RoHS | October 01, 2007

RoHS parts numbering could<br>endanger your mental health

There have always been tradeoffs when devising an effective internal numbering system for electronic parts; hazardous substance restrictions make things even more difficult. Some clients have reached wits' end over part numbering challenges created by the European Union's Restrictions of Hazardous Substance (RoHS) Directive and similar regulations.
Some OEMs are trying to solve the problem by bringing all products to the highest level of environmental requirements as soon as possible, and keeping parts numbers the same. That's easier said than done. Others are adding a suffix to each part number, such as 001 or 002, to indicate EU RoHS compliance level. But sales staffs often resist customer-facing part-number changes, and what about RoHS requirements from elsewhere?

RoHS is evolving with significant regional variations. From the narrow perspective of part numbering, we'd all be better off with one globally consistent standard, but no one expects that anytime soon.

The restrictions won't end with the six substances covered by the EU RoHS Directive, which took effect July 1, 2006. Norway, for example, has proposed a regulation aimed at consumer products that would restrict 18 substances. Europe's new Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals Regulation (REACH) may end up restricting a dozen or more substances per year starting as soon as 2010.

With the varied restrictions, suppliers either will need to target product designs for specific locales, or target parts that can be used globally - and identify those with an issue. Most OEMs won't want to target product designs for specific locales so flagging issues with a part may prove to be the best approach.

This could be accomplished by flagging at the internal part number (IPN) level. The flag will need several values. OEMs will need to determine what the values are for different BOM levels (component parts vs. finished goods, for instance) then incorporate those into business processes (part selection, etc.).

It is not clear that any PDM or PLM software vendors have fully grasped the data management complexities of this or whether their tools are capable of doing what will need to be done.

Unfortunately we're dealing with a moving target. What conventional wisdom accepts today as the best practice may not be best in the long run. How best to deal with this matter at any level, part through finished product, is still a big To Be Decided. What has worked for you?

Posted by Michael Kirschner,TFI Environment

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