Anyone who ships lithium batteries or battery-powered products knows that compliant battery shipping is a constant challenge. Yet, shippers who undertake the efforts to improve their compliance often discover improvements in other areas as well.
In our role to counsel companies on hazardous materials transport and product regulatory support, we recently conducted a compliance assessment for a global robotics company when the firm took its shipping operations in-house. The goal: Enhance the company’s dangerous good compliance procedures. In the process, we helped optimize the company’s overall supply chain process.
In fact, such a consulting process can benefit any manufacturer that ships large lithium batteries, including those involved in heavy-duty power tools, large toys such as cars and hoverboards, drones, medical equipment, electric vehicles, energy storage, general industrial machinery, and other segments.
One Day, Countless Insights
The one-day compliance assessment is similar to a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) inspection, but without the fear you will get slapped with a civil penalty at the end of the day.
The assessment covers every step in your operation — from receiving to stocking to outbound shipping — to highlight compliance gaps that might be vulnerable to enforcement actions. Such an audit goes well beyond just navigating regulations and requirements. It includes the sharing of industry best practices that showcase how other companies find efficiencies, which can help streamline your operation.
During the day, documentation like SOPs, training records and shipper papers are reviewed. Discussions are held with employees to identify their roles. At the end of the day, a debriefing meeting outlines immediate needs and a long-term roadmap toward achieving a compliant and efficient outbound shipping process. A follow-up written report is provided within a week.
Recommendations pinpoint both compliance issues to address and methods to enhance efficiencies. For example, attaching dangerous goods information to product numbers doesn’t just ensure compliant packaging and labeling; it also removes a level of complexity to streamline processes for your outbound people.
Dangerous Goods Training Often A Deficiency
One common deficiency often found during a compliance assessment is a lack of appropriate training. It’s the first item a DOT inspector will ask and most shippers don’t realize the extent to which it’s needed.
And it’s not just compliance that training should address. Proper dangerous good training ensures employees understand the reasons behind the regulations and the consequences of non-compliance. It helps them become more familiar with their functions — why they’re doing what they do — which pays off in higher productivity and fewer errors throughout your supply chain.
It’s important to select a training company that can customize the program based on your compliance assessment. Training tailored to your company’s specific needs will provide exactly what employees need to know. It also gets them more engaged and leads to a lot of relevant questions and a productive dialog.
All The Gory Details
As mentioned, every compliance assessment includes a written report citing compliance gaps and making recommendations for dangerous goods program improvements. Companies tell us they want to read all of the details – even those that may be gory or alarming.
However, these executives note that it’s the report’s executive summary that helps them in a significant way to highlight their concerns for their C-suite. Without buy-in from upper management, it’s difficult to make meaningful supply chain improvements.
Mike Pagel is Senior Consultant for Labelmaster, providing dangerous goods and product regulatory support to customers worldwide through his vast experience and knowledge of hazardous materials regulations and his extensive network of dangerous goods professionals.