The Art of Project Management: Expert advice from experienced project managers in Silicon Valley, and around the world

Managing environmental change in electronics.

Hi – My name is John Burke, and for the last 9 years I have been involved in the process of environmental awareness and change in the electronics industry to more friendly materials that enable recycling, re-use of materials, and more environmentally and human friendly materials and processes. 

For those of you who have been through the process, you will know that the EU started the ball rolling with their WEEE/RoHS initiatives, (Waste Electronic Electrical Environmental and Reduction of Hazardous Substances respectively). Now China, Korea and parts of the US are mapping their laws to these legislations and the requirement for electronics to become “environmentally friendly has accelerated way past the tipping point and is moving very fast. 

Simply put, the WEEE legislation dictates the use of recycling of electronics so that the electronics does not enter the mainstream waste thereby possibly “polluting it” and also ensures the recovery of the materials for re-cycling and re-use. 

The RoHS legislation dictates threshold levels of substances that are considered hazardous, and ensures that the levels of materials used are in line with EU legislated limits. 

Those of you that have ever Googled the following string – John Burke RoHS: will know that I have been very vocal with the EU on the subject of the lead in solders ban due to the scientifically proven (and now at least acknowledged by the EU) environmental impacts of the replacements for lead based solder which can have up to six times the overall environmental impact of the replacements for the lead based materials. That will not be the purpose of the blogs this week. I have made my point to the EU for the need for scientifically proven fact to over ride gut based “precautionary principal”: particularly in the case of the environment protection of planet Earth: a place that we and our future generations call home. 

The purpose of the set of blog notes from me this week, will to be to look at the different areas of a typical electronics company impacted by the change of materials and to see what might be done to ensure a fast, sharp transition to comply with new legislations, thereby enabling USA electronics INC to remain competitive in a globally changing market place. 

It is worth bearing in mind that the WEEE/RoHS legislations which cut into law on 1st July 2006 carry severe penalties if not complied with. 

Add to this fact that the RoHS laws are currently being reviewed to add more banned substances, as well as the fact that Europe has new EuP laws (Energy using Products) which dictates the power used by a piece of electronics: both in use and in “standby mode” as well as new further reaching REACH laws (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals). 

Environmental based legislation can and does have a major impact on the resources needed for and the time lines of any project. The blog this week will look at every aspect of this and will consider how a project management team can best address these aspects and provide the engineering, Reliability, Quality, Supply Chain and Executive Management teams with a set of task based check lists for every part of the equipment life cycle. 

I hope the blog helps you this week: time saved is more time for family and fun RIGHT!!!! 

John Burke 

Santa Clara CA, 11/12/07 email


About the Author

John Burke founded the UK based Surface Mounted and Related Technologies (SMART) Group in 1984, and has worked in the area of advanced manufacturing for many years. Has taught at various universities on technology, including university of Dundee, University of Hull, and University of Cambridge. John has been involved with the generation of IPC 1752 as a part of the 2-18 committees. He's been dealing with reporting standards for hazardous materials. John has also for many years been involved in the drive towards environmentally sound electronics assemblies, and has been heavily involved in trying to aid engineers caught up in the drive towards RoHS and JIG compliance. John is currently employed as Operations Director for a fabless semiconductor startup in the valley. Contact John at
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