Product recalls can spell disaster for businesses, impacting brand reputation, customer trust, and the bottom line. In an era where product quality and safety are paramount, businesses must be vigilant and innovative in their approach to reducing the risk of recalls.
2022: Record-Breaking Year for Recalls
Last year wasn’t a pretty one for product recalls. In fact, it was the worst year in history for U.S. brands and manufacturers.
“For the second consecutive year, more than 1 billion units of food, drugs, medical devices, automobiles, and consumer products were recalled in the U.S.” a recent press release explains. “According to Sedgwick’s latest state of the nation recall index report, 2022 was a record-breaking year for the number of units recalled, reaching nearly 1.5 billion. With regulatory scrutiny continuing to increase, 2023 may shape up to be another 1 billion unit year, requiring businesses across industries to remain vigilant on matters of product safety and recall preparedness.”
If trends continue, we’ll be sitting here in 12 months talking about how 2023 was a record year for recalls. But what exactly is getting recalled? Here are some of the trends:
- Automotive recalls actually decreased by 12.6 percent in 2022 compared to 2021.
- While the total number of consumer products recalled increased by 31.2 percent, the number of units recalled was cut by 45.4 percent.
- FDA food recalls saw a massive 700 percent boom in the number of units impacted.
- Recall events in the medical device industry jumped by 8.8 percent in 2022 with 911 individual recall events.
In 2023, electric vehicles are a huge focus. Food recalls continue to increase, as well as medical devices and drugs.
How to Reduce the Risk of Recalls
With recalls happening in record numbers here in the United States, the question is: How do you avoid becoming part of this statistic? The answer, while not exactly “cut and dry,” comes down to reducing your risk level.
Here are some specific ways to do that:
- Create a Proactive Recall Prevention Culture
Establishing a recall prevention culture begins with leadership. Company executives and managers must prioritize product quality and integrity in their decision-making processes. This commitment should cascade down through the organization, emphasizing that every employee’s role contributes to ensuring the safety and reliability of products.
Training is an absolute must if you want to reduce recalls. It should go without saying, but employees are the front-line guardians of product quality. Training programs should be designed to educate staff about the potential consequences of product defects and recalls. By understanding their role in the bigger picture, employees become more vigilant and proactive in identifying issues that could compromise product integrity.
Make sure employees feel empowered to identify potential issues and actually report those concerns to the right people. Otherwise, you’ll have a building full of people who are afraid to speak up.
- Leverage Cutting-Edge Technology
Technology plays a pivotal role in helping businesses prevent recalls by offering advanced tools that can proactively monitor, identify, and address issues with product quality at early stages of the supply chain.
There are dozens of advanced tools you can use to address product recalls, but RFID tags are one of the best options. With RFID insertion equipment, RFID tags can be inserted into products and shipments in order to track products at very specific stages of the supply chain and manufacturing process.
This makes it easier to identify and isolate issues that could create the need for expensive and disruptive recalls in the future.
- Implement Rigorous Quality Control Measures
You can have the best technology in the world, but all it will do is give you visibility and reporting capabilities. At the end of the day, you have to be capable of implementing the right quality control measures to ensure issues don’t arise in the first place. There are three ways to do this:
- Establish very clear and specific quality standards and benchmarks
- Implement a variety of checkpoints for every stage of the process (from raw materials to finished products)
- Ensure you have cross-functional collaboration with all departments and suppliers
If you take these three things seriously, you’ll see a marked improvement within months.
- Embrace a CANI Mentality
Companies committed to recall prevention must adopt a mindset of perpetual enhancement. (Many organizations call this a “CANI” mentality, which stands for Constant and Never-Ending Improvement.) This culture extends beyond product quality to encompass processes, communication, and customer feedback.
Encouraging employees to consistently seek ways to improve fosters a proactive approach to addressing potential issues before they escalate. This starts with having great feedback loops that gather insights. These invaluable insights can be gained from those directly impacted by the products: customers, employees, and stakeholders.
Creating channels for open feedback establishes a mechanism for early issue identification. Regular surveys, focus groups, and transparent communication will enable you to gather data for targeted improvement efforts.
Adding it All Up
It’s impossible to reduce the risk of recall to zero percent. However, there are plenty of ways to mitigate risk levels and eliminate obvious errors and oversights that put you behind the eight-ball from the start.
By identifying and proactively addressing these areas, you can enjoy more success at every level of your organization.