In order to keep a global manufacturing business going strong these days, it's imperative to meet the growing number of "green" regulations that are focused on sustainability. From the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive to the United States Conflict Minerals Directive as well as the European Union (EU) directives of Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) and Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), manufacturers must comply with a multitude of regulations that can have a major impact on their business processes and success.
The financial and technological requirements of these Directives alter the entire business strategy for electronic manufacturers. Going green and transitioning to a compliant organization requires investments of people, time and resources. The impact on manufacturers is massive and non-compliance can cost organizations millions of dollars.
The RoHS directive, effective July 2006, applies to electrical and electronic products, and their component parts. This law requires the virtual elimination of certain heavy metals and halogens from electronic equipment which include: Lead (Pb), Cadmium (Cd), Mercury (Hg), Hexavalent chromium (Hex-Cr), Polybrominated biphenyls (PBB), and Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE). RoHS 2, also known at RoHS Recast, came into effect in 2013. This directive introduces new CE marking and declaration of conformity requirements and also extends to all electrical and electronic equipment (EEE), including medical devices, monitoring and control instruments, and EEE products not covered under the previous RoHS categories.
The WEEE Directive, effective August 2005, aims to raise the level of recycling of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) and encourages designers to create products with recycling in mind. RoHS supports this by reducing the amount of hazardous chemicals used in production. REACH entered into force on June 1, 2007. REACH makes companies responsible for assessing and managing the risks posed by chemicals and providing appropriate safety information to their users. To comply with the regulation, companies must identify and manage the risks linked to the substances they manufacture and market in the EU.
The Conflict Minerals disclosure requirements were more recently implemented in the United States with a pending regulation in the EU. This regulation requires certain (public) companies to disclose their use of conflict minerals (tantalum, tin, gold or tungsten) that originated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) or an adjoining country if those minerals are necessary to the functionality or production of a product manufactured by those companies.
All of these regulations not only have the environment in common, they all require exceptional data and documentation management. Environmental regulations will continue to evolve as various countries initiate their own directives and existing regulations are revised. It is extremely important that manufacturers implement systems and processes that can adapt to this environmental movement.