As researchers discover more negative impacts of the chemicals used in the manufacturing, usage and disposal of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) on the health and safety of our planet and its inhabitants, regulatory bodies implement restrictions and requirements intended to help protect us. Given the dynamic and complex nature of the restricted substance regulatory landscape, companies have questions about navigating compliance. Keep reading to discover UL Solutions experts’ answers.
What are some of the main regulations that may apply to me as an EEE manufacturer?
Because regulations and compliance requirements for restricted substances vary for different global markets, you must determine where you want to sell your products to identify which requirements apply to you. Regulations applicable in major EEE markets include the following:
- The European Union Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (EU RoHS) restricts the use of lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, polybrominated biphenyls and phthalates at certain concentrations in homogenous materials comprising electrical and electronic products, including toys and medical, communications, information technology and telecommunication equipment.
- The EU Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation requires substances of very high concern (SVHCs) in articles above a 0.1% weight-by-weight (w/w) threshold to be registered in the SCIP database. This database contains information on Substances of Concern In articles as such or in complex objects (Products) established under the Waste Framework Directive (WFD).
- California Proposition 65 (Prop 65), also known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Substances Act of 1986, requires businesses to warn Californians about significant exposures to chemicals that have been shown to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. It also requires California to publish and annually update the list of these chemicals. Prop 65 applies to all consumer products; therefore, manufacturers selling into the U.S. market must comply with Prop 65.
- Administrative Measures for the Restriction of the Use of Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Products (China RoHS) restricts certain substance concentrations for homogenous materials in a product to published concentration limits. Companies selling in the Chinese market must adhere to China RoHS.
- The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive pertains to the end of a product’s life cycle. Companies must register with the appropriate authorities; declare quantities and weights of EEE they place in the market; manage recycling marking on their products; and organize, finance and report the takeback and recycling of equivalent old EEE products. Manufacturers selling in EU markets must consider WEEE.
How can manufacturers stay on top of the constantly evolving restricted substance regulations?
Staying informed of regulatory changes requires a proactive and persistent approach. Subscribing to and reading regulatory bodies’ newsletters, monitoring their websites, and attending relevant conferences and webinars can help.
When you become aware of changes to regulations, evaluate your current compliance processes through internal audits and address any gaps you identify.
Companies often benefit from third-party support to stay on top of regulatory updates and compliance. UL Solutions offers services and software to help you navigate compliance with restricted substance regulations. Our restricted substance compliance software provides concise summaries of global regulatory requirements, authored and frequently updated by our global regulatory specialists, whose primary responsibility is monitoring and reporting on their local regulations.
If a company hasn’t experienced compliance problems such as delayed shipments or fines, why is it important to invest time, money and resources in restricted substance compliance efforts?
Issues can arise when you least expect them. Regulatory and governing bodies are increasing regulations and compliance requirements, and supply chains are always changing and evolving. Although you may be tempted to let efforts lapse until your product is stopped at a border or you receive a notice of violation, a proactive approach to compliance efforts helps mitigate risks of fines, shipping delays, product recalls, introduction of contamination into your supply chain and damage to your brand reputation.
What are the limitations of traditional methods for collecting supplier data?
When you use more traditional methods of collecting supplier data, such as email and spreadsheets, your company’s compliance information may be localized to one employee’s email account, computer hard drive or password-protected folder. This makes it challenging for colleagues to access the information if there is a staffing change or if the information holder is on vacation or works in a different region of the world and time zone than the person who needs the information.
Traditional methods also require considerable manual upkeep, including searching through emails, digital documents, and even faxes and other printed documents, and manually updating information in multiple places. Because the information is decentralized, it can be difficult to tell from a glance who hasn’t responded or provided complete information.
As an alternative to traditional compliance management methods, UL Solutions’ restricted substance compliance software helps streamline, modernize and optimize your compliance efforts. Our software provides companies with a centralized, holistic repository for information so your employees can access the information they need in one place. Your suppliers can log in and provide their restricted substance data to reduce the time you spend organizing and updating supplier information. From a quick look at your dashboard, you can see which suppliers have and have not responded to your data requests. You can also assess components against regulations as well as create and distribute compliance documents and bills of materials (BOMs) for finished products.
How can I effectively engage my suppliers and obtain accurate data for restricted substance regulatory compliance?
Building strong relationships and consistent, open communication with your suppliers can increase the likelihood that suppliers will respond to your request for restricted substance data. Rather than asking for required data in less personal ways, such as sending an email or including the request when you fax in your orders, consider calling your supplier and talking through the request with them. Not only does this help build a connection with your supplier, but it also provides the opportunity to address the supplier’s questions as well as your own right then during the conversation and resolve any issues more quickly. Offering guidance and education to your suppliers also increases the likelihood that you will receive the information you need from them. Smaller suppliers may not have heard of various regulations and may not know the requirements for incorporating their component product into an electrical or electronic product for sale in your target markets. Giving them a high-level overview of the requirements and the reason for your request for information will improve the likelihood of their response and the quality of the data they provide.
UL Solutions also offers software and services to help enhance supplier education and engagement. In addition to our training and advisory services, companies can use our software to efficiently populate and send restricted substance compliance surveys.
As you work to improve supplier engagement, keep in mind that the information you request from your suppliers can take time to gather from various internal and external sources. Setting and communicating reasonable expectations with your suppliers can go a long way toward strengthening relationships.
What are the biggest hurdles companies must overcome to gather accurate component data from their supply chains?
Companies’ toughest challenges include receiving incomplete or inaccurate data or no response at all after requesting suppliers’ restricted substance data. These insufficiencies usually stem from the following issues:
- Regulatory knowledge gaps – Suppliers — especially smaller suppliers — may have gaps in their knowledge base of regulatory requirements, which may result in their ignoring your request. Providing your suppliers with a high-level overview of the regulations, their requirements and the reason for your request can help educate your suppliers about your expectations so they can provide the information you need.
- Lack of transparency or traceability farther upstream – Suppliers may be just starting out on their own compliance journey, or they may have limited insight into the sourcing of raw materials for their components.
- Supplier fatigue – Suppliers frequently receive requests for information from many different sources through email, phone calls and faxes. They also receive abundant internal requests. Suppliers may not respond promptly if your request is buried in a deep pile of other requests.
- Supplier human resources issues – Your contact person may be filling many roles in their organization. When suppliers are stretched too thin, they may have trouble keeping up with restricted substance regulatory compliance data requests.
Our restricted substance compliance software can help ease suppliers’ fatigue and overburdened resources by more efficiently gathering insights into regulatory compliance requirements so they can respond to your requests for compliance data.
How can implementing a compliance management system help a company manage its supply chain, mitigate risk and save costs?
Implementing a compliance management system can offer deeper insights into your supply chain’s restricted substance regulatory compliance and responsiveness to requests for compliance data and improve efficiencies for your company, which can help you save costs, mitigate risks associated with noncompliance and optimize your supply chain. You can leverage a compliance management system to efficiently gain insights to help you make informed buying decisions and optimize your supply chain.
At UL Solutions, we offer a robust suite of compliance management software that can help you comply with regulatory requirements, optimize supply chain transparency and manage product stewardship from development to disposal.
We also have a dedicated team of more than 70 global regulatory experts who can support your restricted substance data management and compliance needs with advisory, training, testing and certification services. Contact us to learn more.
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We also have a dedicated team of more than 70 global regulatory experts who can support your restricted substance data management and compliance needs with advisory, training, testing and certification services.