Okay, business is booming, and your sales department is signing clients all over the globe. As you start to add larger customers to your client list, certain requests start coming through your inbox that may seem foreign. Technical questions concerning the chemical make-up of your products, the ethical standards you hold on your suppliers, the origin of certain materials in your products and other compliance-related questions that seem impossible to respond to with accuracy. In addition, many of these requests require you to gather information from your suppliers – all of the sudden, you have a myriad of requests coming in from customers and your stalled because your suppliers aren’t giving you the information you need.

At this point, it’s clear that processes have to be implemented to expedite supply chain data collection and communication in order to ensure you keep your new and existing clients happy. As you start to research compliance solutions, you may be looking for a quick fix to immediate problems, but it’s important to think long term. If growth continues as planned, you’ll be having to deal with various regulations across the globe. Here are the top 10 things to consider when looking for a scalable 3rd party compliance solution. 

Build internally or outsource

The build or buy dilemma is a classic scenario that many companies find challenging to compute. It’s important to ask two main questions: Does your company have available capital resources and human expertise to take on the compliance processes? Does your internal solution have the ability to scale?

Often times the person or team taking on supply chain compliance, data collection and reporting are doing so on top of their other day to day duties. Compliance is a very complex area of business and inaccuracy can put your company at risk for fines, time-consuming audits or losing customers. Utilizing the expertise of a compliance partner can be a good solution to this problem and can cost far less than building internally.

Program Manager Assistance

Compliance partners provide day-to-day expertise most commonly in the form of a program manager. It’s important to think: Does the compliance partner have a designated program manager that knows your company’s compliance needs and is available to provide weekly updates or help walk you through any issues you’re experiencing? This is something you definitely have to consider when searching for a 3rd party compliance solution. There is an overwhelming amount of moving parts to manage for product and company level compliance program. It’s in your best interest when doing research on potential solutions that you look for companies who have a dedicated program manager to help guide and ensure you’ve got all your fundamentals covered.

Multi-lingual Assistance

Your suppliers are located all around the globe. Does the 3rd party you’re looking at have employees in-house that can effectively communicate and are familiar with business protocols in foreign countries? Localized language communication not only improves the quality of information and data you will receive from your suppliers, but it will also increase your total supplier response rates.

Customizable solutions

As mentioned above, expanding your businesses global reach, in effect, puts you in scope of new foreign regulations. Your company’s compliance needs are unique and it is imperative that the 3rd party solution you go with can adapt and cover the specific programs you need assistance with. In another case, you may be fine with one area of compliance, but need help being notified of new regulations you’re now aware of. You don’t want to pay for extra services you don’t need so it is imperative to make sure the solution you decide to go with is able to be flexible as well as customizable to your specific goals.

24/7/365 supplier support center

Much like multi-lingual assistance, today’s supply chains works on a global watch. Giving your supply chain the opportunity to interact with you and give you data at any time of the day is critical to supplier response rates and data collection accuracy.

United States based data warehousing

Data privacy and regulation is paramount to supply chain data security. US government contractors will only work the companies who house data in the United States. This trend is increasing rapidly, and can be a clearly defined make-or-break of some contracts with large manufacturers doing business with the United States government. 

Supplier database size

It’s always in your best interest to go with a 3rd party who has a vast supplier network in their database. When it comes to supplier data, database size is an indicator of efficiency and horsepower when in comes to 3rd party solutions. Larger supplier databases display that other companies have had success with the compliance partner in the past, and database structure is scalable. This is a minor detail, but it’s the little things (or large databases) that are indicators of strong compliance partners.

Time to results

You’ve turned to a compliance partner because the volume of compliance data has gotten out of control. With many outsourcing situations, the issue arises of time to implementation – how fast can the system be implemented and start running? You need to be sure you go with a solution that is turn-key and can be fully operational in a matter of days not weeks.

End-to-end capabilities 

This is a no-brainer but some solutions do not offer the ability, in the case of conflict minerals, trace mine and smelter of origins which as you well know is crucial for reporting. In addition, the ability to collect data and apply it to various regulations is a huge factor in scalability. 

Ability to Self Assess and Identify Risks in your Supply Chain

Analytical tools and data intelligence is a critical component of risk-based approaches to supply chain compliance. If there is an instance where you would need to quickly identify an at-risk supplier, you need to make sure your 3rd party can identify, gather data and analyze the supplier across many data points to get you accurate information concerning the supplier. NGO’s are constantly comparing areas of risk with company’s supply chains. The last thing you want to happen is to find out after the fact, that you are involved with and implicitly funding suppliers that are in violation of human rights laws.

These top 10 things should act as a guide, not a recipe for a compliance partner. Every company has different needs and the checklist for the ultimate compliance partner can look very different. It’s important to remember, regulations are meant to ensure companies and products are making the right decisions in the manufacturing process and supplier decisions. Supply chain compliance will always be a work in progress, and teaming up with a partner who you feel comfortable going down the compliance journey with is the most important thing. 

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