMDS, you can handle this requirement now and in the future.

You may find, though, that while the system isn't complicated, it's not intuitive either. The IMDS was designed by a legislative committee, not by a human factors expert.

In addition, learning the system takes time, time you could be spending running your business. You could delegate the task to one of your engineers, but he's trying to meet

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