Maintaining manufacturing quality across international standards

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Navigating international standards and regulations is challenging, but the benefits of a broader customer base and increased market opportunities are worth the effort.  PHOTO courtesy Master Fluid Solutions.

By Justin Geach

A major challenge in the industrial manufacturing sector for the last few years has been the breakdown of the global supply chain. Industry leaders are working quickly to improve resilience and mitigate uncertainty, employing tactics like international expansion, mergers, and acquisitions. In 2022 alone, leaders closed 3,752 deals, totaling $241.6 billion in value. Investors made an additional $42.85 billion in the industry as well, including in nearshoring initiatives.

These global expansion efforts create more stability and security in the supply chain. Still, manufacturers operating internationally face many challenges, particularly in adopting global compliance standards and maintaining their own manufacturing quality standards. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most frequent issues arising and some tips on navigating this new landscape.

The Compliance Challenges of International Operation

Though globalization has spurred significant efforts to unify standards, North America and the European Union can have different regulatory requirements, creating compliance hurdles for manufacturers to overcome. Some of the biggest challenges international operations face are:

Environmental Standards

The European Union has become a leader in implementing stringent environmental regulations, with directives and regulations aimed at reducing carbon emissions and waste generation, and promoting sustainable practices. Policies like the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) and Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) mandate eco-friendly requirements for product designs. As a result, North America-based manufacturers may need to approach production processes and product design more sustainably to streamline compliance with both markets.

Data Security Laws

In addition to environmental regulations, data security and privacy laws are also rapidly evolving worldwide. Many are pioneered by the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). North American regulations, such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), also substantially impact global standards for protecting personal data. Global manufacturers must ensure their data handling practices align with these regulations.

Safety and Labor Regulations

Labor laws and safety regulations also vary significantly from one country to another, and manufacturers must carefully research these differences to ensure compliance, as well as proper financial projections. 


Many nations and regions have their own process and product certifications that differ from the requirements in North America. For example, EU regulations require CE markings. Achieving and maintaining international certifications can demand significant investment from manufacturers to certify that products comply with international standards, requiring the same level of rigorous attention to detail, testing, and regulatory inspection to get domestic certifications. In general, each region a manufacturer operates in requires its own team of certification specialists, resources, and the budget to support their efforts.

Maintaining Manufacturing Quality Across Markets

Despite the challenges of international operations, expansion across borders remains a solid strategy for improving resilience and securing market share — as long as manufacturers avoid the pitfalls. Here are four ways to protect manufacturing quality and maximize ROI:

  1. Leverage compliance experts

Consulting with experts in international standards and regulations can help manufacturers interpret and navigate the complex compliance requirements of their target market. They can offer tailored guidance on specific regulations relevant to the industry and geographical markets, and assist in preparing documentation, conducting audits, and addressing compliance issues effectively. Following their guidance can prevent costly mistakes and ensure processes and products consistently meet international standards.

  • Standardize where possible

One of the best ways to maintain manufacturing quality while mitigating compliance risks is to minimize process and product variances. To do this, manufacturers can establish new standardized processes and SOPs that comply with every market they operate in and roll them out across the organization. This approach not only simplifies compliance efforts, but also streamlines operations.

  • Prioritize oversight

Allocating proper resources is critical to maintaining manufacturing quality and compliance with international standards. Leaders should assign responsibility for global oversight to key stakeholders or create dedicated roles to ensure compliance considerations remain at the forefront of decision-making. Leaders must also establish regular contact with international plants to effectively monitor and address compliance issues quickly, and improve collaboration across global operations.

  • Redevelop products with compliance issues

When existing processes and products face compliance issues, it may be easier to redevelop them to align with international standards and regulations, but also consider tailoring products to specific markets. While redevelopment can be resource-intensive, it can be more cost-effective and efficient to hold universal catalogs and SOPs.

Maintaining Manufacturing Quality Takes a Village

For many companies, international expansion is key to overcoming supply chain disruption and uncertainty throughout the market. Navigating international standards and regulations is challenging, but the benefits of a broader customer base and increased market opportunities are worth the effort. Support from trusted partners, all the way from compliance consultants down to cutting fluid suppliers, is critical to mitigating compliance risks.

Justin Geach is Global Director of Marketing at Master Fluid Solutions.

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