A Quick Reference on Some Complex Issues

IPC President Denny McGuirk’s August 1 editorial from the IPC Intouch Member Newsletter:

A recent study commissioned by the Small Business Administration found that annual regulatory compliance costs in the United States hit $1.75 trillion in 2008. Multiply that worldwide and the costs of regulation for the electronics industry alone are easily measured in tens of billions of U.S. dollars. To meet the challenge of increasing costs, government regulations and materials restrictions, IPC has become more active in public policy in recent years. Here is a quick summary to get you up to speed on the issues that will be impacting your company this year and how IPC staff and volunteers are addressing the issues.

Conflict Minerals
In the past few years, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have begun to focus on addressing the continued funding of violence and atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo through the illegal mining of tin, gold, and tantalum ores. NGOs such as the Enough Project and Make IT Fair have been working to get consumers to reject electronics made with “conflict minerals,” forcing electronics companies to pay much closer attention to the source of the metals in their products. These efforts have been fairly successful in the United States, resulting in voluntary industry activities as well as legislation included in the U.S. Dodd-Frank Act on financial reform. The SEC intends to finalize implementation rules between August and December 2011. The rules will require publicly traded companies to file annual reports with SEC describing whether certain minerals sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo are from conflict-torn areas controlled by criminal militias and many other details. IPC expects there to be a significant effect on the global supply chain. The State Department recently released an updated map of the conflict areas in the DRC and a conflict minerals strategy which essentially endorses the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) guidance on due diligence.  We continue to aggressively lobby the SEC to implement a phased-in rulemaking that will ease compliance burdens. In May, IPC hired respected law firm WilmerHale to develop a legal brief on the SEC’s statutory authority to implement a phase-in. IPC has held two webinars this year and is planning a conference once the rules are finalized.

RoHS Directive
The revised RoHS Directive was published in the Official EU Journal in June 2011. Thanks to aggressive IPC lobbying, the directive does not include any additional substance restrictions. Further, the revisions do not include a list of substances for priority assessment, which we were concerned could result in a de-facto black list. IPC will continue to oppose restrictions of substances that are not supported by science.

Intellectual Property (IP)
Concern about counterfeit electronics is a growing concern worldwide. At the end of 2010, IPC published “Best Industry Practices for the Intellectual Property Protection (IP) in Printed Board Manufacturing.” We held a free buzz session about the standard at IPC APEX EXPO® and will hold a conference on IP in November. IPC is developing an IP Certification program based on the standard. IPC members who complete the certification will be better positioned to support military and commercial customers. Additionally, a companion best practices standard for EMS providers is in development.

Materials Declaration
Complying with a plethora of environmental regulations is a daunting, overwhelming task. The IPC-175x family of standards are tools to aid in regulatory compliance. The IPC materials declaration standard (IPC-1752A) is being revised to address new regulatory requirements in order to make exchanging information on materials in products more efficient. Additional materials declaration standards for packing materials and batteries are also been under development. IPC-1758 Declaration Requirements for Shipping, Pack and Packing Materials Standard provides guidelines for packing declarations between members of a supply chain. The standard for batteries will help facilitate the gathering and exchanging of information related to compliance and conformance with customer and legal requirements pertaining to battery chemistry, weight and category. These standards will further enable industry to handle the ever growing number of regulations impacting them.

Over the last several months, members of the IPC Government Relations Committee and IPC staff have been meeting with senior members of the Department of Defense (DoD), U.S. Commerce Department and the military branches discussing the importance of PCBs in defense/military systems. And there’s even more. If you want to know more, visit the IPC website and look under Government Relations and Environment, Health and Safety. If you’re glad you’re not involved, IPC will continue to look after your interests. That’s why we’re here.


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