2 Ways Retail Brands Can Successfully Ensure Supply Chain Compliance

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2 Ways Retail Brands Can Successfully Ensure Supply Chain Compliance

Supply chain compliance is becoming one of the biggest challenges faced by all retail professionals. Among small, medium enterprises’s it likely hits a little harder, with limited resources and where costs are always a make or break factor. Often-times you can only afford a supplier lacking certain levels compliance documentation, which in turn requires you to monitor them even more stringently, but can you afford the resources to do so properly? Your supply chain is dotted with complexities that can expose your organization to risk. This risk as you know needs to be avoided and planned for with actionable steps in place to mitigate any kind of exposure or threat to your supply chains operations.

So let’s do just that… 

In this blog post, I endeavor to highlight only two of the most common supply chain challenges that many regional retailers currently face, but also what you can do to begin achieving that desired supply chain compliance for your brand so that you may begin safeguarding against avoidable areas of risk. So let’s dive in;

First Identify your challenges

Identifying the challenges that you face within your retail supply chain is always the best place to begin, here I list two of the most common challenges that are experienced among many a local retailer;

1. Supplier relationships –  Your suppliers are the key to your entire operation.

Take a moment consider that…

Supplier collaboration can foster growth, if allowed they can also help you to create operational efficiencies which enables you to get your product to market a lot faster. 

This relationship will act as an incubator for out of the box, innovative thinking as your supplier begins to take real ownership of the end products and their quality. The way in which you engage with your suppliers from the very beginning, will set the tone for your operations going forward.

Careful assessment is needed when signing on new suppliers, this is often the point at which compliance problems begin to seep in. You need to ensure that all the appropriate factory technical documentation is in order when selecting a supplier. A bit of due diligence in this area will guard you in the long-run. This will ensure that you have a defined and agreed upon set of operating principles where everything is done in compliance with these operating principles and standards.

2. CSR and environmental impact – Through adequate evaluation and a good a supplier relationship you will be able to determine CSR and environmental impacts. This is either done through a social compliance audit and an environmental audit which is either done in-house or through a third-party quality provider, such as API.

An environmental audit will provide insight into things like by-product waste of the factory, how they dispose their waste, who disposes their waste and what levels of CO2 are being emitted and whether or not any of this can be reduced or are even being addressed. The results will help you to determine their impact on the environment and whether or not they are compliant with local and/or international environmental laws.

A social compliance audit provides insight into things like child and forced labour, overtime and possible wage related disputes. This things are not only unethical, but should your brand be aligned with these practices, you will be destroying your brands reputation and image. 

The results of the above audits will enable you to make an informed decision about the type of supplier you wish to align your brand with. 

Supply chain compliance and environmental auditing

Let’s take a look at what Walmart did; They created what they call the Sustainability Index, which is essentially a scorecard for suppliers to be reported on from various social and environmental production factors. 

Walmart has said that by the end of 2017 that 70% of its products will come from suppliers who participate through this Index, and as a benefits they will be endorsed as a sustainable partner and proud Walmart supplier.  

Solutions

Supply chain compliance is an important issue to address, with many local retail brands realising that compliance needs to be a top priority to be achieved in order to achieve a globally competitive advantage in the market.

So how do we go about achieving just that?

Good supplier relationships for supply chain compliance

1. Supply chain visibility –  This refers to the data visibility made available within your supply chain; from where your raw materials come from, to your factory’s technical operations right through to your inventory management strategies.

All of this data needs to be made available and visible to your consumers to create a sesnse of openness and trust within your supply chain operations.

**When bringing on new suppliers be sure to ask for access to all of their compliance documentation from health and safety, to environmental and technical information. 

2. Supply chain transparency – This is where your organisation begins to analyse current quality and compliance procedures. Transparency and visibility need to work hand-in-hand the data provides insight into the operations and the operations provide the data to be analysed. 

Supply chain transparency endeavours to take a deeper look into your systems and processes, understanding what makes them work and also not work. This approach to your supply chain operations allows you to mitigate risk early on, but also identify any areas that may need improvement, therefor adopting a continuous quality improvement cycle. 

As mentioned earlier, consumers actively research any retail brand’s supply chain and its processes from raw material to the moment a product reaches the floor to right before they make that purchase decision. It is crucial for your brand to ensure clean and compliant operational procedures if you are to achieve a globally competitive brand. 

Supply chain compliance need not be another complexity that your retail brand needs to face, through actively engaging and applying the above suggestions to your operations they will indeed help you on your way to a successful and compliant supply chain that puts your brand in a position of growth and also mitigates against any unnecessary risks. 

Let us know in the comments section how these solutions have worked for you in the past

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What no one tells you about Christmas tree testing procedures

Christmas, a very special holiday celebrated all around the world, a sacred time spent with family and friends, houses adorned with traditional decorations and illuminated in a splendor of colors, all leading up to the childlike anticipation of Christmas day, the gifts, the food and the wine!

While it may still be quite a few months off for most people, it is now that time of year when suppliers and retailers the world over begin their arduous preparations for the very busy festive season ahead, starting with none other than the hallowed Christmas tree.

