Importance of the Document Exchange Process
Document management was not in my circle of responsibility in my previous
role. I really had no idea of the volume of documents that were required at the time
and what the future regulatory requirements would eventually generate. Once in,
I began to realize quickly how providing documentation in a timely manner is a
critical component of the customer service capability for this type of organization.
Especially in a new ingredient/product introduction that is on a tight implementation schedule. You do not want to be the reason a potential piece of business is lost
in any-size organization.
The technical folks need the backup documents to begin the process, and if they
are not received in a timely manner, the process comes to a halt. The goal should be
to keep that process running smoothly and be considered as the best IOR to work
with. The challenge is how to keep the updated version of the documents that have
expiration dates (most are annual) available when requested.
Document management services are becoming popular; there are two main
choices in the marketplace to my knowledge. I’ll let you do your own research to determine which is the best fit for your operation. If you are supplying to a large-scale
operation, you are already engaged in the process with a supplier portal and receive
the barrage of notification emails regarding expired and/or new document requests.
There are least-cost options available that require a database-to-database transfer
from your supplier to your customer, or the often more expensive “pass through”
Caution: Although a web-based system is an efficient method to control the document management portion of the FSVP, you must be careful not to lose the personal
side of this operation. Numerous times, I receive document requests, turn them
around quickly, and receive a sincere note back thanking me for the speed of the
response. You cannot ignore the importance of that interaction. Remember, business
is personal: It is all about relationships based on trust through verification.
Supplier Risk Assessments
I’ve always believed that the way we conduct ourselves in our professional life is
basically how we are in our personal lives. If you like to travel, learn about different
cultures, learn different languages, eat different foods, sleep in airports, continuously
request documents, and send documents, you too can be an FSVP professional!
One of my favorite phrases is: “Everything I’ve experienced in my life has prepared me for the challenges I am facing today.” It is a guiding principle that allows
me to have the mental fortitude to walk into a situation with confidence, prepared
to handle whatever will be encountered and be prepared for the next challenge.
I remember 25 years ago how I kept repeating that mantra the first time I disembarked the Boeing 747 in a country that required a business visa and generated
personal safety warning documents from our in-house travel agents. Didn’t know
the language, culture, the airport, or even if our contact had arranged transportation.
After receiving scrutinizing stares through the maze of customs agents, I received
the stamps of approval on my passport and stepped into the cacophony of awaiting
loved ones, vocal tour guides, and taxi services. Much to my delight, a gentleman
was holding a piece of paper with my name on it, and after an awkward hug (from
me to him), off we went.
The assessment went better than expected, the factory programs exceeded my ex-
pectations, and the translation challenge was minimal. The important factor that was
recognized by all the parties involved
was the development of a rapport. We
dined together for lunch and dinner. We
spoke of our families and shared similar
experiences that narrowed the cultural
differences. When I left, I knew I had
connected with the managers, and they
understood why I asked the questions
I did, pushed for verification, and left
them with a list of items to mitigate risk
for our customers.
We were a company with one emerging brand that had a robust internal
prevention program, and we needed to
implement those risk-mitigation strategies in our supply chain. My boss at the
time, Dale R. Rice (who is now Dale R.
Rice, D.V.M.), coined a phrase, “
Realistic specifications, rigidly enforced.” He
encouraged me to audit to the specification for each ingredient at the supplier locations. A thorough ingredient
specification will cover the quality and
food safety attributes important to the
My previous experiences with
implementing a supplier management
program for a single brand and multiple
product variations grew into multiple
brands and select ingredient categories
via an acquisition by a global corporation. I spent the subsequent years
managing domestic and foreign supplier
performance. This advancement over
a period of 25 years increased supplier
knowledge into currently implementing
an FSVP for an IOR with approximately
70 products from an international supplier base.
An FSVP is not about performing
multiple desk audits. While document
and procedure review are crucial to a
baseline understanding, the real learnings are derived from walking out to
that factory floor and seeing it for yourself. You need to meet the line managers, line workers, maintenance technicians, and sanitation crew. They need to
see what their customers look like and
think about. Make it personal.
Business is about relationships, and
relationships are personal. Your suppliers need to know you, understand what
your concerns are, and what you can
“Business is about relationships, and
relationships are personal.”