REACH Services

REACH – The Impact on Obsolescence

Despite the REACH Regulation coming into force on 1st June 2007, CMCA(UK) has found that much of industry outside of the chemicals business is not fully aware of what it represents and what its implications are. Recent client forums and engaging with the Chamber of Commerce have led us to believe that the legislation could be a ‘ticking time bomb’ for industry as manufacturers and support agencies are yet to understand what REACH will mean to them. Importantly, it does not just affect the chemicals industry. CMCA(UK) has developed a REACH  monitoring service as part of our expanding portfolio of tools that are designed to help in identifying and mitigating the effects of obsolescence, especially obsolescence that may be driven by REACH legislation.

The purpose of REACH is in its name:

Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of CHemicals

Whilst we believe that it is the Authorisation and Restriction elements that will become key to CMCA(UK) and our customers, it is important to understand the purpose of Registration and Evaluation. As a Regulation rather than a Directive, REACH applies directly across all EU Member States as well as Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. It is incumbent upon all manufacturers and importers of substances and mixtures within the EEA of >1 tonne per annum to register these with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) for evaluation. Where manufacturers or importers are registering the same substance, they are expected to take part in a Substance Information Exchange Forum to be a platform for joint registration. ECHA then evaluate the dossiers and decide whether the substance should go onto their Candidate List for Authorisation.

There has been a phased approach to this registration begun in June 2008, which is due to be completed in May 2018. As of 24th January 2014, 12276 substances have been registered, 151 of which are on the Candidate List, 22 on the Authorisation List and 105 on the Restricted List. It has been estimated that there are in excess of 60,000 substances that will require registration.

The Candidate List

Substances that may have serious and often irreversible effects on human health and the environment are identified as Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs).

If a substance is identified as an SVHC, it will be added to the Candidate List for eventual inclusion in the Authorisation List.

Whilst these are still able to be manufactured or imported, they carry downstream implications for manufacturers of ‘Articles’ that contain them.

This list is updated every June and December and ECHA expect there to be hundreds of SVHCs on the list at the end of the registration process.

The Authorisation List

This list contains SVHCs that have been deemed too hazardous for use and in effect is a banned list.

The authorisation is given to manufacturers or importers where they can demonstrate that for a particular application or use, there is no viable alternative or that the benefits of using it far outway the negative impact on health or the environment.

The authorisation process has been made deliberately onerous and costly to deter the manufacturers and importers going down that route.

Substances on the Authorisation List are not immediately banned, but are given a ‘Sunset’ date.

The Restrictions List

This list contains substances that are not SVHCs but are restricted from use in certain applications. A good example of this is Nickel, which whilst being widely used, is prohibited from use in articles intended to come into prolonged and direct contact with the skin such as jewellery and watches.

REACH describes items/components that are manufactured and supplied as ‘Articles’. This could be anything as simple as a Wire Link or ‘O’ Ring through to complex Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) items and so on. The impact on articles is two-fold:

  • The obsolescence/supportability risks as manufacturers are no longer being able to use SVHCs that are on the Authorisation List or they choose to cease using them.
  • The obligation on manufacturers and suppliers of articles to inform recipients if the article contains an SVHC that with a content of >0.1% wt/wt.

The Obsolescence Risk

Historically original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and Contract Electronics Manufacturer (CEMs) have typically tailored their obsolescence strategies towards critical electronic components or bespoke manufactured items. Component obsolescence has been driven by a number of factors such as rapid changes in technology, the defence industry now being such a small percentage of a component manufacturer’s market or simple low demand. As the Candidate Lists grows ever bigger, CMCA(UK) envisage this will have a major impact on not only electronic components, but on all the component parts of manufactured items. A BoM could eventually contain adhesives, sealants, mouldings, washers, varnishes etc that are obsolete due to REACH and also the bare PCB itself and its Conformal Coating.  What was once easy to mitigate will no longer be the case, for example, the RoHS Directive led to the majority of component manufacturers discontinuing their use of SnPb solder alloys in favour of Pure Sn or SnAg alloys. However, for the vast majority of CEMs/OEMs this only led to them having to change the part number that was being used and a change to soldering process rather than a costly re-design being required. The impact of REACH could be more severe than RoHS as manufacturers decide that it is not cost effective to mitigate for a substance that they have historically used that is now an SVHC, (especially if it is on the Authorisation List). Many substances used in the manufacture of components have already been identified as SVHCs and the list is only going to grow ever larger.

The potential impact on cabling and wiring is also an issue for consideration. Phthalates are commonly used as plasticizers being efficient processing aids, improving PVC melt viscosity and increasing production speeds. They are also blended with other substances for flame retardant applications. There are already four types of Phthalate on the Authorisation List.

The SVHC Obligation under Article 33 of the REACH Regulation

If, for example, a component manufacturer supplies a component to a CEM for a PCB, they are required to inform them whether it contains an SVHC with a content of >0.1% wt/wt. Once the CEM has built the PCB, they are required to inform the recipient, such as an OEM, if there are any SVHCs present in the entire PCB with an individual content of >0.1% wt/wt. If the OEM then fits the PCB to an assembly, likewise they are then required to inform the recipient of the entire assembly if there is an SVHC present in the assembly with a content of >0.1% wt/wt – and so it continues. It’s worth noting that whilst the EU as a whole considers a finished assembly to be an article to be declared against, six countries including France and Germany believe that the OEM should provide declarations for all the component articles within the finished assembly.

In addition to this, manufacturers or importers of articles have to notify ECHA if an SVHC is present in the articles of >0.1% wt/wt and the quantity of said substance is >1 tonne per year. There are a number of exemptions to this such as whether they are able to exclude exposure of the substance to the environment under normal conditions of use and disposal.

CMCA(UK) are now working with Prime Defence and Aerospace Contractors to manage their BOMs for REACH, where in conjunction with standard component monitoring, REACH BoM sweeps will be undertaken and data will be gathered on the full Materials Declaration for the given components. This will enable us to build a complete REACH picture for any given sub-assembly in a hierarchical structure that can then be monitored as the Candidate List is updated and as the composition of the components themselves is changed.