Back in January, we presented an in-depth overview of certifications. Certifications are necessary and key to any high-quality electronics manufacturing services provider, but alone with certifications comes compliance. Today, we are going to delve deeper into one specific, albeit very important compliance component: RoHS – Restriction of Hazardous Substances.
Being RoHS compliant means your product meets the restrictions on ten hazardous materials such as lead, mercury, and cadmium. Fines and penalties are levied against the manufacturers of products that are not RoHS certified. If you want to market or sell your product in California or the European Union, for example, it’s to your benefit to ensure you are RoHS compliant.
Whose Job is It to be ROHS Compliant?
Most manufacturers rely on many different constituents and vendors. This means limiting RoHS compliance to one source can be tricky. The original equipment manufacturers (OEM) should be responsible for keeping track of changing requirements. The responsibility of ensuring compliance for the manufacturer means going back through the supply chain as far back as the raw materials providers to obtain the materials declarations and certificates of compliance that are needed. This is already a complicated, time-consuming project but to make matters worse, there are often different restrictions per region – so what may be acceptable in some countries or states are not acceptable in others. Keeping on top of this constantly evolving list of requirements can be a daunting task.
Because of this OEMs often rely on their supply chain partners – specifically distribution – to keep abreast of and communicate regulations that affect their customers. This can often backfire however, as distributors are not required to assure compliance.
The Potential Cost of RoHS
In 2006, the RoHS directive rolled out restrictions around the use of the following substances:
- Hexavalent chromium
- Polybrominated biphenyls
- Polybrominated diphenyl ether
This caused a complete upheaval in manufacturing. Companies had to rework processes that had been in practice for decades, or in some cases invent new processes, in order to become compliant. After a decade, most manufacturers have learned to adapt to and even prepare for new requirements. Additionally, the new restrictions have forced companies to adopt more modern practices which can ultimately become more efficient as technology progresses.
RoHS compliance can still be painstaking and costly – especially when you consider that the military and aerospace industries continue to struggle with the EU’s restriction on hazardous substances including certifying all components of a product are lead-free. No fully reliable replacement for lead-based solder has yet been delevoped. With acceptable alternatives cracking under temperature fluctuations, some companies resort to being out of compliance or making use of leaded components. The ramifications of this, however, are excessively more dangerous and costly.
Though complying with RoHS is still considered to be painstaking and expensive, understanding the costs of compliance as part of a long-term strategy is essential to making it work to your advantage.
Steps to Ensure RoHS
Although RoHS continues to become more complex as new environmental concerns are identified, it’s relatively easy and inexpensive to receive certification, ensuring you are compliant. Most contract manufacturers will take care of the requirements for you. If they don’t, there are independent RoHS consultants who will oversee all the components of your product get tested against RoHS guidelines and are documented, ensuring compliance. Another option is sending your product to a RoHS lab, although that can add up to two weeks to your production schedule.
One aspect to keeping RoHS compliant is to thoroughly analyze the bill of materials (BOM). Meticulously reviewing every item listed in the BOM is correct, authentic, and available can help avoid unexpected surprises later. It allows you to determine in advance where you may be out of compliance and create a contingency plan – for example, recognizing where you may run into compliance challenges early gives you an opportunity to update your design.
Additionally, any reputable manufacturer – especially full-service OEMs – must stay on top of RoHS regulations to remain competitive in the industry. ACDi consistently works towards staying ahead of the policies and investing in research to determine the most efficient and reliable ways to provide compliant manufacturing for every industry we serve. Contact us to see how we can help you meet your RoHS goals.