UL (Underwriters Laboratories) has released the 2012 findings of its annual global study, The Product Mindset, which examines manufacturer and consumer perceptions about how products are made, sold, bought and consumed. This year’s findings, culled from interviews with manufacturers and consumers in the U.S., China, Germany and India, show a steep decline in optimism and increased expectations around quality, safety and the environment. These expectations are driving more complex supply chain dynamics, where traceability and sourcing are the tools manufacturers are leveraging to help deliver reliable, cost-effective products that consumers are demanding.
“The volatility in today’s world is causing companies and people to look at the products they make and consume with more scrutiny than ever before. We are seeing manufacturers showcase aspects of their supply chain as consumers demand more transparency. Where a product’s made, how it’s made and what’s in it are paramount,” says Keith Williams, UL CEO.
The study reveals product safety remains fundamental, and the environmental orientation of a manufacturer’s operations and their product features are growing in importance. Specifically, the study highlights the growing concerns for the origins of manufactured products including where their components and raw materials are sourced.
“It is clear from this year’s report that supply chain issues are top-of-mind for global manufacturers, but also in the line of sight of consumers in developed and emerging economies. The report strongly suggests these trends will accelerate in the coming years as manufacturers strive to meet consumer demand for increased quality and safety in the things they purchase and use,” states Clyde Kofman, UL Chief Strategy Officer.
Key insights from the study include:
- Manufacturers are strategically managing increasingly complex supply chains to improve operations and quality, as well as reduce costs. As a result, global sourcing is likely to expand to new countries in the coming years.
- Consumers are becoming increasingly sophisticated about global supply chain issues, including where products and their components are made and whether global manufacturers and their suppliers are providing ethical working environments for employees. Furthermore, manufacturers are noting increased pressure for transparency related to product, component and raw material sourcing.
- Manufacturers believe product safety is increasing in importance to consumers, and delivering it is critical to their business success.
- Most consumers do not believe manufacturers use the best possible raw materials, ingredients or components in their products.
- Manufacturers in developed and emerging nations have a significantly more favorable opinion about the quality of materials sourced from developed markets than those from emerging markets.
Global quantitative research was conducted by an independent research firm during spring 2012. For the study, 1,201 consumers and 1,202 manufacturers in China, Germany, India and the U.S. were interviewed across an array of topics related to safety, performance, innovation and sustainability. Manufacturers were selected from the high technology/consumer electronics, food, smart appliances and building-materials sectors and were interviewed by phone. Consumers were interviewed through an online survey.