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My Customer Wants Me to Submit to IMDS; What Do I Do Now?

As the economytightens and manufacturers look for ways to trim costs, the largely unknown IMDSrequirement gets pushed further down the supply chain. While the IMDS doesnothing to improve your bottom line, you’re still on the hook for it. What canyou do?

This scenario has becomea common refrain in metalforming shops from coast to coast. If you’resuccessful, it’s likely you’ve been supplying top quality body panels,doorframes or other components to the automobile industry for decades withouthearing a word about the IMDS. You’ve always delivered your products on timeand within budget. You’ve even come through when your customer needed a rushorder.

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

Worse, automakersand their subsidiaries have started refusing to accept delivery of partswithout an IMDS number. One empty line in the paperwork is holding up yourentire shipment.

What Is the IMDS?

IMDS stands for InternationalMaterial Data System. An internet-based platform that you can find, it was designed to facilitate recycling efforts that target scrappedvehicles. 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 containsthe list of every part in every car for every participating international automobilemanufacturer. Each listing, or database record, includes the weight, size andmaterial composition of every single component.

Begun as anagreement among nine automakers, the IMDS now is the global standard forclassifying parts used by the automotive OEMs. By using a global system, all OEMsensure that their many suppliers are in compliance with national and internationallaw. While all cars sold in Europe must meet the terms of the IMDS, automakers havegone above and beyond by requiring IMDS data on all parts used anywhere in theworld. So a stamped-metal part going into an F250 Super Duty pickup beingassembled at a Ford plant in Kentucky still needs data.

Your IMDS Options

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

1. Learn it yourself

2. Go to school tolearn it

3. Force yoursuppliers to do it

4. Contract out thework

Learn It Yourself

Obviously, you canread the free manual and figure it out yourself. It’s not rocket science. You probablyhave an engineering degree or at least some engineering experience. Once youlearn your way around the IMDS, you can handle this requirement now and in thefuture.

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

In addition, learningthe system takes time, time you could be spending running your business. Youcould delegate the task to one of your engineers, but he’s trying to meet adeadline, too. In the end, while you may want to spend the time to do ityourself, it’s not always feasible. It’s a matter of priorities.

Go Back to School

You could attend aspecially licensed training program to learn the IMDS, saving yourself sometime and aggravation. A number of European companies offer training, but thereis only one HP-certified IMDS training partner in the United States … and it’sin Ann Arbor, Michigan.

While a classroomsetting makes learning easier, the cost of the training, airfare, hotel, andper diem for two people — so you always have a backup — may be prohibitive. Plus,you essentially lose any productivity from these employees for several days.

As an alternative,you can find an IMDS training partner who’ll come to your shop to teach you howto navigate the IMDS. This tailored approach might be a perfect solution aslong as you can overcome three factors: finding a truly qualified consultant,arranging the training space and equipment, and getting your engineers to dropeverything for several days.

Force Your Suppliers to Do It

You could push therequirement down to your suppliers. After all, it’s their responsibility too.There are two problems with this strategy:

1.     Yoursuppliers are often smaller companies than yours, meaning they have even lessflexibility to fulfill the IMDS requirement than you do.

2.     Evenif your suppliers completed their IMDS requirement, you still need to create a recordfor your product.

For example, yourmetalformed door panel includes rubber molding and a primer sealant. If yourmolding and sealant suppliers send you their IMDS data, you still have to mergeit into your IMDS record for the door pane

So while you’ve maybemade your job a little easier, you haven’t avoided it completely. You’re rightback where you were when you started, with an IMDS requirement to meet.

Contract Out the IMDS Work

Finding a contractorto do the work for you is an option that has pros and cons. You obviously haveto pay for the service, and multiple components needing separate entries canpush up those costs. You can outsource large jobs overseas, say to India, butthat solution comes with its own challenges.

There are otherconcerns as well. You have to provide the contractor with the specifications,blueprints, or chemical analysis of your products — in other words, yourproprietary information. If you have to reveal trade secrets, you will want toknow for sure that the IMDS provider is trustworthy.

Outside contractorswill tell you that their work is guaranteed, but you need to do your homeworkto find their referrals and credentials. While you’ll save time and money byfarming out the work, it’s still ultimately your responsibility to make sureit’s done correctly. If you find a contractor you can trust, though, you have aprofessional you can turn to even when your deadlines are looming.

Summing Up

The IMDS is here tostay, regardless what you think about it. More and more automotive manufacturersare turning to it to make their products more recycling-friendly. Moreover, youcan expect to see this requirement more consistently in the future.

If you find yourselfstuck with an IMDS requirement that you must fulfill to ship your goods,remember that you have options. Make the right choice, based on yourcircumstances.


Derrik Snider hasbeen improving quality for 20 years. He’s worked as a Quality Engineer forcompanies such as Borg-Warner, and he’s served as an Examiner for the MalcolmBaldrige National Quality Award. Derrik is also a member of the AmericanSociety for Quality. He founded IMDS DATA in 2010 to help companies with theirIMDS requirements. You can contact Derrik at


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