In 2015, 12.5 million artificial Christmas trees were purchased in the US alone at a Christmas tree testingpurchase price of $69.38 each, resulting in revenues totaling $854 million for manufacturers in that short period. As a holiday that approximately 2 billion people around the world celebrate, the market for Christmas and these trees is undeniably massive, not to mention the powerful potential for profits it promises.

But, what happens when things go wrong on the production line?

Between 2010 and 2014 fire fighters responded to an annual average of 200 homes that were reported to be on fire or burnt down in the US alone due to fires started by Christmas trees with a total damage of $16.2 million. Fires started by malfunctions in artificial trees highlight the critical importance of strict quality control measures needed in place during and after production, from the lighting within the tree, the temperatures they produce to the types of plastic that is used to manufacture the tree.

Can your company stand to lose millions because of negligence in the QC process? What about the implications brought about from families that lose their homes or worse?

Preventing unnecessary damages and losses before they happen should be at the top your Christmas wish list. In this blog post we talk to Francois Deudon, CEO of Asia Pacific Inspection, as we seek to understand the technicalities that go into the making of Christmas trees and the essential QC procedures/tests involved in the production of these products, helping to ensure a safer, happier and more ‘festive’ festive season for us all…

Q: What are some of the challenges involved in the manufacturing of Christmas trees in terms of quality?

Christmas tree branch bending procedureA: One of greatest challenges is ensuring that each branch is able to comply with the NFS 54200 / Decree 2003-1123 without any accessible sharp points. In order to comply with this requirement, an industrial practice of bending the end wire of each branch to prevent any accessible sharp points. Many Christmas trees contain hundreds of branches, so the quality control of suppliers plays a significant role so as to manage the potential risks.

Q: One of the biggest concerns that consumers have is the PVC content of an artificial tree – How do quality procedures overcome this kind of challenge?

A: The quality control involved from the design stage to the mass production stage is needed to manage this concern. In the design stage, a client will instruct the supplier that only qualified raw materials should be used to create this product. In the pre-production stage, raw materials or products should be submitted for testing to ensure that these qualified materials are used. Suppliers should not only use these qualified materials; but they should also be able to avoid contamination during the production process. The clients should then assess the chemical management system of the factory, when they choose a supplier. After the production is completed, the client could then appoint a third party company to pick a sample from the mass production for chemical testing to ensure only qualified materials are being used for production and that there is no chemical contamination.

Q: Are suppliers more aware of the raw material and construction of trees that need to comply to strict Christmas tree testing processinternational regulation?

A: The more experienced a supplier is the better he will understand the regulations of any given country. Here it will be the retailer or the importer’s responsibility to choose  an appropriate supplier. This can be done through a technical audit, which could help measure the capability and capacity of suppliers, providing valuable information when choosing suppliers.

Q: Do you think stricter quality control or inspection measures can help reduce the amount of fires that are started each year due to artificial Christmas trees? How so?

A: Yes, the testing on mass production products will assess the flammability of artificial Christmas trees. It could also avoid unauthorized change of the materials during this mass production process.

Q: What quality tests are absolutely essential before shipping Christmas trees off to various distributors?

A: The flammability test, the sharp point sharp edge test and the REACH test are absolutely essential before shipping to any distributors.

Conclusion

While retailers and importers across the globe are preparing for all the holiday joys, what we have learnt is that it will be important to select the correct supplier, based on previous testing records or it may even be important to consider an audit that will help identify any procedural risks early on, as the scope of the festive season is too big to cut any corners as any faults of failure will have the potential to lose you millions. The various Christmas tree testing procedures will be important to ensuring that the festive season will be a safe and happy one all round.

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How Do Professional Importers Ensure Product Compliance?

Your brand is only as reliable and trustworthy as the quality of products you put out into the market. Without a robust product compliance program in place, the integrity of your brand is bound to be compromised sooner or later. Our complimentary eBook ‘How to Build Systems to Ensure Product Compliance in Large Supply Chains’ lays the foundation for building a robust compliance program to help you avoid costly mishaps and begin overcoming compliance issues today.

Product Compliance is Key To Your Success

Product compliance starts with a compliance program Effectively managing growing supply chain complexities is something that most purchasing managers/importers deal with on a day to day basis. As your brand grows compliance issues you never knew were there (nor were prepared for) may rear their ugly head, and it’s up to you to begin pinpointing issues and plugging the holes your profits will fall through, before the consumers of today tear them open even wider. Ensuring product compliance starts and ends with one thing: A robust compliance program. 

Building a compliance program

A working compliance program addresses the rules, standards, regulations and requirements that your company or brand sets for its suppliers. These standards will create the accountability within the supply chain that consumers today are looking for. At this stage if you are pondering on the necessity and importance of compliance, take a look at this: In 2007, Mattel had to recall 1.5 million lead covered toys due to negligence. The company ended up having to pay a $12.3 million settlement with another $2.3 million in civil penalties for violating a lead paint ban.

“Can your company afford a mistake like this?”

