Legislation limiting harmful substances in electronics is spreading worldwide, and manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors of electrical and electronic equipment are feeling the effects.
We now have Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) laws in the European Union, Japan, China, Korea, and California. We have Proposition 65 legislation in California. We have formaldehyde limits on wood products. We also have bisphenol A (BPA), di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), and latex restrictions on medical products.
While assuring compliance with hazardous substance rules and limits is getting harder for the electronics industry, the real game changer has been the EU Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) law.
REACH restricts substances of very high concern (SVHC) in electronics. It doesn't just apply to a finished product; it also applies to the various components in the product. A manufacturer can't be sure if its product complies until it obtains hazardous substance information from its component suppliers. Also, the number of REACH-regulated SVHCs is increasing every six months. There are currently 53 SVHCs, and that number is expected to surpass 120 by the end of 2012.
It is no longer enough to have a component supplier provide a simple hazardous substance compliance statement. A supplier has to submit a new statement every time a new SVHC is added. To avoid having to make repeated requests, and the time delays in getting responses, manufacturers have begun asking suppliers to provide a list of all the ingredients and concentrations in their products (full material declarations). That way when a new SVHC is added, a manufacturer can instantly determine compliance.
The volume of compliance data that needs to be assembled is enormous. It has led manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors to seek software solutions; several organizations have developed tools that track global product rules, request full material declarations from suppliers, and manage supplier and manufacturer data.
A number of industry groups (IPC, GADSL, and JEDEC) have developed standard templates to facilitate data collection and information sharing. Some companies have joined product data sharing consortiums like BOMCheck, IMDS, and Granta/EMIT to make data gathering easier. Some have hired full-service software providers to interface with suppliers and manage supplier product data on their behalf. Popular full-service providers include Foresite/GEMS and SAP AG (NYSE/Frankfurt: SAP).
Hazardous substance legislation is here to stay. The amount of legislation is growing worldwide. A new set of electronic tools have been developed to assist companies in assuring compliance. If you haven't reviewed these new tools yet, it is probably time you did. Tell us what you think.