April 8, 2016 / Andrew Brown

When Stewardship is Part of Global Operations, Things Happen

Mitch Fonda’s a-ha moment came during a trip to Shanghai, where a colleague presented on the problems she had importing and distributing product. “She said, ‘If I don't get this in time, I don't realize my revenue. I don't get customer satisfaction,’ and the list went on and on,” says Fonda, who leads global compliance and stewardship for Waters Corporation. “That was one of our bigger epiphanies about how to talk to people in the business — marketing, R&D — to say if you want to get product X into these 10 countries, you can't even begin to market and sell them without meeting the country requirements, so here's some tools to help you out. That's how we started to gain traction, by presenting a business case and become a promoter of business support rather than someone sitting at the end of the process saying ‘no.’”

To put idea into action, Fonda recommended to business executives that product stewardship functions live within the global operations division. “If it's not in global ops, you should consider moving it to global ops, because product stewardship has become a major influencer of supply chains, impacting everything from procurement to market country access to customer delivery expectations,” says Fonda. “If it's not there, then it can become one of your biggest sources of risk, because it can negatively affect day-to-day operations. They can be a valuable asset and your colleague as it becomes clear to them that meeting product stewardship requirements is a key component in meeting customer expectations for product availability.”

Fonda emphasizes that discussions around product stewardship shouldn’t center on compliance. Instead, they’re business discussions, centered on market access, sales and customer satisfaction. During his presentation A Business Approach for Effective Product Stewardship Structure​​ at Stewardship 2016, Fonda will talk about how he accomplished that at Waters. “One person in the department screaming at the top of their lungs is not going to work,” he says. “If you can build consensus around a business plan, you'll be a lot more successful in gaining traction as you are connecting to the business on a visceral level, resulting in more people being more engaged.”

That might mean one-on-one conversations to start. And it definitely means speaking from a business perspective rather than a scientific or technical one. “If you're talking about the bioavailability of chemical X and the leachate characteristics … that's fine for inside your department, but it is very risky to talk to a business lead about that. You will be dismissed in an instant because you're presenting a compliance discussion,” says Fonda. “But if you start talking about business risks, brand image, customer satisfaction and extended revenue — that is a very different conversation and you have their attention.”

Andrew Brown

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