6 Best Practices for Product Compliance Management
Manufacturers must meet product compliance requirements to sell products in markets around the world, but the process can be complex and resource intensive. While there are several challenges associated with product compliance, following industry best practices helps simplify the process.
The regulatory experts at Source Intelligence share their 6 best practices for product compliance management below.
#1: Find Appropriate Documentation
Supplier fatigue – a common challenge in building a compliance database – can be avoided by creating and sustaining good relationships with suppliers. The most effective way to do this is to be as self-sufficient as possible, starting with understanding how to find published documentation online.
Compliance documentation is often available on supplier websites, so thoroughly search for the required data online before reaching out. Requesting supplier data via phone or email can frustrate and fatigue suppliers when the information is publicly available.
Obtaining compliance information online will vary depending on the supplier. Some suppliers may require creating an account to request and access this information. Other suppliers may provide part-specific details on their online product pages or offer a section of their website dedicated to compliance data.
If the compliance information that you are seeking is not available on the supplier’s website (or the data on the website is insufficient to support your compliance program), you will have to conduct further research to identify the appropriate contact to request the information.
Reaching out to the most relevant department with information requests helps save time for you and your suppliers. For example, contacting the supplier via purchasing or sales may not be the most effective route. Quality, compliance, and engineering departments are better suited to fulfill the request in a timely manner. Suppliers may also have a specific email address for compliance requests.
#2: Accept Data in Multiple Formats
It is good practice to accept evidentiary compliance data in any format available. This reduces the supplier’s effort, yielding a higher response rate and decreased turnaround.
Some suppliers may have company policies that prohibit them from completing customer-submitted forms, while others may not have adequate internal capabilities to complete custom forms.
Examples of commonly used formats for compliance information include:
- Company level statements - One of the most common documents you will encounter, typically stating something like “All products are TSCA free.”
- Excel spreadsheets - Often used to organize information for material declarations.
- Test reports - Generated by 3rd party laboratories to show the presence or absence of specific substances.
- Material specifications – This format is exceptionally helpful, especially with metal hardware. Metal grades and compositions allow for analyzation of the presence of any regulated substances.
#3: Compile and Organize Compliance Data
Evidentiary documentation accumulates quickly during a robust compliance effort. Once the necessary compliance information has been collected and analyzed, it should be compiled and organized.
To effectively utilize documentation already on file, it is critical to build and maintain a well-organized database for easy access. Previously collected certification can be applied to newly procured components when the certification applies to an entire product series or whole companies. Making use of company and series-level documentation decreases the need to request new data from your suppliers, which helps avoid fatigue.
#4: Understand Your Products
Understanding your products and any requirements specific to your product type is critical to implementing a successful product compliance program. Many product requirements are specific to the type of product, such as electronic equipment, children’s toys, or medical devices. To ensure that you are meeting all the product compliance requirements specific to your products, you must fully understand your products and their uses.
It is also essential to understand all the components and materials used to manufacture your products by developing and maintaining a well-defined Bill of Materials (BOM) for your products. Your BOM should include all the components used to make your products, as well as any of the consumables that will remain on the final product. These include any solders, adhesives, or other materials used during the manufacturing process which become part of the product.
Another best practice is to review BOMs for obsolete parts. As product compliance requirements are updated yearly (or sometimes multiple times a year), suppliers typically do not update compliance documentation for obsolete parts. This means that as you continue to use obsolete parts in your products, you will not be able to verify that they meet the most current compliance requirements. Regularly reviewing BOMs for obsolete parts reduces the risk of not being able to obtain obsolete parts after your last purchase and having outdated compliance information for any of the obsolete parts in your products.
Finally, accurately tracking all engineering changes (ECs) and drawing reviews (DRs) also helps make managing product compliance much easier. It’s beneficial to try and verify the compliance of new product components before introducing them through an engineering change or new part addition.
#5: Understand Your Markets
Once you thoroughly understand your products and their requirements for product compliance, the next step is understanding the requirements for each region in which you are placing products on the market. Although product compliance regulations, directives, and laws may be similar in nature, there are usually differences in the requirements from region to region.
#6: Have a System in Place to Manage the Data
Another critical component to managing product compliance is having a system in place to manage the data. Verifying that your products meet compliance requirements in each market you sell in means gathering, evaluating, and storing substantial amounts of data in various formats. Using a system to gather and store product compliance data will allow you to do the following:
- Confirm that all documentation can be tied back to your product
- Ensure that the gathered documentation can be maintained long-term
- Verify that all documentation is current and up to date with regulations
- Collect information in a way that allows quick reactions to compliance requirement changes
- Organize and roll up your compliance data at the product level for simplified product compliance reporting
How Source Intelligence Helps Streamline Product Compliance
Don’t take on product compliance alone. When you partner with Source Intelligence, we work for you – whether you need a team of compliance experts to do the heavy lifting, or you need a software program to support your internal product compliance management. Our program will help streamline your product compliance management, so you’ll always be ready to answer customer requests with reports and declarations on demand.
The team at Source Intelligence understands the burden of meeting product compliance and has proven processes and tools in place to make meeting those requirements easier. Request a demo to discover how we can help.