Remote Reviews

For many years past, I’d do an early January blog listing out trade shows to come. I hope to make Surfaces the first week of February and I really hope to see folks at both the NWFA and IWPA in Florida in April (almost side by side!). But beyond that, it looks like another year with limited air miles. So I’m going to set that topic aside and focus on the reality that this is likely another year of meeting many people on the screen. So let’s look at doing remote reviews.

Let’s be thankful for the technology we have available. We can send large files, detailed pictures and long videos around the world. We can tour a facility virtually as well. It’s not the same as boots on the ground and the ability to poke your nose in the deep dark corners or chat with anyone you meet, but we can do far more than we could in the past and you should take advantage of it.

I’d start with a review of the mill’s SOPs. Let’s see what they say they should be doing. Do they commit to taking a picture of every order as it arrives? Great, ask to see those pictures. Do they commit to collecting X document for all raw material? Let’s check that out. Do they plan to test a specified percent of production – OK, show me the testing records. Your first goal is to see that they are following their own SOPs.

Then try to trace something. Pick a recently shipped order and back track it. Can they identify where each component came from? Show expected documents or test details Assume they didn’t use all the incoming material in that bit of production – can they show where the rest is?

Ask for a walk around. I recommend you get your guide to use a quality selfie stick for videos – I had a ‘tour’ recently where one was used and it was amazing. Not only was there no bouncing around as he walked, the stick was plugged into the sound system of the phone, so even next to a moulder, we could have a normal conversation. It was easier to talk that way then if I had been actually in the factory!

I also recommend you make sure you ask him to go where you want to go. If the guide starts to the right, ask him to pan to the left – see what you are passing and make sure you don’t need to go see it. Stop and ask to see tracking tags. Take a note of a number and when you get back to the office, see if you can trace the history of that bundle. Look at the finishes or the glues being used – make sure they are the ones that you’ve agreed to and that they have not passed their expiration date.

You might try recording the review, but that sometimes makes things awkward. It also isn’t always the most effective way to go back and review specific things. I like to take periodic screencaps of things to follow up on, or as evidence of topics checked. For example:

We’ve lost a lot over the last two years – actual losses of friends and family and lost time and opportunities and experiences. But we can’t lose our commitment to doing it right the best way we can. So use technology available to you and continue to make sure you are doing everything you can to stay on the right path.

Elizabeth Baldwin is Environmental Compliance Officer for Metropolitan Hardwood Floors. In her 25 plus year career in the wood industry has visited over 70 countries and hundreds of facilities of all sizes and types. She describes herself as a “jack of all wood trades.” Familiar with jungles of all sorts–having camped out along the Amazon and walked the halls of Congress–she blogs for the NWFA on both environmental and regulatory issues for educational and informational purposes only. Her blog is not intended and should not be construed as legal advice. Persons seeking legal advice on compliance with CARB, TSCA, the U.S. Lacey Act or any other law, regulation, or compliance requirement/claim should consult with the regulatory agency directly and/or a qualified legal professional.

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