‘How to Build Systems to Ensure Product Compliance in Large Supply Chains’

‘How to Build Systems to Ensure Product Compliance in Large Supply Chains’

Learn how to avoid costly mishaps so you can begin overcoming compliance issues through understanding:
  • Why compliance is necessary now more than ever
  • How to turn your compliance challenges into opportunities for growth
  • The specific audits that are needed for compliance in your supply chain
  • How to go about creating a compliance culture for your brand
Our complimentary eBook will provide you with in-depth insights into the systems that go into building a compliant supply chain that can sustain your company going forward. The key to your success will be how well you are able to integrate these systems into every tier of your brand and supply chain, creating opportunities that will give you a competitive advantage over your competitors.
 

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3 Tips to Improve Product Compliance with Good Supplier Relationships

When it comes down to accurately communicating quality expectations, importer/supplier relationships matter. The way importers of old dealt with their suppliers has indeed come a long way from the humble medium of email correspondence.

Expectations were simply laid out, and promises were made of securing the lowest possible cost per unit and a compliant product, delivered in the fastest possible time. 

The distant nature of the entire process meant that importers were often kept in the dark when the pressure of an increase in the demand of products hit. The factory often suffered setbacks and compromised on all of their promises purely to maintain the relationship, as long as the quota was met and the order was sent out.

Fact is, working within the confines of a relationship like this was high risk.

Luckily, times have changed, technology has advanced and smart importers have learned to bring their suppliers a lot closer into the fold from the very beginning. This type of engagement creates an open platform where expectations are communicated and agreed upon clearly, so that each partner can meet the needs of the other, and hold each other accountable when things go awry.

With the current volatility of global markets and increased amount of product recalls we are seeing, building a mutually beneficial relationship with your supplier to ensure product compliance has never been as important as it is today.

In this post we will share 3 tips to help you ensure improved product compliance by showing you how you can (and should) be building good supplier relationships for your brand today.

#1 IMPROVED PRODUCT COMPLIANCE STARTS WITH COMMUNICATION

As an importer you will have likely experienced the challenges of communication with your supplier, whether it be a language barrier or simply them not keeping you in the loop. What you may not have come to realize is that the manner in which you communicate with your supplier may be a part of your struggle.

“So how will you communicate? Email?”

Whilst this platform forms the basis of almost all business related matters with its easy access, it is a platform that keeps us somewhat at arm’s length and often misunderstandings happen, creating a back and forth flurry of emails that becomes incredibly difficult to keep track of, creating more confusion than any kind of clarity.

“If not email, then what?”

There are a host of other professional communication tools that you can use to your advantage, but before we dive into what those tools are, let’s get old school…

Pick up the telephone. 

As obvious as it may sound, a personal call will go a long way to helping clear up any and all confusion at once, freeing up your inbox and allowing your thoughts and expectations to be understood more clearly. Now, just jumping on the phone with no clear direction will not be a good use of your time, or your supplier’s time. Prepare a list of questions that you may have to address any misgivings you may have. This will save you both time and provide clarity going forward.

Let’s take a look at some of the communication tools that are out there that can begin aiding a communicative relationship between you and your supplier;

Skype -This is an online messaging application that also has video and voice chat services.

Zoom – This application provides convenient video conferencing services for any meetings that you want to include your supplier in on.

Whatsapp -A mobile application that allows for instant messaging and in-app calling.

When it comes to clearing up product specifications, you may find that the above toolsGood supplier relationships - Clear communication will provide an easier platform to discuss these matters in-depth, with absolute understanding and clarity. Personally I find Zoom a favorite for all conference calling, it has helped me stay in touch with a lot more ease than just relying on email.

Now that we have spoken about the means of communication, we need to address the frequency and manner of communication.

“How often do you phone your supplier to just talk about basic business operations?”

The more constant the flow of communication is, the more you will begin to get to know your supplier, and where your business sits in the grander scheme of their operations (and how much they stand to lose if they make mistakes).

This level of trust that you begin to build with your supplier will help to keep them honest and accountable if you happen to receive a delivery of products that are non compliant.

This kind of communication provides clarity and indicates to your supplier that you trust them to fix the problem to achieve the level of compliance that your company has set as the standard.   

#2 IMPROVED PRODUCT COMPLIANCE STARTS WITH AGREEABLE PAYMENT TERMS (AND STICKING TO THEM)

Cash flow that affects the bottom line is a very real struggle. The margins for many suppliers is always very thin. So when you do not pay, it puts your supplier in a really difficult position, and not only for you (and how they treat your order of products), but for their other customers too.

This kind of behavior will break any form of trust. Suppliers will often take a note of Good supplier relationships - clear payment termsimporters that do not pay on time so as to avoid those kinds of risks for themselves in the future.

What is advisable with regards to payment is ensuring that you have laid out all your payment terms with your supplier. In doing this you create a level of transparency with your supplier which can prove to be invaluable.

If you have been in this position before, as I am sure you have, I would say that the best practice here would be the same as tip #1;

Communication

You need to communicate your situation immediately, creating an honest and open relationship with your supplier which will put you in good stead for future orders.

