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Control the cost and minimise disruption: how to handle a product recall


It doesn’t seem like so long ago that brands didn’t feel a pressing need to have a product recall strategy integrated into their 3PL fulfilment. It felt like overkill. Now though, a product recall strategy is just as important as the fulfilment itself, whether you’re in the public sector or e-commerce.

Put simply, if you encounter an issue and have to recall a package, it can be like finding a needle in a haystack if you don’t have a robust strategy in place – as well as financial implications.

Reasons to have a 3PL product recall strategy

Globalisation has offered more choice when procuring components. However, these haven’t always been treated to rigorous enough quality checks or the right regulatory certification.

Even with a free giveaway, the brand has a legal responsibility for quality, not to mention brand reputation. If your company has signed up to the EU’s LOT directive and has product recall insurance, having a flimsy product recall strategy or none at all could be a financial disaster.

How to design a good 3PL product recall strategy

The key player in your product recall strategy is your 3PL fulfilment partner’s fulfilment management system. Granby uses a bespoke piece of technology called SCOPe. It facilitates fulfilment campaigns but it’s also designed to provide a full end-to-end audit trail.

This means that, however complex the campaign, a product recall can be executed efficiently and thoroughly. (Incidentally, it includes two modules that specifically help brands meet the requirements of the EU LOT directive too.)

At the outset, our clients provide detailed component information, including batch codes, that go straight into the fulfilment management system. The system and data work hard – as the packages are assembled and despatched, at each stage SCOPe tracks these components, including who has received them, to build a complete picture.

The stages of a product recall strategy

1. Client alerts us to a problem with faulty components.

2. We pull down a report from SCOPe that identifies who has received the faulty components.

3. We deploy a two-part communications strategy:

a. Send out a blanket email to all users alerting them to the issue and letting them know what our client, the brand, is doing to rectify the matter.

b. Using the report, we identify and contact the affected recipients directly. This is done via email in the first instance. SCOPe allows us to track responses, so we will follow-up with a call if we don’t hear back, and pursue the recall until we’ve tracked the return of all packages that include the faulty component.

4. We inform the client of any findings that will support them in their dealings with the manufacturer – for example, in detecting batches that might also be affected.

5. If necessary, we put additional quality controls in place at the fulfilment stage to support an ongoing despatch, for example in a long-running campaign.

What a good 3PL product recall strategy looks like

The objective is to know which component batches have been affected, identify who received them, and recall these packages only. This keeps control of the cost of recall and minimises disruption.

Example of a product recall

We recently dispatched 300,000 packages for a public sector client. Unfortunately, they were advised by a component manufacturer that three batches of a component were of substandard quality.

We pulled down a report on the components in question from our fulfilment management system, SCOPe. From here, we could see which packages they had gone into – which was only 1,000 – and track who had received them. We were able to contact the recipients and arrange for prompt return and replacement. SCOPe helped us avoid the recall of all 300,000 packages.

Takeaway tips for your 3PL product recall strategy

  • Don’t treat it as an afterthought – talk about it early on. Granby can move swiftly to support an unplanned product recall, but we advise you to plan ahead.
  • Remember, a product recall is a threat to your brand reputation but, critically, your product recall insurance could be invalidated if you don’t have a robust framework set up beforehand.
  • The existence of a product recall strategy allows you to save money and minimise disruption – because you can trace components, batches and recipients through SCOPe, you might only need to recall a small proportion of your despatched packages.

If you have any questions about how a 3PL partner can help you with product recalls, we’ll be happy to talk it through with you.

Photo by Jess @ Harper Sunday on Unsplash

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