Mostly True Tales: Materials Resource Planning Part Two — NCNR

And now part two of a Mostly True Tale from my friend Paul Schreiber, from his time at RIM. See Part One here.  –Crow

Phone rings, internal RIM number, Canada. Not that unusual.

Voice: “Is this Paul Schreiber?”

Me: “Yes.”

Voice: “This is Steve Whatever, Director of Commodity Purchasing.”  This normally would have been the lady I spoke to weeks earlier about that cap, but today it was her boss’s boss’s boss, one step below VP. “Is this your name on ECO whatever?” ECO = Engineering Change Order. I wrote it for swapping out the matched cap, which also meant the schematic and PC board were changed.

Me: (slight pause): “Yes, is there a prob-”

Him: (volume increase +10dB): “YOU HAVE TO IMMEDIATELY PUT IT BACK IN!”

Me (again slight pause): “No, because the reason is…”

Him (+4dB volume increase again): “I’m not the LEAST BIT INTERESTED why you wrote this ECO, it should never have been authorized. How could you ignore the SAP screen for this part? It’s in big red letters!”

OK, I hadn’t looked at SAP since that day, but I didn’t remember seeing any ‘big red letters’.

Me: “Hang on, let me log in to SAP and…”

Him (grunts): “Yeah, you do just that!”

Me (thinking): *^&*%^&*^%&* 8&*^&*%^&…

Me: “OK, I am at the parts screen. There are no red letters. What-”

Him: “It’s right THERE! The box right next to the part number. It says ‘This Part is NCNR’…IN RED!”

OK, NCNR = Non-cancel, Non-returnable. Meaning, once bought, the vendor will not let you return it for credit. I look, there is *NOTHING IN RED ON MY SCREEN*.

Him: “Do you understand what you have done? This is NCNR, you HAVE to use it!” (now he is sorta panting like a dog)

Me (takes a deep breath): “There is nothing in red on my SAP screen.”

Him: “Are you screwing with me, buddy?”

Me (blood pressure now at 180/130): “Look, all I know is my screen has no NCNR.”

Him (actually rather calmly):  “Open a DB INQUIRY box and type \user\permissions\your_login”

Me: “OK…ummm…it says ‘ungranted’?”

Him: “Well, that explains it! You don’t have permission to see which parts are NCNR!”

OK, I will let this sink in for a second. 4…3…2…1.

Me (knowing this response will get me in maximum trouble, but tact has flown out the window from this point forward): “Just how am I supposed to design cell phones if I can’t get access to the screens I need? So, how can I get my permission upgraded?”

Him: “Are you a manager?”

Me: “No, I am a Senior Staff Design Engineer.”

Him: “You have to be a manager to have this permission level.”

OK, I will let this sink in for a second. 4…3…2…1.

Him: “But you work that out with…” (he’s looking this up on the system) “…Andy. He IS your boss, right?”

Me: “Yes, but…”

Him: “Work it out. I’m calling him right now to tell him you are correcting…your oversight.” (Click!)

OK, I need to get to Andy first. I haul ass, it’s only 60 feet, but I hear his phone ring. I get to the door, he is listening and motions me to CLOSE THE DOOR. With me outside.

I figure I got 4min. I call the lady, the capacitor buyer. She is as jolly as Santa.

Me: “Ummmm…..on part # XXYYZZ, does your screen say NCNR?”

Her: “Sure. It’s in-”

Me: “Red, yes…Ummm…Does it say anything else?”

Her: “Like what?”

So, I read off my 5 lines of text, but then I look at ‘Where Used’…it’s NOT BLANK anymore! It has my PC board on it! Gee….wonder who did that??!?

And I see one more box that was blank *before* under it: WIP.

WIP = Work In Progress. Otherwise known as inventory. And it says 1,982,000 pcs. I think I threw up in my mouth a little.

Me: “Ummm…hey! There is a WIP showing of 1982K.”

She: “Yes, that is correct.”

Me: “But how could they even be ordered? This board is not even out of prototype!”

She: “Oh, Ed (the guy whose place I took) *said it was OK* and they had a 14 week lead time.”

Me: “But I never saw that before just now!”

She: “Oh, *someone* must have upgraded your permission!”

Just about then, Andy strolls over, looks over my shoulder. He’s on his cell, talking to you-know-who.

Andy: “All taken care of…yes, Paul now has the permission level set…yes, (pauses, gives me THE LOOK) He will have the ECO written and faxed up today.”

Some days, I want to live in a tent in the woods.

-The End


Answer to “where was the cap used” question posed in part one:

“In the microphone circuit, it increases the ‘longitudinal balance,’ which in turn reduces noise. This is widely used in the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) because the signal cables carry no ground reference. Telephone lines carry -48V to -18V (depending on length from central office) and so 63V or 100V film caps are used. They are usually 1% tolerance, then hand-matched to 0.5%. This matching is a major noise contributor on land-line calls (remember those?). For this cellphone mic, once you get to 5% or 2% the matching doesn’t matter because we are not running thousands of feet of cable, we are running 4 inches of PC board traces.”

Other fun facts:

This board was 24 layers, and 0.75mm thick.  At the time, the factory facility had forty SMT assembly lines, operated in three 8-hour shifts for 24-hour operation.  The factory went through 14,000 reels of parts.  Per day.


Adafruit publishes a wide range of writing and video content, including interviews and reporting on the maker market and the wider technology world. Our standards page is intended as a guide to best practices that Adafruit uses, as well as an outline of the ethical standards Adafruit aspires to. While Adafruit is not an independent journalistic institution, Adafruit strives to be a fair, informative, and positive voice within the community – check it out here:

Join Adafruit on Mastodon

Adafruit is on Mastodon, join in!

Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.

Have an amazing project to share? The Electronics Show and Tell is every Wednesday at 7pm ET! To join, head over to YouTube and check out the show’s live chat – we’ll post the link there.

Join us every Wednesday night at 8pm ET for Ask an Engineer!

Join over 36,000+ makers on Adafruit’s Discord channels and be part of the community!

CircuitPython – The easiest way to program microcontrollers –

Maker Business — “Packaging” chips in the US

Wearables — Enclosures help fight body humidity in costumes

Electronics — Transformers: More than meets the eye!

Python for Microcontrollers — Python on Microcontrollers Newsletter: Silicon Labs introduces CircuitPython support, and more! #CircuitPython #Python #micropython @ThePSF @Raspberry_Pi

Adafruit IoT Monthly — Guardian Robot, Weather-wise Umbrella Stand, and more!

Microsoft MakeCode — MakeCode Thank You!

EYE on NPI — Maxim’s Himalaya uSLIC Step-Down Power Module #EyeOnNPI @maximintegrated @digikey

New Products – Adafruit Industries – Makers, hackers, artists, designers and engineers! — #NewProds 7/19/23 Feat. Adafruit Matrix Portal S3 CircuitPython Powered Internet Display!

Get the only spam-free daily newsletter about wearables, running a "maker business", electronic tips and more! Subscribe at !

1 Comment

  1. Ok. Let me see if I got this right.

    The guy who left messed up and used wrong capacitors in the design. The director of commodity purchasing was covering his a– and forced the author to keep the flawed design (instead of, say, trying to cancel or resell the parts).

    In the end customers end up paying more for the phone. No wonder BB went under.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.