Prevention and Preparedness Go Hand In Hand
When it comes to product safety, company efforts are often divided into two categories: recall prevention and recall preparedness. But one shouldn’t be implemented without the other. In fact, proactive prevention can strengthen recall preparedness – and vice versa. To truly protect the public and mitigate risk, companies should take a holistic approach to product safety.
- Invest in new technology. As with anything else, many recalls are a result of human error. Automation can reduce many common recall causes, such as mislabeling. Innovation in sensors and monitoring equipment can track critical data such as temperature and humidity. No matter the industry, there are advancements that can help reduce the risk of a recall.
- Encourage employee feedback. Employees are a company’s best eyes and ears on the ground. They can sound the alarm about potential safety issues early to reduce the impact of recalls or avoid them altogether – but only if they feel comfortable coming forward. Companies should create a culture of safety, and that means reinforcing the importance of quality controls at every stage. New hires should be trained on potential issues to look out for. Reporting mechanisms should be established and displayed prominently. Of course, even when leaders dedicate themselves to establishing this company culture, some employees may feel uncomfortable coming forward, so having at least one anonymous reporting system is crucial.
- Hold mock recalls. By testing recall plans, companies can expose gaps not only in recall execution, but also processes that leave the company exposed to experiencing a recall in the first place – or having to expand the scope of the recall. For example, food companies that combine ingredients from different production cycles may lack the ability to determine which specific products may have been affected and isolate them from the rest of their supply. That often means that any pathogen-related recall must apply to greater lots and date codes than initially thought. Adequate preparation and recall planning can reveal such weaknesses for better traceability.
- Become a regulatory partner. Regulators wield a lot of power, so it is understandable that they also intimidate many business leaders. But keeping them at arm’s length isn’t the best option. It is better to use them as a resource, recognizing that their goal is keeping the public safe. And laying that groundwork in advance helps pave the way for open communication when an issue does arise that may require a recall.
Of course, from a business perspective, recall prevention is preferable. But like death and taxes, recalls are inevitable, and that means recall preparedness is just as important. The good news is that leaders need not sacrifice one approach for the other.