Contributed by ReposiTrak Senior Vice President, Customer Success, Derek Hannum
During a recent presentation, at the annual SQF International Conference in Atlanta, GA, I spoke alongside two of our clients, on the topic of automated supplier compliance management. We found that of the 75 food-safety and QA professionals in the room, most were still maintaining supplier compliance management manually.
Scientists and QA safety professionals in our industry have devoted their careers to a profession predicated on rigorous measurement and analysis. However, it is counterproductive to continue to manage the compliance of their suppliers using a manual process. This labor-intensive process virtually guarantees the inability to accurately and consistently measure the key metrics of supplier compliance. Particularly since so many cases of foodborne illness are eventually linked to raw ingredients, and not finished products.
In my view, there are three primary reasons that supplier compliance is still the most ignored critical measurement of quality and safety in our supply chain.
- Lack of visibility and priority among senior leaders
- Lack of clear ownership within organizations
- Misconceptions about supplier compliance automation
Let’s take a quick look at each of these potential causative factors to determine why they occur, and how compliance automation can address each of them.
Lack of visibility and priority among senior leaders
First, far too many senior leaders take for granted (or willfully ignore) the compliance of their suppliers. Everyone talks about a commitment to quality and safety, but a commitment to each starts with ingredients, components and packaging, as finished product is a sum of the component parts. Poor quality ingredients, poor quality product. Unsafe ingredients, unsafe product. Weak, irresponsible suppliers weaken the overall supply chain increasing the risk to the brand and ultimately the risk to the consumer.
Yet time and again we see senior executives go forward, trusting their supplier partners are trustworthy and share the same quality and safety standards, but with essentially no consistent, systematic approach to evaluate the quality and compliance of their suppliers. A robust automated compliance management solution can resolve this situation.
Lack of clear ownership within organizations
A second problem we see often is quality and food safety may own the responsibility for inbound ingredient testing and quality, but sourcing and procurement own the supplier relationship. Only when common supplier compliance specs are set and monitored across the functions can the supplier be evaluated holistically for compliance and quality. Automating the process gives visibility to all stakeholders and creates alignment between quality and sourcing.
Misconceptions about supplier compliance automation
Finally, there are common misconceptions about supplier compliance management that can lead organizations, which automate any number of business processes, to ignore automating the critical area of supplier compliance. Some believe the systems are expensive, difficult to implement and/or hard to use. Others dread the need to get their IT people involved. Still others don’t think it will work in their situation.
The solution that actually works
As the ReposiTrak network of connections between suppliers, wholesalers and retailers has grown to more than 70,000 (and is growing faster each year), that’s a pretty good indicator the system is neither expensive nor hard to use. It also doesn’t require your IT team to get involved (it’s a cloud solution) and, when one party is collecting and managing data and documents from a variety of other parties, it works.
It works by providing organizations a streamlined process for collecting and managing supplier compliance and safety documents and data, and it delivers the metrics required to create a robust approved vendor program, plugging a big gap in the safety and quality programs of many companies.