#3 IMPROVED PRODUCT COMPLIANCE STARTS WITH SETTING CLEAR GOALS AND EXPECTATIONS

Ensure that your goals are clearly communicated upfront. This can be done in the initial meeting with a potential supplier if you are able to visit their factory, or via correspondence.

You should draw up a document stating your expectations from the get-go, along with a set of achievable goals that need to be reached. A document like this will also need to be clear about the level of product and supply chain compliances that need to be achieved.

This goes for your supplier as well. They too will have expectations of you. Write these down to ensure absolute clarity between both parties.

The longer you work with a supplier, the more familiar they become with the way in which you prefer to operate. Good supplier relationships - goal setting

This knowledge creates an improvement in their service to you as operational times and quality procedures are improved accordingly. If any issues arise, your supplier will also be able to handle them more effectively, and continue to stay in line with your brand’s compliance standards.

While these tips may seem overly obvious, if you can perfect them you will be well on your way to building a strong, healthy supplier relationship that will have far-reaching benefits for you; from improved delivery times to high quality compliant products for your brand. This is only some of what you can do to begin aiding a trustworthy long-term supplier relationship.

Conclusion

Creating a high level of compliance and transparency has become crucial to business success. Today, consumers are more concerned and aware of where their products come from and the manner in which they were made than they ever were.

Better importer/supplier collaboration helps foster growth for your brand as your products are able to get to the market faster, and represent the quality you promise your customers. Your supplier will also begin to firmly recognize the importance of your business, and start to take real ownership of the end products and their quality.

“How has creating a good supplier relationship been of benefit to creating a compliant, transparent supply chain for you, and if it hasn’t, why do you think so?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Shipment Stuck In Customs? 7 Step Checklist To Avoid Import Delays

As a professional importer, a dreaded shipment delay is likely something that keeps you up all night and keeps you pacing the office all day.

Then the day arrives! You get the call you’ve been waiting for alerting you that your shipment has arrived, and suddenly, your worst nightmare becomes a reality…

Your goods are stuck in customs!

Tackling customs is a bureaucratic nightmare most importers have had to deal with one time or another, and it’s something that if not dealt with quickly could spell a host of problems you’d much rather not have to deal with at all.  

What if you could avoid import delays all together?

It’s all about the preparation of your import documentation.

In this blog post, I want to provide you with a 7 step checklist that will help you navigate customs without a hitch or hassle in sight. We will take a look at the documentation that needs to be filled in correctly from start to finish, so you can say goodbye to your shipment stuck in customs for good!

“So, what is the process?”

#1 An import license 

Ensure that you have applied for an import license. You will not be able to ship your goods without this license. It specifies your permission to bring a certain amount of goods into a specific country and is only valid for a certain period of time. A top tip would be to create a file to keep all your import and shipping documents in one place. This may seem obvious, but with the mountain of paperwork that begins to pile up, it becomes easy to lose a document, which could result in a costly and time-consuming delay that could have been avoided with just a little bit of organization on your part.

Shipment stuck in customs - customs declaration

#2 An import declaration

This document is to merely state your intention as an importer to bring valid goods into a specific country. You need this document to verify you, as an importer, and to verify your goods in your destination country.

#3 Your invoice needs to be all inclusive 

Your invoice needs to match your actual shipment. While this may seem like an obvious thing, it is often overlooked and can cause havoc during your customs clearance.

An all inclusive invoice can look something like this:

  • Country of origin
  • Destination country
  • Name, surname, all possible contact information of both supplier and importer
  • In some cases, a Tax Id number will need to be provided
  • Payment method will all reference numbers and dates
  • Quantity of shipment
  • Total price of shipment
  • Total weight of shipment
  • A full description with the common naming of each item you are importing – I will touch base on this in my next point.

“Wait, there’s more…”

#4 Classification of goods 

When classifying your goods for import, you need to be as in depth and detailed as possible with regards to each item that you are shipping. This classification of your goods will create a smoother process for the customs official, which will in turn ensure a faster turn around time for your shipment.  

#5 Declaration of conformity 

In many countries importers are in need of preparing a declaration of conformity;

“What is a declaration of conformity?”

“This is an official document confirming that the product was manufactured (as well as developed) in full compliance with all applicable requirements in place and technical rules that are described in certain Technical Regulations of Customs Union.” As an importer you will need to be aware of the specific regulations that your product needs to comply with in order to know which certification you need.

# 6 POA – Not a plan of action, a Power Of Attorney

Stcuk in customs - POAA POA is essential for filling out shippers exportation documents. This exportation document cannot be completed without a valid POA. Without it, your shipment will not be released, costing you time and money.

“So, what happens when one of these documents are not in order?”

You incur costs that begin adding up on a daily basis. Your shipment will be warehoused, where you will be billed for every day your shipment is there. It will be time consuming. Much of the paperwork mentioned above takes time to complete, but now you will be waiting on paperwork while raking up warehouse fees. This is not an ideal situation but can be avoided with thorough, well-kept, organized paperwork and a dash of patience to go along with it.

