Succeed at Product Compliance

Automated activities throughout a product's lifecycle can play a key role.

By Frank Arcadi, IHS

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Product stewardship is becoming a mission-critical concern for corporate executives in the chemical industry. The quest now has taken on a new dimension -- going beyond protecting the surrounding environment to safeguarding brands and employees, and providing customers with safer and sustainable products.

The development of safer products requires product compliance at each stage of the product lifecycle. Regulations such as REACH, GHS and RoHS as well as customer demand are redefining what product compliance means and making it an increasingly important factor in everything from materials procurement to completed product distribution. Today, noncompliance poses substantial financial and safety risks, including inability to sell in global markets, unmet customer demand, delayed shipments and revenue loss throughout the entire supply chain.

Many companies begin adhering to legislation during market rollout, after a product is fully developed, only to learn the product isn't in compliance. This tactical and reactive approach limits an organization's options and can be costly to remedy.

The strategic approach (Figure 1) is designing for sustainable products. This means checking for compliance early and often. Regulatory data are a necessary component in all operations including product lifecycle management, supply chain management, order management, sales and operations, as well as government, risk and compliance activities. Product compliance must be integrated into business processes, best practices and information management systems.

A company planning to expand into new markets must make product compliance a strategic initiative in its overall plan. For example, Vlissingen, Netherlands-based Thermphos International realized that lack of compliance would limit its growth. One of the largest producers of phosphorus, phosphoric acid, phosphates, phosphonates and phosphorus derivatives, it supplies worldwide customers that serve a wide variety of markets. "Thermphos was looking to integrate product compliance across all of its business processes so that we can be ready for new legislation as well as geographic expansion," notes Rene de Kok, its REACH coordinator.

Product compliance has become very complex and costly. Regulations and standards are evolving rapidly and globally. So, a company must promote product stewardship and information technology (IT) that look forward, anticipate change and have a flexible vision.

Even when products are designed to be compliant, extensive documentation and product traceability throughout the entire supply chain remain essential. A company must consolidate information from multiple sources, generate new information and share information with the supply chain. This presents complex IT and business process challenges to produce the necessary and accurate documentation as well as automate communication throughout the supply chain.

"As a part of our continued commitment to environmental improvement and providing sustainable cleaning solutions, we knew that we needed to integrate product compliance into our product lifecycle and supply chain processes," says Gary Arrand, IT director, DuBois Chemical, Sharonville, Ohio.

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