28 Nov 2005
Green Sounds(HKTDC Electronics, Vol 05,2005)
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Reputcon (HK) Ltd's speakers are environmentally friendly, meeting the European Commission's WEEE and RoHS directives
Since the company's clients included major international brands based in Europe and Japan and their OEM suppliers, general manager Jeff Lai was aware by 2002 that new environmental standards would soon be coming into force with which Reputcon would have to comply.
First and foremost among them was the European Commission (EC) Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive introduced in 2005, to which companies selling products in the European Union must now conform.
This will be reinforced on July 1, 2006 by the EC's new Restriction of Hazardous Substances requirements (RoHS), not to mention the increasingly stringent environmental responsibility rules that Japanese companies such as Sony and Sanyo are imposing on their suppliers.
Lai knew that changes would have to be made, so the company began looking closely at its materials and manufacturing practices in 2003 with a view to radically upgrading its environmental performance.
The challenge was to eliminate a long list of what were now deemed to be harmful substances from the company's products, many of which had long been standard elements in the manufacture of speakers.
A catalyst in this process was receipt of a set of harmful substances control standards from headphone manufacturer Alford, which was actually more demanding than the RoHS requirements relating to the environmental impact of manufacturing and product disposal.
"So we began to work together towards finding cost-effective and environmentally safe alternatives to the materials we - and most of our competitors - had previously used," Lai recalls.
The result was Reputcon's compliance with a new set of standards that are far stricter than the EC directives, and also considerably tougher than the rules imposed by Sony and Sanyo.
Sony bans 12 substances and Sanyo eight but Reputcon prohibits 14, including PVC and all PVC blends, HCFCs, radioactive substances and brominated flame retardants.
"It has made our operations a little more expensive, but we are glad to be able to meet these standards," says Lai, although he concedes that "cost differences depend on materials, and the environmental standards have made the R&D aspect of producing a better sound more complex".
Nevertheless Lai and his R&D team on the Chinese mainland are working hard on getting the same or better results from their speakers, using new materials.
"We can pass the world standards with paper speaker cones, but many pollutants are used in the production of paper, so we are trying to change to carbon fibre," he explains. "Unfortunately the cost of getting the same sound quality as paper is high."
Reputcon's full product range includes micro speakers, dynamic receivers, mylar speakers, low-profile speakers, alnico speakers, tweeters, horn tweeters, horn piezos, mid-ranges, full ranges, horn speakers for sirens, woofers and piezos for computers.
These products, many of which bear the company's Reputcon brand, are manufactured at a mainland factory in Shenzhen that employs around 200 workers. "We produce about 400,000 mini speakers per month and about 200,000 loudspeakers," Lai explains, adding that order confirmation to delivery usually takes 1-2 weeks because the parts and materials are "generally" in stock.
"We also want to make our contribution to a greener future so we're striving to make more improvements - working to improve environmental impacts, enhance quality and reduce prices," Lai concludes.
WRITTEN BY ROBERT PIERCE
Reputcon (HK) Ltd
Rm 90, Billion Trade Centre,
31 Hung To Rd, Kwun Tong,
Kowloon, Hong Kong
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