#7 Do use a customs agency 

If you think that managing large orders on your own is something that you are willing to put all of your efforts and time into, then, by all means, go ahead. But my advice would be to use a customs agency.

A customs agency has the expertise and knowledge to ensure that all the right paper work, permits, licensing and classifications are in order, so as to relieve yourself of those dreaded moments of hearing that your shipment is stuck in customs due to incorrect paperwork.

They are also familiar with regulations and compliance standards that need to be met, that are also specific to your desired location and specific to your product.

Takeaways 

Your documentation is absolutely crucial to a smooth customs experience. Nip customs issues in the bud by:

  • keeping all of your import documentation in one place
  • ensuring you have the right documentation that is specific to your product and destination country’s regulations
  • being clear in your classification of each and every item you are importing
  • not under valuing your product. If there is just a whiff of under valued items your shipment will be flagged, and you will get stuck unnecessarily which will prove to be a much more costly exercise for you

With these actionable steps, some sharpening of your organizational skills, and a bit of patience, you can begin to systematically tackle the paperwork that will see you through the import process.

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Quality Vs Compliance: The Case For Supply Chain Synergy

The age old debate of quality vs compliance or compliance over quality is something that we still wrestle with today.
By defining what these concepts mean, we can start to paint a picture of why one may take precedence over the other in your eyes:

Quality – This specifically refers to the ability of a product or service to consistently meet and exceed customer expectation from its design to its functionality.

Compliance – This specifically refers to whether or not your product meets specific product compliance regulations so as to be responsibly bought or consumed by a customer.
Now, depending on your brand’s positioning and goals, you will likely be placing value on one over the other, putting your brand at unnecessarily high risks that can result in avoidable costs for you.
“Does it really have to be one over the other?” 
When quality and compliance are able to strike a harmonious balance within your supply chain, you create operational efficiencies that are able to create opportunities for growth in the marketplace, something your brand can benefit from by setting you at a bench mark above the rest
In this blog post, we seek to uncover the importance of both quality and compliance and the benefits they have to manufacturers, suppliers and retailers all over the world, ultimately taking a closer look at what the perfect union of these two concepts can mean for you.

The case for quality

When one speaks of the quality of a product from a manufacturing perspective, it refers to the external review of a product. It seeks to satisfy consumers through its quality with regards to design, functionality, durability and aesthetic appeal.

Quality vs compliance - aesthetic furnitureThe quality of a product can be defined in many ways and is almost always dependent on your specific consumer and their definition of quality for your specific item. So in that light, you will need to know exactly what your consumer is looking for to create the quality your brand is looking to achieve.

When a consumer sets out to look for a quality product, they want to feel as though they have paid less than what the actual product is worth, the quality of the product far surpassing the amount they ended up paying. Fulfilling the need to exceed the consumer’s expectations, this is what true quality is all about.

If fulfilling the need to meet your consumer’s expectations is at the top of your company’s agenda, is it not essential for your brand’s products to meet a level of quality that does just that? Let me leave you pondering that for a bit.

In attempting to understand your customer’s definition of quality, it will be important to note that fulfilling consumer expectation and experience forms a part of that definition.

Let me give you an example; If a consumer orders a product that has met and passed all quality tests it needed to meet, that product for all intents and purposes is a quality item. But, if the order arrives later than promised or arrives with a missing screw or the incorrect color, the consumer may not define this product as an item of value and quality.

Striving for product quality is a stems right from the raw materials used, to the way in which it arrives to your customer, therefore every step needs to be taken into consideration.

The case for compliance

When a brand takes on compliance, it seeks to meet the minimum regulatory requirements specific to a product or item sold to a retailer. This may mean that although the product is not of the highest quality, it at least meets the minimum mandatory regulation requirements specific to it.
Depending on your product’s destination market, it will likely need to comply with one or more of the following;

     * Product safety regulations
     * Substance regulations
     * Document requirements
     * Labeling requirements
     * Testing requirements

You do not have to comply with all of these; as it will depend very much on your product and the market that it needs to enter.
The importance of compliance is highlighted none the better than with the recent global Quality vs Compliance - Fidget Spinnerscraze of fidget spinners and, where 200, 000 of these spinners have been recalled due to it massive non-compliance failures. Many of these items that are being imported have been found to be non-compliant with the regulatory requirements specific to its markets. This is becoming a big problem as they have also proven to be a danger to children as the small parts they are made out of can and are causing serious harm.

Where the confusion sets in, is that a product is capable of being compliant, but also not be the best quality product. The opposite is also true; you can have a quality item that does not meet all the regulatory requirements either.

An issue like this can often arise within your supply chain whether it be in the design process, or even within the manufacturing process. This can create a high level of risk for your brand, and could land you in a position you do not want to be in. 

The case for supply chain synergy

So as the debate goes, we seek to uncover the myth that quality supersedes compliance and vice versa. They need to work together, hand-in-hand, where they can create true value for your brand through optimized quality procedures from your factory to the consumers.

