Commentary | Viewpoint

Defending Against the Global Recall Threat

Tags: Reverse Logistics, Risk Management

Kevin Pollack is Vice President of Recalls, Stericycle ExpertRECALL, 877-860-1200

As international supply chains and distribution networks grow in prevalence and complexity, operating risks and logistics are becoming increasingly difficult to mitigate. The challenge of managing the multitude of variables is compounded by the speed at which today’s supply chain must operate. One key area affected by the global economy is product recalls. The number of international events continues to trend up, and it’s important that companies not only look to mitigate the risk, but also understand the logistics of global recall management. Of course, the first step should be to try and avoid the situation altogether. We all know that the best offense is the best defense and international organizations should approach the problem that way. To compete in the global economy, manufacturers must educate themselves on the safety standards, distribution, storage, and handling practices of every touch-point in the distribution network.

However, as anyone that has ever attempted to set up an international network can attest, the variables start adding up quickly. The supply chain is just one avenue out of several that can lead to a product recall. For that reason, even the most thorough organization with the best of intentions can still end up on the wrong side of a recall. Preparing for that event is one of the most commonly overlooked strategies but one of the most powerful when it comes to mitigating risk.

At the outset, it can seem like a destructive blow for a company to initiate a recall. Unfortunately for some, it will be. However, for companies that have prepared for the event and are ready to meet its obstacles head on, the challenges can be overcome efficiently, leaving the organization to focus on continued international growth.

Organizations must consider a number of factors in order to effectively meet those challenges, however. Chief among them is ensuring surge capacity to quickly scale and manage a geographically complex recall. Companies also must take into account the number of languages that require translation, both for external communications about the event and for agents staffing call centers to assist affected consumers.

Local experience with the individual regions affected by the event is another key consideration for the planning and execution of an international recall. As part of this process, manufacturers should consider implementing comprehensive control measures in advance. For example, conducting on-site assessments or devising country-specific plans based upon unique regional requirements.

Companies that don’t take the time to understand country-specific regulatory requirements in advance can be left scrambling to manage the resource burden. It’s also important that organizations determine the logistics of how the affected product will be removed. As part of this, it’s critical that manufacturers ensure traceability of the product in the supply chain. Unintentionally allowing a recalled item to infiltrate the marketplace can have a devastating impact on the business, and negate much of the work done to manage brand image. Companies also need to consider how to execute the recall across international boarders, and ensure they have a system to manage and report on the status of its effectiveness in real-time.

The resource burden of global recall management will only grow as supply chains and distribution networks become increasingly globalized. In light of this complexity, working with a third party consultant can go a long way to ease the burden. Recall management experts provide the infrastructure and expertise necessary to overcome all of the challenges of an international event, leaving organizations to focus their time and resources on recovery.

In the end, no matter how many operations become automated, there will always be a human element to international supply chains and distribution networks. History has taught us that when that’s the case, error is inevitable. When looking to mitigate international supply chain risks, however, the real error is not preparing for it.