Part One – What, Why, How?
What is it, in the world of electronics?
Regulatory Compliance can mean a lot of things in different industries, but for the Industrial Computing industry it signifies meeting the safety and environmental legal requirements in force for the region the equipment will be used in. Requirements for each region may vary by the type of product, and even by particular specifications of a product, such as size and power consumption. End application of a product also determines what scope of standards and regulations apply.
Most products will be in scope of some or all of the requirements set out for the following categories:
- Product Safety
- Electromagnetic Compatibility
- Energy Efficiency
- Materials Compliance
- Disposal of Electronic Waste
- Battery Management
Standards can be issued on an international level, regional level, or national level. Most regional standards are based on international standards such as IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission), with possible regional deviations.
Attention should also be given to product labelling. Regional legislation often includes requirements for marking a product with applicable regulatory icons, power consumption information, hazardous warnings, and manufacturer contact information, on either or both the product and the packaging.
In addition to meeting standards that your product is in scope of, many regions have local platforms that require supplier registration, product registration, and, of course fees.
Why is Regulatory Compliance important?
1. Safety of the Operator and Public
National and regional standards for safety and electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) are put into place to ensure equipment is not only safe for the operator, but also for the public.
Safety standards center around potential dangers associated with electronics, including equipment voltage, operating temperature, mechanics, materials safety, and instructional guidance. Generally, safety, or “low voltage”, legislation regulates electronics operating between 50-1,000 volts AC and 75-1,500 volts DC.
EMC testing ensures that equipment can be used in proximity to other electronic devices without causing undue interference. With the growing number of electronics in use, many nations are developing EMC regulations for the first time. The two aspects of EMC are:
- Emissions – The generation of electromagnetic energy produced by a device;
- Immunity – The level of susceptibility of a device to another device’s electromagnetic energy
Electromagnetic interference can cause electronics to malfunction or stop working altogether.
2. Economic Operator Protection
Testing and certification protects the economic operators in the supply chain of the product, from manufacturer to end user.
For the manufacturer, it confirms that the design and production of the equipment is consistently safe. For distributors and suppliers, it represents a product that meets the legal requirements of the markets it’s being sold in, and for the end user it provides confidence for safe operation of the equipment, when used as intended.
3. Environmental Safety
The materials used in electronic equipment can be potentially hazardous to a production technician or an equipment operator, and it can also adversely impact the environment. Environmental regulations center on reducing the amount of hazardous substances in equipment, for the purposes of safe manufacture, safe transport, safe operation, and safe disposal.
Although similar legislation is found worldwide under other names, several key terms in the realm of environmental compliance have been coined in multiple regions, including:
- RoHS – The “Restriction of Hazardous Substances” was originally introduced by the European Union, and now has a growing presence worldwide. Originally six substances were regulated, and now, in many regions, ten substances are regulated, with varying exemptions. Legislation concerning hazardous substance restriction currently exists or is being considered on almost every continent.
- REACH – The “Registration, Evaluation. Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals” also originated in the European Union, and has been adopted in some form or other by additional regions. The EU REACH Directive currently regulates 233 substances, while other regions regulate substances numbering in the thousands.
- Eco-Design – Short for “Ecological Design”, this area of environmental compliance focuses on minimizing the environment impact of a product at all stages, starting with design and development.
- WEEE – A common term for e-waste, WEEE stands for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment. E-waste legislation centers on organizational responsibilities for selling, using, recycling, and recovering elements of appliances and electronics.
- EPR – Extended Producer Responsibilities are being introduced around the globe, with the focus on a shift of responsibility from the municipality electronic equipment is used in and disposed of, to the producer of the equipment. This legislation is intended to provide incentives to manufacturers and other “producers” in the supply chain to design, build, and supply products in a more eco-sustainable fashion.
4. Compliance with Authorities
Orders containing improperly certified, improperly marked, or improperly documented equipment can be held at customs or denied acceptance of delivery to customers. New regulations have resulted in increasing due diligence by customs personnel.
Further, local authorities conduct periodic “market surveillance” to confirm that products in use in their regions meet safety, EMC, and environmental standards. Equipment in violation of local and national requirements can be taken off of the market, and those in the supply chain held responsible.
Market surveillance can result in product recall, and product recalls can not only result in major financial loss, but also permanently tarnish a company’s reputation.
How can you ensure your orders meet all regulatory compliance requirements?
FoxGuard’s Regulatory Compliance program is designed to ensure that each order shipped meets the testing and certification requirements of the order’s end destination. With deliveries to over 50 countries, FoxGuard is able to provide custom regulatory document packages on an order-by-order basis, which are the result of ongoing due diligence in several areas, including those listed below.
1. New and changing regulations
The number of technical and environmental regulations has almost doubled between 2014 and 2022, with the greatest increase in the European and Asia Pacific regions, and the greatest focus on product safety and hazardous materials in products. Our team engages with compliance experts, test labs, and professional forums to keep atop the daily changes in the world of Regulatory Compliance.
2. Networking with over 250 manufacturers and suppliers
Supplier education in the area of product compliance is a must. Immediate contacts are often buyers or customer service representatives who must, in turn, reach out to their organization’s engineering, quality, and compliance teams for information. Helping our supplier contacts understand the basics of product compliance and providing “heads up” notifications of upcoming changes allows us to confirm compliance status in the most efficient manner.
3. Maintenance of regulatory certificates
FoxGuard’s database of regulatory certificates numbers over 50,000 and grows on a daily basis.
As technical standards and environmental regulations change, certificates must be updated. One change in a standard, or one update to a list of regulated substances can result in the need to collect hundreds of new documents!
4. Pre-Order Compliance Validation
Our compliance services include a review of all components before the order is approved. This allows for smooth planning of the products and smooth passing through Customs borders.
5. Special Requests
In addition to the support provided on an order-by-order basis, FoxGuard offers special regulatory compliance services on an as-needed basis, such as additional national certifications for another manufacturer’s product, assistance with Technical Passport preparation, and the certification of our own FoxGuard-branded industrial computing products.