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 have identified six key best practices that can help companies successfully manage their product compliance programs.
#1: Find documentation online
Being as self-sufficient as possible regarding data collection is an effective way to reduce supplier fatigue, starting with understanding how to find the appropriate documentation online to fulfill your data requests. Compliance documentation is often available on supplier websites, so it’s best practice to thoroughly search for the required data online before reaching out to suppliers. 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 access the information. Other suppliers may provide part-specific details on their website’s product pages or have a specific webpage dedicated to compliance data.
If the compliance information is not available on the supplier’s website (or the data on the website is insufficient), further research to identify the appropriate contact to request the information is required. Reaching out to the most relevant department with information requests helps save time.
For example, contacting the supplier via the purchasing or sales department may not be the most effective route. Quality, compliance, and engineering departments are better suited to fulfill the request promptly. Suppliers may also have a specific email address for compliance requests.
#2: Accept data in multiple formats
Accepting evidentiary compliance data in any format available greatly reduces the supplier’s effort, yielding a higher response rate and lower turnaround time. 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 declarations – One of the most common forms of compliance information that typically states something like “All products are PFAS free”
- IPC-175x declarations – An industry standard format for providing product compliance information
- Certificates of compliance – Product-level declarations, often provided in PDF format
- Excel spreadsheets – 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 – Standard specifications of grade materials like metals, useful when dealing with metal hardware and fabricated components; metal grades and compositions allow for analyzing 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 necessary to have a compliance system in place that can house documentation and associate the documentation to specific purchased parts.
In some cases, previously provided supplier documentation can be applied to newly procured components if they are similar, or if the previous documentation was provided at the company level. Making use of company documentation and product family declarations decreases the need to request new data from suppliers, which helps avoid fatigue.
#4: Know your products
Knowing your products and any product type-specific requirements is critical to implementing a successful product compliance program. Many product requirements are specific to the type of product, so you must fully understand your products and their uses to ensure that you are meeting all the product compliance requirements.
Understanding all the components and materials used to manufacture your products is also essential. This can be accomplished by developing and maintaining a well-defined Bill of Materials (BOM) for your products. A BOM should include all the components used to make a product, along with any consumables that will remain on the final product, such as solders, adhesives, or other materials used during the manufacturing process that become part of the product.
Another critical aspect of understanding your products is reviewing BOMs for obsolete parts. Given that product compliance requirements are updated anywhere from several times a year to once 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. Understanding where you are using obsolete parts will help you identify where you may have missing compliance data. If you made a large last-time purchase and need to continue using obsolete parts, you may have to send out a sample for 3rd party testing to keep compliance documentation current.
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 know 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, there are usually differences in the requirements from region to region.
#6: Have a data management system
Another critical component to managing product compliance is having a system in place to organize 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 collect 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
By following these industry best practices, your product compliance programs will become much more manageable and successful.
Source Intelligence's product compliance solutions
Don’t take on product compliance alone. When you partner with Source Intelligence, we work for you – whether you need software to support your product compliance programs, a team of compliance experts to do the heavy lifting for you, or a combination of the two. Our software and services 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. Explore our product compliance solutions to discover how we can help.