How Serious is the Problem?
Quality and safety issues result in an ongoing problem of product recalls in many industry sectors. In particular, data from the UK show a growing problem in the food industry:
Meanwhile, data from across Europe show a significant rise in automotive recalls in recent years:
A badly-handled recall puts consumer safety at risk, as well as damaging corporate reputations and hitting the bottom line. It is important for all organisations that could be affected to adequately prepare for a recall. Detailed good practice guidance is now available in PAS 7100: 2018 – Code of Practice on Consumer Product Safety Recalls and other Corrective Actions.
Many recalls are wholly ineffective: studies suggest that recalls of electrical products in the UK have a success rate of only 10-20%. Some, like the high-profile Whirlpool tumble dryer recall, rumble on for years, gradually eroding consumer confidence and debasing the brand. An effective recall requires considerable planning and preparation, including developing robust processes for:
- Product traceability;
- Customer traceability;
- Product safety monitoring;
- Communicating with customers, suppliers and regulators.
Planning for a product recall must be supported by appropriate training. This should begin with basic awareness training, to ensure that relevant staff know their roles in the key processes listed above. The aim should then be to build on this with both:
- Live exercises to practise staff members in the mechanics of a recall; and
- Scenario-based exercises to practise senior management in decision-making.
Both types of exercise will also help to highlight gaps and flaws in procedures, thereby identifying opportunities for improvement. Product recall training should be integrated into the organisation’s overall programme of crisis management training and exercising.