Tetra Tech's AJ Guikema Discusses the Importance of Data Quality and the Future of Product Compliance

Discussing the importance of data quality and the future of product compliance
Jan 24, 2022 8:00 AM ET
AJ Guikema headshot

Technology Solutions

AJ Guikema is a senior project manager with Tetra Tech and has more than 20 years of experience in environmental and product compliance. He joined Tetra Tech in 2000, specializing in International Material Data System (IMDS) in the automotive industry. AJ began his career with a focus on the automotive industry, and he has also supported aerospace, electronics, and many other industries. Product compliance piqued his interest due to its global scope and impact on world commerce. He found it fascinating to help companies navigate through the maze of requirements in each of these markets.

He studied at the University of Michigan and received a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering in 1993 and a Master of Science in Chemistry in 1999.

What product compliance challenges are industries facing when developing new products?

The rapid development of technology has been a big challenge recently. Not only are requirements around the world changing, but software solutions are advancing just as quickly. For example, the IMDS software has been upgraded to handle new requirements like Substance of Concern in Products (SCIP).

With more data available, I’d also say data quality is now a challenge. Having reliable and quality data from your supply chain is so important. If you aren’t paying enough attention to the quality of your data and just wanting to quickly get supplier data, which means you aren’t reviewing it carefully enough, you will likely have to redo everything. But it’s such a big undertaking for a large supply chain to report all the necessary data.

Understanding various regulations and different jurisdictions is something that has developed over time. Tetra Tech has supported environmental compliance projects since 2001 and has built this type of expertise, which helps us work much more efficiently for our clients.

How is Tetra Tech responding to these challenges and providing high-quality data?

Data quality is such an important aspect of a strong compliance program, and subject matter expertise is essential for accurate reporting. Companies need experts with not only the appropriate technical background—whether chemical engineering or environmental science—but also a deep understanding of regulations based on experience. Tetra Tech supports our clients, which are largely U.S.-based manufacturing companies, by providing this expertise that they may not possess in-house.

We see clients trying to educate and train their supply chains on the requirements and how to fulfill those requirements. They also are training their supply chains to carefully review data for quality assurance. In some cases, this may require audits or laboratory testing of the product’s chemical makeup. Having enough high-quality data and a database or software is critical to meet new requirements. Companies must be clear about long-term objectives for their data and how to manage it. Companies should be thinking about potential global requirements and planning out where they want to be in five years or more.

What do you see on the horizon for global product compliance?

2021 changed the landscape of global compliance, and will impact years to come, with the very large ramp-up of global chemicals regulations, especially in Europe. Global companies must deal with the release of IMDS 13.0, the new SCIP database, and a renewed emphasis by many global jurisdictions on increased enforcement. Data quality issues also have led to some notorious problems for major companies around the world.

This year will be a very interesting year in product compliance. There is a lot at stake, so it’s important for companies to evaluate where they are and make plans for the next 5 to 10 years to maintain access to global markets. Successful product compliance demands a future focus.