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Ready for RoHS? Implementing changes needed to meet new environmental requirements is a critical business issue for global manufacturers.

Current and emerging restrictions on hazardous materials in electronic components and systems have raised significant challenges for manufacturers around the world. The End of Life Vehicle (ELV) Directive, aimed at increasing recycling content of vehicles manufactured and sold in the European Union, took effect in July 2003. Elements of the Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive come into force Aug. 13, 2005 (see page 40); its companion initiative, the Restriction on Hazardous Substances (RoHS), is due July 1, 2006. Together, they affect most electronics products sold in the European Union.

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The RoHS Directive restricts the use of certain hazardous substances that pose risks to health and the environment. It specifically addresses the reduction of use and ultimate banning of cadmium, hexavalent chromium, lead, mercury, PBBs (polybrominated biphenyls) and PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers)

Although most large IC manufacturers have RoHS compliance programs in place, many assemblers may not fully understand the scope, implications or possible consequences of these directives. The compliance window is narrowing, however, and proactive design, production and information management strategies must be implemented to facilitate the migration.

Manage from the top. Although this transition has been compared to the adoption of surface-mount technology, the timeline is clearly shorter and the potential bottom-line impact much more critical. The possibility of OEM customers being unable to accept traditional lead-bearing components presents a serious business challenge to manufacturers.

Designing a roadmap that addresses business and supply-chain issues associated with the transition involves the evaluation of procurement, logistical, manufacturing, rework, communication and information technology processes. Since these directives will affect every business that uses electronic components in its product, and may also affect certain products containing glass, plastics and metal, traceability will become a high-profile business issue in a multitude of industries.

Similar to the Y2K IT transition, many established systems and corporate infrastructures will be affected by the migration to RoHS-compliant manufacturing. However, recent surveys indicate that the majority of RoHS-aware personnel are those with operational rather than managerial responsibility.

Another relevant comparison can be made to ISO accreditation, which crosses and integrates functional areas. As with that transition, compliance will be easier to achieve if the process has top management visibility. Ideally, responsibility for organizing a compliance team and implementing the transition roadmap should lie at the senior management level. The compliance team should be interdisciplinary: supply chain/purchasing, risk management, manufacturing, design and IT.

Lisa Leo is director of product management for the Power Components division of Tyco Electronics (tycoelectronics.com); lleo@tycoelectronics.com.
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Title Annotation:Going Green
Author:Leo, Lisa
Publication:Circuits Assembly
Date:Apr 1, 2005
Words:422
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