Software Tools Required for Global Product Rules

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 {complink 4784|SAP AG}.

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.

11 comments on “Software Tools Required for Global Product Rules

  1. Daniel
    November 4, 2011

    Ken, I think most of the companies may accept your idea for a new electronic tool for monitoring. Under RoHS, there are different sets of rules in different countries. So there should be uniformity among all the countries and can be followed by using a new tool. I think IT peoples can cater such requirements.

  2. prabhakar_deosthali
    November 4, 2011

    It looks like the Global ERP companies like SAP, Oracle and likes should make these tools part of their ERP offering and have a semless integration if the compliance check with the supply chain related modules such as the Purchase orders, incomng inspection reports or vendor self certification.

    The ERP systems should be able to insert the applicable Compliance clauses into the purchase orders based on the component being ordered  and the country of origin and the inspection systems should automatically check whether the required complaince reports have been submitted by the supplier along with the material delivery challans.

    Such implementation will remove oversight and human error and avoid litigations and punitive actions because of human oversight.


  3. kmanchen
    November 4, 2011

    Jacob, thanks for your comments! The thing I am impressed by with the electronic tools is they maintain up-to-date regulated substance lists for different countries. Once they know the ingredients in your products they can compare what is in your products to the various lists and identify product compliance issues for you in each country. If a country adds a new regulated substance, you know instantly which of your products is impacted.

  4. kmanchen
    November 4, 2011

    Prabhaker, thanks for your comments. You make a good point! These new electronic tools are able to integrate bill of material (BOM) information, track product by product compliance (if desired), and attach manufacturer/supplier certifications. Especially helpful with the advent of conflict mineral due diligence rules. Your point about inserting compliance clauses into purchase orders is also a good one. No reason that can't be done. Some companies are having their suppliers sign compliance agreements. They use their electronic tools to request and maintain the signed agreements.  

  5. Anand
    November 6, 2011

    That way when a new SVHC is added, a manufacturer can instantly determine compliance.

    @Kenn thanks for the post. Its really inspiring to know that REACH law will help us to reduce SVHC. But what if a manufacturer fails to impement it ? What punishment that manufacturer will receive?

  6. kmanchen
    November 6, 2011

    Good question. The EU REACH law applies to both EU manufacturers and EU importers. Both face EU punishment if they don't register SVHC containing products, or comply with notification or SVHC ban provisions. The EU recently amended the REACH law to make enforcement easier. Manufacturers will soon have to put a CE mark on REACH compliant products. It will make it easier to prosecute EU REACH violators as they will also be violating EU CE mark provisions. Multinational companies are also proving quite effective in forcing EU REACH compliance. More and more multinational companies are insisting  their non-EU suppliers provide REACH compliant products.

  7. jacky7
    November 7, 2011

    The MRPRO solution used for conflict minerals reporting and also for RoHS and REACH compliance allows for information exchange effieciently using social media…

    You really should check into this laest social media based tool..

  8. kmanchen
    November 8, 2011

    Jacky – Thanks for sharing this information. MRPRO  is a social media tool I was not familiar with. It does appear to be a unique way to request and collect product data via social media. Lots of tools now available. All spurred on by growing global product rules.

  9. itguyphil
    November 26, 2011

    Environmental concern is a little much aware among customers. SVHC can be reduced not only by passing strict laws but by also putting a recycling practice by the organisations.

  10. kmanchen
    November 28, 2011

    I agree. Hazardous substance (product content) regulations are having a good effect. They are forcing electronics companies to identify the hazardous substances in their products and to properly reuse/recycle scrap products containing these substances. Suppliers must be knowledgeable when selling products globally. Hazardous substance regulations are providing incentives to companies to better manage hazardous substances.

  11. electronics862
    November 29, 2011

    It is a very efficient way of controlling the hazardous element levels and maintain the system qualtiy within merit of standards. I will say we need more laws over the world in implementing RoHS. 

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