Future of 'Substances and Materials in Products' Data Exchange Formats as Standards

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To support regulations on hazardous substances in materials and products—such as the automotive EU end-of-life vehicle (ELV) directive, the Electronics and Electrical Equipment Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) regulations, and the EU Registration Evaluation Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulation—industry sectors have defined and deployed various data exchange standards and cloud-based supplier portals to ease data collection in the supply chains and reduce burden in particular for small and medium enterprises (SME).

In particular, the electronics/electrical sector has developed the IPC-1752 standard offering an XML data exchange format to support the EU RoHS. The automotive sector has put in place two major tools: the International Material Data System (IMDS) used by most of the car manufacturers and their suppliers globally, and the China Automotive Material Data System (CAMDS). The International Electrotechnical Committee (IEC) under TC111 responsibility has defined the IEC 62474 standard as a child of several existing standards, including IPC-1752. Aerospace and defense with the heavy equipment industries have developed the new IPC-1754 standard in the IPC-175x series to support their specific requirements in particular to include process chemicals and declaration against any industry substance lists.

Industry sectors now seem ready to work on convergence to a unique material declaration standard covering data exchange for the above regulations for all product sectors. The 'European Proactive Alliance' was launched in March/May 2018; it is an initiative to establish such a unique data exchange standard for reporting 'Substances in Articles.' The IEC 62474, IPC-1752A and IPC-1754 standards (or a harmonized IPC-175x series) are the candidates for this journey.

This article presents the set of requirements that the standard(s) would have to support in the coming years to become the global one for a large set of sectors, including automotive, chemicals, furniture, childcare products, electrical and electronic, mechanical, metalworking and metal articles, home textiles, textiles and sporting goods as well as medical devices. Several options are presented and would have to be discussed with all the stakeholders in the coming months and years.

There are multiple purposes for this article: (1) socializing and promoting use of data exchange standards in all sectors at any level of the supply chain for a more accurate reporting of hazardous substances and materials in products for a better world, (2) identifying existing issues and coming challenges and proposing possible solutions to fix them for more effective reporting, and (3) proposing a long term perspective and plan to align all the stakeholders, including the legal authorities for providing to business an efficient reporting system.

Such a plan includes a new governance model that is more global and less North American-centric; a process-based approach to specify all support activities for related pieces of the standards, such as XML schemas and guidance documents; a harmonization of the IPC-175x standards series; and an enhanced development process inspired by ISO and IEC best practices. Another condition of success would also be to continue convergence between the IPC-175x and the IEC 62474 standard selected by many global companies and Japan. This is a new challenge that the IPC organization and the IPC-175x committees will have to meet in the medium term.

This article has been written to address a large industry audience per its purposes. First, it is an educational article that provides any business representative with a simplified, state-of-the-art description of the data exchange formats for standards covering substances and materials reporting in products and processes. It also includes a review of existing issues and new challenges shared with end users of the standards and companies represented by their trade associations with some solution proposals they could discuss. Finally, it proposes to prioritize the required changes to the standards with a long-term perspective for all stakeholders (standards development organizations and their committees, legal authorities in charge of regulatory lists and their data) to review, discuss, share, and include them or not in their strategic business plans.

Introduction: Product Environmental Regulations

For some years, environmental and social concerns are more intensively present in the media due to emotional impacts on people and more and more scandals with hazardous and very high concern chemical substances in our day-to-day products. Here is some negative news:

• Too many hazardous substances in consumer goods and industrial articles that cause diseases, such as biphenyl A in plastic containers, including baby bottles

• More and more material resources consumed for goods due to our consumption way of life; some critical material resources become rare in the Earth and have started to generate hard competition between some countries for high technology products, including renewable energy equipment and mobile phones with their lithium batteries

• More and more emissions of toxic substances in the air, ground, and water with a huge impact on humans, animals, and nature

• Too much produced waste due to this way of life and not enough recycled materials used by industries, single-use plastic products that pollute fields and oceans with significant effects on nature

Citizens are increasingly sensitive to these topics and their impacts on human health, particularly for their children; then media shows on the first page of their papers or webpages when new information comes along on proof of evidence about hazardous substances. Nongovernmental organizations (NGO) are also strongly involved in this topic with lobbying for the substances from the SIN (substitute it now!) list recognized as Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC) restricted in Europe.

To read the full article, which appeared in the September 2019 issue of PCB007 Magazine, click here.


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