Automotive lessons aid WEEE/RoHS
Malcolm Fox, AJ Guikema, Chris Harden and Will Martin of MDSMap contend that electronics companies can learn from the automotive industry's experience in implementing the WEEE and RoHS Directives.
As the electronics sector experiences the first implications of the WEEE and RoHS Directives with the institution of substance-use restrictions later this year, it is useful to reflect on the lessons learned from the automotive industry's response to the ELV Directive What follows frames the major organisational challenges likely to be faced and suggests some means to minimise what may cost the electronics industry hundreds of millions of dollars
The ideas presented are the result of our work since the institution of the ELV Directive with hundreds of affected entities - automakers, suppliers, material manufacturers, government bodies and trade bodies.
The European Union's ELV Directive came into force in 2000.
Its first major hurdle, compliance with the heavy metal restrictions, began in July 2003 and together with recyclability and recovery aspects of the legislation triggered a massive data-gathering effort throughout the global supply chain.
The scale of effort is enormous: an estimated 50,000 parts per vehicle, hundreds of models, thousands of materials and chemicals in use - all of which is highly dynamic as parts and vehicles change.
Primary among the ELV's challenges is the difficulty most companies have in assigning responsibility within their organisation for ELV compliance.
In fact, producer responsibility involves a team often including sales, purchasing, IT, design, engineering, materials, quality, environmental and others.
Most companies place limited responsibility on a single department unsupported by others or assign the programme to the wrong department altogether.
Companies where management clearly delegates responsibility, authority and resources are the most successful - many indeed turning their performance into a competitive advantage.
Companies with foresight quickly place the ELV data collection mandate within their quality management system, recognising it as simply another element of the parts approval process and allowing it to be supported by the entire organisation.
The automakers' ELV Directive compliance approach is generating what is probably the world's largest ever product-components-materials-chemicals dataset - an attempt to describe the physical and chemical composition of much of the world's automotive products.
This massive collection and distribution e