Trying To Be Perfect In An Imperfect World
More and more suppliers are investing significant time and effort to developing compliance programs. Can these comprehensive plans guarantee that all these suppliers' products are 100 percent safe and compliant? I regularly hear these questions from end-buyers and distributors alike.
There seems to be an expectation of perfection that is being driven perhaps from end-buyers who do not have a full understanding of manufacturing processes. Regardless of industry, manufacturing can be complicated. This is especially true for the promotional products industry, which has so many under-developed supply chains and suppliers with little resources to actually oversee their manufacturing abroad.
I really enjoy having discussions with end-buyers on the challenges of trying to be perfect in an imperfect world. They come away from these conversations with a greater understanding of what supply chain excellence means and how to determine if a company has the ability to deliver excellence. Additionally, they have a much better appreciation and desire to do business with companies who are embracing this challenge rather than trying to minimize or ignore it.
There are industries, the pharmaceutical market for example, where the human cost of compliance or process failure is so large that there is a reasonable expectation of perfection. Companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Abbot and Merck along with many others spend tens of millions of dollars on process and quality control, as well as extensive FDA approvals, to bring over-the-counter drugs to market. The public expects these products to cause no harm and, for the most part, these products deliver on this promise.
However, in spite of this expensive commitment to perfection, failures happen. One of the more public and recent examples is the recall of McNeil Consumer Heathcare's liquid infant's and children's Tylenol®, Motrin®, Zyrtec® and Benadryl® products. The product recall offered cash refunds or coupons for replacement product later (I have two of these coupons), yet after 14 months Children's Tylenol is still not on the market. And this isn't the only incident. There have been others, such as heart pacemakers from Medtronic.