Striving for compliance means to create operational efficiency for your supply chain. This means continuous improvements for your brand and its systems. These improvements can take the form of a compliance program which will begin to address the quality procedures (operationally and product quality) of your entire supply chain.

The improvement of these systems will mean that you reduce your exposure to risk and also create a more visible and transparent supply chain, which consumers today base their buying decisions on. Always keep this in mind.

A compliance program will also extend into the manner in which you select your supplier and evaluate the factory that your product will ultimately be made in.

Ensuring that your supply chain is compliant will mean that you are essentially creating quality operating systems. Quality operating systems will mean that the product you produce is being made in the most optimal environment. A well-functioning environment where quality and compliance is a part of every operating system will flow into the very essence of your product, making consumers want to purchase your product at a price that they feel is undervalued for an item of such great quality

Today’s consumer is empowered with access and knowledge into your product and your supply chain;Quality vs Compliance they want to know where its raw materials were sourced, how it was made, who made it and what its level of quality is. They ask themselves whether or not your product will be an investment in their lives.

The key here will be to know your target market, know your consumer. If you do not know what they want, you will struggle to be their go-to brand; you will lose out on their brand evangelism and praise affecting your bottom line

“Is this the type of brand and product you wish to create?”

Retailers today are under so much pressure with the current supply and demand of products, that quality and/or compliance is not always a priority.

“But, it should be!”

Bad quality and non-compliance both mean that your brand is at an unnecessarily high risk with regards to meeting regulations and your reputation. It will be worth all the hard yards that you put in from the creation and design to the manufacturing and distribution of your products. This will help mitigate unnecessary risk, saving you money and precious time.

Conclusion

These two concepts can be integrated into your supply chain through a Quality Management System – “QMS is a set of policies, processes and procedures required for planning and execution of a product or service.” This should help you create a structured system for continuous improvements that can be made to all areas of your supply chain and its operations.

Today’s empowered consumers show us just how important both quality and compliance are for your products and brand. It will be important to make these a priority in order to maintain that globally competitive advantage.

If you are interested in learning how to build a compliance program that also addresses product compliance within your supply chain take a look at the eBook we wrote on how to go about doing just that.

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Avoid Compliance Issues & Grow With These Quality Assurance Solutions

Quality Assurance is essential to the efficient operating systems of your supply chain and, ultimately, your brand’s bottom line. But, the question is how often do you get caught up in procedural changes that leave your supply chain trapped in a web of complexities that you are unable to get out of or make sense of?

As a retailer, you know better than anyone that these complexities come with the territory of managing a supply chain, with the continuous changes in product regulation and compliance issues, to audit and inspection essentials, to also being able to get your product to market on time, having sufficiently passed all the compliance and quality inspections necessary.

Quality Assurance solutions.jpg

At this stage, you have either considered revising all of your operational procedures to encompass all the changes that need to be adhered to, or you have likely considered a third party QA provider. The thing to keep in mind here is that you are not alone. The web of complexities that have you entangled can be dealt with efficiently and according to your exact specification.

“What do I mean?”

Our case study takes a closer look at the QA challenges that two large European retailers were facing, and delves into exactly how they overcame this through API’s uniquely devised QA solutions.

The Challenges

Retailer A – Underwent major procedural changes and experienced 50% of their shipment being held due to basic procedural non-compliance rendering them “pending”.

“I am sure you are aware of how this can put huge pressure on your supply chain and bottom line.”

Retailer B – Began experiencing a large number of product recalls due to incomplete or unavailable Technical Compliance Files.

If you have had experience with the authorities, then you know exactly how complex acquiring a full and complete TCF is!

The Solutions

Retailer A – After implementing a customized quality management program, they were able to reduce their “pending” rate for non-compliance from 50% to 15%.

Retailer B – In a year they experienced a 60% decrease in the number of product recalls they had, owing to API’s in-house designed compliance software.

customized quality assurance solutions and compliance issuesBoth of these retailers experienced significant challenges within their supply chains, one had even previously adopted the services of a 3rd party QA provider, who made no strides in overcoming their challenges with them.

“There is no one size fits all approach to QA.”

Keep this in mind when you begin pondering over the use of an external QA provider.

This case study seeks to showcase the huge value in using a provider that is able to customize and tailor their quality assurance solutions based on your exact needs and requirements. This provides valuable insights into your supply chain allowing you to identify risks early, but also create somewhat of a partnership with
your provider, based on trust and a quantifiable solution promoting growth and sustainability for your brand. 

Take a dive into learning about how retailers were able to overcome their biggest QA challenges today! Simply click the button below to get your case study now

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[VIDEO] What is a Technical Compliance File (TCF) and why you need one

Compliance and regulation has changed so much over the years with far more stricter regulations required for retail products today than ever before.The changing landscape has meant the very nature of compliance has become rather complex and difficult to achieve without adequate knowledge and expertise.

Compliance solution documentsMany of the compliance complexities that arise are in the collection and gathering of all the necessary documentation. Many manufacturers, importers and retailers today are still operating on outdated systems like spreadsheets, creating unreliable data and documentation, which creates an almost insurmountable task trying to maintain the information for each product reference.  

