The Importance of Import Safety

Fueled by the media frenzy about the many product safety problems with imports, 2007 was truly ”the year of the recall.” And if you want to avoid such import disasters, “the time to act is now,” says Despina Keegan, senior trade advisor for JPMorgan global trade services.

Most of the attention has focused on imports from China, but no business that sources products abroad is immune, stresses Keegan. “Make no mistake: Unsafe and hazardous imports can originate from anywhere around the world, and companies need to focus on their entire global supply chain, layer-by-layer, to know all that is necessary to ensure that the safety and quality of those products is not inferior or somehow compromised,” Keegan says. The key to success, she says, is to be proactive, not reactive.

What should you be doing to make sure your imports are safe? While the U.S. government has started putting programs into place that will step up enforcement of import safety, it is up to each company to be prepared before the government comes knocking on the door.

Once your company has to conduct a recall—or even if it is cooperating in one—the top goal is protecting consumers. You should also aim to reduce liability, and do your best to preserve your reputation and brand.
The company needs to cooperate with authorities while attempting to minimize the effect on business operations—and, in the end, work to restore consumer confidence.

The stress of all of this on your business can be reduced significantly, if not prevented altogether, by taking the necessary steps ahead of time to evaluate your import practices and procedures.
Keegan has put together a checklist, with several areas to consider as you evaluate your current business. Here’s what import safety stands for:
Inspections – Do you inspect your foreign factories (announced/unannounced)?
Management- Do you have commitment and corporate objectives?
Policies— Do you have procedures to ensure corporate objectives are followed?
Orgin – Do you identify and verify product origin?
Recalls – Do you have a program to inform consumers and agencies of defects?
Testing – Do you test products (internally/externally) and document/track results?

Suppliers – Do you have quality/safety requirements in writing/acknowledged?
Audit – Do you have a product safety audit plan?
Follow – Do you follow or benchmark what your competitors are doing or recommending?
Examine – Do you examine what’s going on with your product outside the U.S.?
Training – Do you train internal units and suppliers on product safety?
You – It’s crucial that you know your product and that you exercise reasonable care to protect consumers

Whatever your business, imports are clearly under a magnifying glass, and, as Keegan notes, “only by taking the proper precautions now to put quality and safety first will you succeed in the global arena and achieve consumer confidence.”

Despina Keegan will present “I-M-P-O-R-T S-A-F-E-T-Y: Best Practices & Preparedness” on Wednesday, April 9 from 8:45am to 10:00am at NCOF.

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