Think about disposal during design

07 September 2006

WEEE legislation means that product recycling needs to be considered during design. S2S Electronics has a strategy to help its customers do just that.

Environmental legislation in the electronics sector such as WEEE and EUP Directives mean companies should consider the environmental impact of their product. S2S Electronics has put together a team of engineers offering Mechanical design, Electronic design and Sustainable design solutions. S2S refer to this as the MES Solution, and it means, given a concept, S2S is able to offer a sustainable design solution to market, working closely with the client to get it right first time. A new approach but one that S2S feel will give OEMs a competitive edge in the market place where environmental credentials are a key purchasing decision.

S2S Electronics has always tried to look at environmental legislation as an opportunity (as opposed to a threat to the business) and an example of this was the formation of a sister company RID UK Ltd some 4 years ago. The thought process being, who better to offer advice and undertake disassembly of electrical/electronic products than a company who designs and makes them? RID UK Ltd set out initially to offer advice on the WEEE directive along with simple recycling solutions to assist OEM's to meet their WEEE obligations. The core service is based around offering collection containers to obligated producers who use these to store end of life electrical/electronic equipment if and when it is returned to them by their customers. The containers range from 25kg boxes to 500kg bins with larger containers available for larger volumes of waste. Once the containers are full RID exchange them for empty containers and recycle the bin contents and provide all the paperwork and audit trails that the customers require to demonstrate compliance.

The service is used by many of the existing S2S customer base along with many other OEM's in the UK. Since it's formation RID UK Ltd has been heavily involved with the Envirowise seminar programme on WEEE and RoHS awareness in the UK and has presented at all the events in the past 3 years to over 3000 delegates. RID UK services now extend to WEEE consultation, WEEE recycling, Computer/Telecoms recycling, Control Gear/Variable Speed Drive recycling and additional services such as RoHS screening, site de installation of UPS systems and Motor control systems and battery and Capacitor recycling. Advice on design for disassembly is also part of the offering with S2S and RID combining to look at the issue from the design/manufacturing end as well as the end of life perspective. RID UK Ltd complements its sister company but offer services to a wider customer base.

In response to the RoHS Directive, S2S has found that many clients consider themselves outside the scope of the directive. As a result S2S have decided to offer both leaded and unleaded solutions to clients. This has meant running two separate production lines which also ensures no risk of solder pot contamination. Like most CEMs, the sourcing of components has proved the most difficult issue in achieving RoHS compliance for clients and S2S continues to address this with its component supplier partners to ensure RoHS compliance even after 1st July 2006. However, where fully compliant Bills of Material are available, S2S has provided RoHS compliant circuit boards and this is supported by a conformance certificate for the disassembly and a 'compliance file' containing all component certificates.

S2S also made a decision that to further support clients it would randomly test components for RoHS compliance, and test results are also kept in the compliance file to help clients with their own 'due diligence' responsibilities.

S2S Electronics has maintained a BSI accredited quality and environmental management system for a number of years and this has recently been complemented by a commitment to train its employees to IPC standard. This emphasis on quality and the environment is reflected in all the key areas of the business from design through to manufacture and test.

This has helped S2S Electronics develop a loyal customer base in addition to attracting new customers from a diverse range of industries such as Security, Transportation, Medical, Photographic Development and Motor Control.

In fact, as a result of the closure of a Textile Machine Manufacturer in 2002, S2S Electronics has also become a key player in the supply chain to the Textile Manufacturing industry in the Far East. S2S Electronics has remained a PCB design and manufacturing partner of the company set up in China to make the textile machines. By operating to a flexible call off schedule, the ever increasing production demands in China are accommodated at all times.

Irrespective of the trend in the Electronics Industry, S2S is convinced there will always be a need for medium volume electronic subcontractors in the UK. Customer demands do not always remain consistent. A local contractor with flexibility to adapt to this demand will always offer an advantage over offshore supply which is not as easy to switch on and off.

Differentiation between CEM contractors is never easy and levels of quality in manufacture can be comparable. Therefore the decision on who to use may come down to the levels of service.

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