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Background Aero Products International were in the middle of a major launch of the AeroBed Brand into Europe. A sales team was hard at work building a European customer base for their air beds from scratch. They had several big retail chains signed up and $1million worth of stock in the UK warehouse and in transit from the Chinese factory.
Aero had prepared carefully for the EU roll-out of their well-established US product, which had an excellent safety record. The EU version of the product had been verified in conformance with EU regulations by a US consultant. A CE mark was printed on the product and packaging.
Then the quality manager of a large French retailer wrote to Aero saying he thought that the product didn’t conform to EU safety regulations. This put the whole launch plan in jeopardy. SA was called in to give an opinion as to whether the French retailer was right and, if so, what to do about it.
Challenge In SA’s opinion Aero’s French customer was right. The US consultant had screwed up. There were significant parts of the product that did not conform to EU regulations.
Even if no end user had any problems, applying the CE mark to a product that doesn’t conform to EU safety regulations carries a £5000 fine per offence. If a serious injury resulted from the non-conformance, there was a possibility that the directors of the importer (Aero) could go to jail. Naturally, the challenge was how to get out of this potentially costly and disastrous mess as quickly as possible.
Solution Aero carried out an expensive product recall from their retailers’ warehouses throughout Europe before any products actually reached an end user. Everything was shipped back to China. SA re-designed several parts to eliminate the non-conforming features. New samples were guided by SA through the CE Mark tests in a UK test lab. When we were sure the design was right, the Chinese factory re-worked the whole stock and shipped the resulting products back to Europe again.
Deliverables As a result of this costly and traumatic episode early in the company’s history, a number of process improvements were made. Since the AeroBed 101 launch, SA has advised on and managed the CE marking of all Aero’s EU pumps. 15 pumps in 75 SKU’s in 7 years.
Results You could say that Sanders Associates are protecting Aero’s customers from injury and keeping their directors out of jail!