Often times professionals find themselves in a position of begging and pleading for documentation with nowhere to turn but to wait on the slow turning wheels of doing everything manually. Data, technology and cloud-based systems and solutions are where supply chains are headed.

Today’s consumers dictate the level of safety and performance they need to make a purchase of your product; this can either be seen as a challenge for your supply chain or as a golden opportunity.

What if there was an all inclusive compliance software that could streamline all your supplier and compliance operations in one place… accurately and reliably?

In this post, we seek to uncover the Technical Compliance File (TCF) solution – A compliance solution that will help relieve many of the compliance pressures that your supply chain currently faces.

What is a TCF?

 

Why a TCF?

At this point you may be wondering about the exact operating of this system, and what kind of benefits a compliance solution like this can have for your current operating systems. So let me tell you;

There are a number of reasons why retailers are in preference for this solution;

  • Technical expertise – There are dedicated teams to review what exact documents are required for the products and that the documents received are exactly what you are in need of, including all follow up with any supplier or factory that may be delaying you. These experts are also able to give technical advice where necessary, ensuring you don’t find yourself in a sticky supplier situation that can easily be avoided.
  • Online 24/7 access – The TCF solution has a 24/7 online dashboard with real-time updates allowingTCF compliance software you insight into your compliance status whenever you need it. There are also progress charts allowing you actionable insight into timelines and your supplier progress. This solution is also able to store all your documents for up to 10 years, ensuring your documents are safely stored for any future reference.  
  • Transparency – A solution like this can provide you with a real look into your supplier and/or manufacturer’s status in the workplace. It provides invaluable insights into the kind of supplier you have chosen to work with as you can track their compliance and regulatory progress online. 
  • Visibility – This allows you insight into what tests are being done and achieved in the lab, placing you in a better position of understanding the level of compliance your products are achieving.
  • Additional custom services – In having the expertise to analyze and determine the exact compliance and regulatory documents you are in need of, there are other custom services that can be offered if you find yourself short of an audit or specific product test that you need done to form a part of your TCF.
  • Separate supplier reporting – You are able to access reports on your organizational progress, but also your supplier’s progress. Your supplier is given access to a separate dashboard, so your information remains confidential.
  • Cost reduction – Streamlining the incredibly complex compliance process into one solution will be cost effective for your brand. Let me break this down for you; As mentioned earlier, a TCF is required as part of regulation, you already know what the process is in collecting documents from your factory, and all the follow-up communication that is required to get your documents. It’s often difficult and complex with little or slow results.

Regarding product compliance, let’s say for a furniture retailer, each item may need up to 30 documents (without counting all the submitted and rejected docs, which can be even more) to demonstrate compliance just for that product. As a retailer, you likely have more than 1 item that needs to achieve compliance, and with every document that is needed, each could take up to 30 minutes to evaluate properly, which equates to about 15 hours for just one product! If you have a whole range of products, you can begin to see how costly this whole process can become.

Risk Mitigation – The insight that this solution can provide into the most vulnerable areas of your supply chain can be invaluable information. The information that you will have access to should alert you to potential risks early on, allowing you the time to mitigate those potential risks. 

Enhancing your current quality management systems to include a web-based solution like this can set your brand at a benchmark above the rest.Compliance software web-based solution

As supply chains are increasingly becoming more digitally adaptive with cloud-based operating systems, it will be necessary for you to analyze your current solutions to be more adaptive to the current supply chain climate.

A comprehensive solution like this can create an operational efficiency for your supply chain that may have never even crossed your path. The benefits and increased visibility into your supply chain will be invaluable to optimizing your current quality systems.

In a better place of understanding this web-based solution, do you have thoughts or questions regarding the TCF? Leave your questions in the comments section; I would love to engage with you on this.

GET STARTED WITH YOUR VERY OWN COMPLIANCE PROGRAM TODAY!
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Compliance issues? You need this online compliance software!

Completing a Technical Compliance File as we know is a requirement by regulation. Consolidating compliance documents is an immense challenge and is a web of complexities that often creates confusion and uncertainty. The many rules and regulations that are needed for a specific product to attain a certain level of compliance are so complex that it can be unclear on how to begin addressing them let-alone having the in-house capabilities to begin addressing them.

“Is there a solution to this web of complexity?”

An in-house developed, web-based platform with 24/7 availability and safe storage of your documents has been created. A platform like this can create immense value for retailers, importers and quality directors, helping to alleviate some of the compliance pressures and complexities by keeping everything in one place.

In this post, I interview Aurelien Dalle, Chief Operating Officer for API, where we endeavor to uncover some of the frequently asked questions surrounding this new compliance software, and the benefits that it can provide for brands that struggle with compliance issues brought on by missing, incomplete or incorrect documentation.  

 

Q: What are some of the common challenges that organizations face with TCF and compliance in general?

