Lora Bentley spoke with Chuck Cimalore, CTO at Omnify Software, a product life cycle management solution provider.
Bentley: Why is there so much confusion among OEMs concerning the European Union's Restriction of Hazardous Substances directive?
Cimalore: Much of the confusion comes from the ambiguity and lack of guidance from the directives. The regulations are constantly changing and many of the guidelines leave it up to the manufacturer to determine proper "due diligence." The best avenue OEMs can take to correctly interpret the directives is with their corporate legal team.
Another big misunderstanding is with exemptions. The RoHS directive deems products from specific industries, such as military and medical, exempt until further notice. The directives are continually being updated and there is a possibility that all exemptions could be removed. These "exempt" manufacturers need to determine if they are going to begin compliance initiatives now and risk possible non-compliance penalties or wait until further notice.
Bentley: How does PLM help the compliance effort?
Cimalore: The key components required to achieve product compliance include obtaining all appropriate information (such as material composition) on every component in a product, storing component information and appropriate validation documentation in a central location, and the ability to easily report compliance information.
PLM provides manufacturers with a single system to store compliance data and documentation related to the products they manufacture as well as products or components that they purchase from suppliers. Since the entire product structure (Bill of Materials) is managed in the PLM system, manufacturers can generate compliance reports at any level of the product structure. In addition, PLM systems manage information early on during the product development cycle. This gives manufacturers the ability to identify and correct compliance issues early on in engineering as opposed to capturing issues later during the manufacturing phase (which tends to be more costly and results in larger delays in product shipment).
Bentley: Why isn't PLM enough, and how can that deficiency be remedied?
Cimalore: PLM systems provide the ability to store and report necessary compliance information; however another compliance challenge for manufacturers is obtaining the compliance information on material or components that are used in their products that are supplied by other manufacturers. Expensive product analysis procedures and lack of data formatting standards can delay the data collection process for manufacturers. There are a number of data content providers that manufactures can leverage to help them obtain all appropriate compliance information. Manufacturers can leverage content providers to significantly reduce the legwork of obtaining information from various suppliers with the added benefit of having data in a consistent format. In addition, most PLM systems provide customers with the ability to easily import the information from those content providers to eliminate any "hand-entry" of compliance data.