With a growing focus on consumer safety, manufacturers from nearly every industry and all parts of the globe are working to ensure the efficacy of their products. Failure to develop products that are safe and user-friendly could result in monetary fines, loss of contracts and even mass recalls. In fact, an all-time high of 51 million vehicles were recalled in 2015 alone.
The automotive industry isn’t the only one to suffer from widespread product recalls. According to a recent study by a Swiss research firm, worldwide food recalls have effectively doubled since 2002. Given trends like this, efforts to ensure product safety and avoid recalls definitely need improvement.
Monitoring Standards and Regulations
Standards and regulations that define product safety are constantly changing, evolving and adapting to new societal trends, needs and demands. In fact, OSHA maintains an online database that provides information and resources regarding new and existing regulations throughout dozens of industries.
OSHA is one of the most prolific and well-known safety agencies, but they’re not the only one. Depending on your specific industry, you may be subject to laws, rules or regulations from any number of other agencies. In fact, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, or CPSC, recently won a $15.45 million civil case against multiple appliance manufacturers in China as well as the United States.
With that in mind, entrepreneurs and business owners must pay attention to existing and new regulations alike. By staying on top of these changes, and by attaining new certifications as necessary, you’ll be better poised to avoid future recalls or penalties.
Pursuing Testing and Certification
While institutions like OSHA and the CPSC can provide information, resources and, in some cases, actual safety testing and certification, some processes require third-party interaction, inspection and analysis.
Some companies, like National Technical Systems, offer an array of product testing services throughout several different industries. Their tests, which focus on different standards and regulations, can ensure compliance with safety organizations from all corners of the globe. Specific products that can be tested by NTS include industrial machinery, lighting components and power supplies, audio and video hardware, household and commercial appliances, laboratory equipment and more.
Bolstering Your Supply Chain
Certain companies have even reduced their own product recalls by bolstering their strategies in supply chain management. Increased transparency throughout the entire chain can identify errors quicker and more efficiently while simultaneously improving communications with the general public in the event that a recall does occur.
With today’s emphasis on mobile communications, it’s also important to facilitate mobile accessibility between sales representatives, compliance officers, distributors and customers. Supply chain and e-commerce apps can be coded to work across multiple platforms, including hardwired and mobile devices, which offers on-the-fly access and real-time monitoring.
Establishing a Compliance Team
If necessary, consider establishing a designated team of compliance specialists. It doesn’t matter if these are third-party consultants or in-house experts. Instead, focus on securing reputable compliance specialists that have experience in your exact line of business and industry. While this will require you to allocate additional resources to the new team, the costs of avoiding product recalls and improving safety might be worth it in the long run.
However, it’s important to understand that the establishment of such a team is no straightforward task. A compliance team must avoid or overcome many challenges, including overly complex business models, conflicting viewpoints, stringent industry regulations and more.
Keeping Your Competitors Close
There’s an old adage that tells us to keep our friends close, but our enemies closer. This same saying can be applied to the world of manufacturing: By paying attention to your competition, you’ll be able to identify new safety requirements as soon as they emerge.
Moreover, you may even be able to learn from the mistakes of your competitors and avoid future recalls of your own.
Bucking the Trends
Although product recalls are still common and even increasing in some industries, others have seen significant improvement. According to the CPSC, the overall number of toy recalls has experienced a sharp decline since 2008. The total number of toy recalls involving lead-containing products have been nearly eliminated.
In some cases, a high number of recalls can actually prompt change on its own. According to the American Marketing Association, the number of automobile recalls between 1995 and 2011 eventually resulted in fewer accidents. Statistics like this show that there is a bright side after all.
Maintaining Product Safety Into the Future
As a manufacturer, product safety should be your top priority. There are few better ways to drive away a solid customer base than by releasing defunct or hazardous products. In some cases, the results can be downright deadly.
By sticking to the tips outlined above, and by taking a proactive stance toward manufacturing and consumer safety, you’ll be able to maintain the safety of your products and avoid mass recalls in the future.