  • There is often difficulty in having and keeping all the product, standards and regulation expertise and regulatory watch internally as more often than not it needs technical experts in many different fields to assist.
  • There is difficulty in keeping track of the documentation with no proper IT system for support and often relying on many emails and excel files for documents.compliance issues.jpg
  • In many organizations, the quality team is small. In some instances the only teams big enough to support such task are within the purchasing team and even then they are often in need of assistance from the laboratories for advice and judgement regarding compliance and quality in general.
  • That it is a huge and tedious task to map out the requirements for each product and to contact the suppliers to collect the all the documents. It can also be a wearisome task to review 50 page documents all in one day.


Q: What is the follow-up action after applying the TCF service?

  • If the client is unaware of the standards and regulations that are applicable to complete a TCF, the API TCF team can define and give recommendations on the scope of compliance (mandatory standards and technical documentation as well as recommended performance requirements) of the product for its destination market.
  • The API TCF team start contacting the suppliers by providing them access to the database and inform them, through the TCF tool about the exact requirements applying to the products so that suppliers can begin uploading the documents, should they already have the documentation on hand, otherwise the supplier will start arranging the necessary testing in laboratories.

Q: How can an organization benefit from this compliance software?

  • The TCF tool provides centralized information, that is available 24/7. We offer technical expertise from the API lab and automatic statistics to monitor specific supplier performance. There are also organized reminders embed in the system, tracking all sort of activity and dates within the tool.
  • Tracking of standards/documents validity and expiry dates and versioning, so the same file does not need to be re-checked for the following orders.

Q: What is the turn around time of a completed TCF?

The turnaround time is dependent on the supplier’s performance, so generally it can be from 1-2 weeks all the way up to 2-3 months. It can sometimes be more as some specific endurance tests span over several months.

Q: What are the benefits of using a web-based platform?

This software and its information is centralized and can be accessed from different countries. It minimizes the amount of emails sent and received while also reducing the number of collections of large documents. These documents are also then automatically and properly archived for each item.

Q: How do you ensure document security and confidentiality?

There is password protected access and secure encrypted pages that guarantee confidentiality. Therecompliance software - safe storage is also a dedicated IT team to ensuring the safety of the software and only API employees are allowed to make modifications to the platform.

There are many benefits to this TCF compliance software, an all inclusive solution that is able to streamline all of your compliance issues creating operational efficiency for your brand, increased visibility into your supplier and their performance as well as being able to mitigate against any unnecessary risks. 

An informative interview that has been able to clearly define the benefits of this solution do you have thoughts or questions regarding this? Drop us a line in the comments section below. 


IS COMPLIANCE A CHALLENGE FOR YOU?
CLICK the download button BELOW TO BUILD A COMPLIANCE PROGRAM
UNIQUE TO YOUR NEEDS TODAY! 


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[Infographic] Comparing the old and the new in compliance software

Maintaining supply chain compliance is an issue retailers/importers have found more difficult to navigate in recent yearswith an increase in pressure from consumers for more ethical products, and the digitization of retail supply chains.

Dealing with compliance issues have long been managed by manual compliance document filing procedures, which may have provided one a greater level of control in some respects in the past, but also made it that much more difficult to stay on top of one’s supply chain with all the heavy paperwork.

The need for an update in the way that compliance was documented, implemented and achieved was evident.

This brought about the advent and introduction of an online compliance solution. Web-based filing presented an all-in-one platform that promised greater transparency, and control over one’s supply chain in real time.

However, even with this tool there are still retailers/importers today who rely on more traditional means by which to tackle ever evolving issues that can be more readily addressed with more the accurate reporting data, flexibility and speed of an online solution.

In this blog post we will take a look at the benefits of the online compliance software known as the TCF solution over traditional compliance filing procedures, in the hope of showcasing why bringing supply chain compliance into the online age is a must for your household goods business.

tcf_software_vs_traditional_compliance (2).jpg

Often times retailers locally and globally are unaware of the options that are available to them, and also what benefits they can have for their organization. This often leads to sticking with what you know, sticking to a solution that may not always have the best ROI for your organization.

Why is this TCF solution right for you?

TCF is an online compliance software solution that:

  • streamlines your compliance and regulatory operations
  • provides actionable insights into the performance of your suppliers
  • allows insight into areas of risk that you may not have seen before
  • is extremely cost effective and efficient

The kind of visibility that a solution like this promises goes very far to help increase your productivity, therefore having a positive impact on your ROI.  

Learn more about the TCF solution API provides for household goods here!

Achieving compliance traditionally is a challenge right from the start. The constant back and forth communication with your suppliers, with a flood of emails to your inbox to constantly keep track of, to the unreliable manual entry spreadsheets. There is too much room for human error here to remain as productive as what consumers today are demanding.  

The digital landscape we find ourselves in is all about keeping up with the constant demand of the retail supply chain. If your current compliance systems are holding you back with errors that can be avoided easily, then your supply chain may not be as competitive or as productive as it likely should be.

TAKE A DIVE INTO LEARNING ABOUT HOW RETAILERS WERE ABLE TO OVERCOME THEIR BIGGEST QA CHALLENGES TODAY! SIMPLY CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW TO GET YOUR CASE STUDY NOW