Supply Chain Visibility & Control: The Best Product Recalls Never Make it Outside Your Four Walls

What do seat belts, beef and frozen appetizers have in common? They have all been involved in very public product recalls. In March 2013, Rich Products recalled 10.5 million pounds of frozen appetizers after 35 people became sick from products contaminated with E. coli. They identified the Georgia plant as the source of the contamination but the source of the contamination was not disclosed.

Also in 2013, nine million pounds of beef produced by Rancho Feeding Corporation was recalled because they processed diseased and unfit animals which contaminated the finished food product. The incident affected over 1,000 manufacturers and retailers, and in February 2014 one particular manufacturer was forced to recall 238,000 cases of Hot Pockets Philly Cheesesteaks to ensure that consumers were safe.

And just this month, Graco recalled 3.7 million car seats manufactured between 2009 and July 2013. This seat belt recall may even rise to 5.5 million units. The issue is a faulty harness buckle used in Graco convertible car seats and booster seats, which were sourced from AmSafe Commercial Products.

Tracing Supply Chain Issues

What connects these recalls is the obvious breakdown in quality processes across the value chain. More than half of all product recalls can be traced back to the suppliers and contract manufacturers, due in large part to the fact that most consumer products companies are still relying on manual paper-based or spreadsheet records to manage quality events. This leads to an information silo and does not allow users the ability to query data or analyze trends and issues in real-time, resulting in less supply chain visibility and control. And with new and existing regulatory and industry initiatives - such as Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), the Safe Quality Food (SQF) initiative, and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) - taking center stage in ensuring food safety, companies are trying to identify how to keep their suppliers, contract vendors and their worldwide facilities harmonized and in compliance.

How Consumer Product Companies Increase Supply Chain Visibility

So what can consumer products companies do to increase their supply chain visibility to ensure that every ingredient and product that wears the company logo meets their quality standards?

One way is to look at their life science counterparts to determine best practices in supplier control and overall quality. They will find that Enterprise Quality Management Solutions (EQMS) have been automating quality processes – such as investigations, audits, corrective and preventative actions (CAPAs), and even supplier quality management – for two decades. These systems even integrate into other enterprise IT systems, such as ERP and CRM, to create one version of the truth across the organization.

Consumer products companies should look to products that will improve visibility and control over their supply chain. The greater the visibility a consumer product manufacturer has, the less likely it is to run into supplier quality issues.  Products, such as Sparta Systems’ Stratas, extends the features and benefits of an inside the-four-walls EQMS outward to encompass third party suppliers. Achieving a supply-chain-wide EQMS with this level of integration would have been extremely complex and expensive until recently, but new approaches to outsourcing combined with new technologies have turned this vision into reality.

From a technology perspective, cloud computing - and particularly the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model - provides an ideal medium for collaboration on quality. In the SaaS model, suppliers essentially log in to a manufacturer’s existing EQMS and enter data via the same screens and in accordance with the same business rules as those that prevail internally (with strict access and privilege restrictions). Communications related to specific quality processes like NCMRs and CAPAs take place within the same environment so they can be appropriately routed and tracked. That way, supplier quality issues with key components, like safety buckles and food ingredients, can be addressed before they enter the supply chain.

For more information, download the eBook "Four Best Practices to Improve Quality in the Supply Chain."

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