Is It A Waste Of Time? BRC
Film Supply- BRC Accreditation, is it a waste of time?
Crisis what crisis?; Just 4 weeks ago we were notified by 2 major film manufacturers one from Turkey & the other from the Middle East that availability of all polymers, but particularly PE polymers, was “tight”- the forecast was that they expected this situation to continue to mid-year 2017 with significant price increases in the first half of the year.
The reasons we were given was more planned closures of polymer manufacturing plants for maintenance. Added to this was the declaration of “force majeure” of polymer plants operated by both Borealis and Lyondell Basell. The previous price increase in February and March on virtually all commodity films meant that in the first quarter of 2017, we had some £250-£300 per tonne increase in film prices with a forecast of more to come in April.
We are now told that the supply situation has “normalised” which means film suppliers are back to 6-8 weeks delivery, with some European manufacturers offering less than this. We really can’t say how much of this mini crisis was hubris but there is little doubt that whilst there have been no film price reductions, the availability of most types of film (other than white OPP & some coated films) has quickly reverted to normal.
The result is here at National Flexible we have a stock overhang, which we could manage without, however as ever we would always rather be safe than sorry. So we don’t feel the inevitable extra cost of having large film stocks is wasted.
One other thought, 5 years ago supplies of film from the Middle East hardly existed, now it is one of the world’s leading sources of film supply. The E.U. levied import duties on these films of circa 6%. Will these disappear with Brexit? Similarly the USA is currently building major polymer producing facilities using gas from Fracking. In theory these polymer supplies should reduce the future price of packaging films by 2020. As ever we shall see.
BRC accreditation– Is it a waste of time?
This thought came to me when I recently sat down with our QA Manager to review her workload, this was to try and establish why she felt she needed another team member? When looking at the figures for her services to customers the reason was easy to see and the workload easy to evaluate.
For example, in Jan to April 2017, we have responded to over 220 customer requests for more technical information. This figure compares to around 170 in 2016 and 138 in 2015! I make no apologies for re-visiting this inexplicable growth of QA bureaucracy and the need for so many more so called “self-assessments”. I find it difficult to believe any credible supplier sends in QA information which does not comply with the requirements of their customers. But surely the procedure should be for the customer to ask for the reports of the BRC inspector. Then if further information is required (quite reasonably) request it to be added to the report.
Whilst we recognise BRC is a minimum standard for quality assessment the adoption of such a system would give every customer a QA report which they know has been independently inspected and accredited. The new AA+ standard for BRC with inspectors visiting the supplier unannounced must be the way forward. This must be more credible than compiling a separate comprehensive questionnaire for each customers QA manager as the information they ask for inevitably consists of 90% of what is included in the BRC standards.
Some more extreme examples are we have one customer who has had the same film for all of 14 years with us. They take 6 different widths but ask for completion of a 5 page questionnaire which is required to be completed for each width. All the technical details are the same only the widths vary thus we have sent the same 30 pages of information back year after year after year! (Computers have a lot to answer for)!
Another example is we are required to have an annual certificate of conformity from our major film suppliers. Each year they are independently accredited and we don’t get quality problems. Yet we have one customer who ask for 2 certificates of conformity on every delivery. One fixed to the pallet and one sent to their QA Dept (who must have hundreds). Finally we have one QA questionnaire 32 pages long which is sent to us for completion every year in which virtually all the BRC criteria are included with little variation just repetition. We love our customers dearly and always do our best to please them… but is it me?
For the record, so far this year we have had independent inspections from both BRC & ISO plus 4 QA inspections from some of the UK’s largest brand owners own staff. Over all these audits they have found 5 minor non-conformances which were documentation, not procedures. Where this will all end I have no idea, but if anyone has any views on how we can mitigate the growing beast of QA bureaucracy as ever they will be most welcome (rant over!)
For information: HSBC is recruiting 6000 additional compliance officers, is this the future for the food industry?
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