Improving the product withdrawal and recall process through implementing global standards


WD-40 Company is a global marketing organisation headquartered in San Diego California, where the original WD-40® Multi-Use Product was invented over 60 years ago.

The company manufactures and supplies aerosol lubricants to a variety of industries and for multiple purposes all around the world. The wide distribution of their products gives them a unique perspective on the differences in existing practice around the communication of product recall and withdrawal notices.

The challenge

In early 2017, WD-40 in Australia issued a product withdrawal notice to its customers using the GS1 Recall portal. One recipient was a major retailer, who was receiving products to both their grocery and hardware sections. Their grocery team received the notice via the Recall portal and responded by email and telephone within 24 hours to share their internal withdrawal information for confirmation. From the initial response through to the completion of the withdrawal, the grocery team maintained communication via a single point of contact. This ensured the process was efficient and quickly resolved.

The retailer’s hardware section did not have any easily accessible information (eg on their website) that directly channeled the communication of the notice. Existing practice is to direct notices to the buyer in this instance. In this case it was complicated as the affected product is sold across multiple categories, meaning WD-40 needed to speak with multiple buyers.

WD-40 contacted the hardware section by emailing the PDF version of the Recall notice to the buyers with a cover letter from their sales team. However, feedback from this team was limited and WD-40 needed to chase every distribution center to identify if there was any action. This caused a significant amount of extra work for WD-40, days vs hours.


“This much effort for a single line diverted our limited resources from existing day to day tasks that are important for the ongoing functionality and profitability of our business. We never want it to be that hard again” - Darryl Stockley - Senior Supply Chain Analyst, WD-40.

The overall timeframe to resolve the withdrawal for the hardware section was a couple of weeks, with a lot of correspondence via phone and email between multiple contacts. Phoning was very labor intensive and difficult to maintain dialogue with the same contact in many instances.

Grocery’s returns were several pallets of product, whereas for hardware it was only 22 boxes. This made the situation even more frustrating for WD-40 staff considering the amount of time and effort it took to resolve.

The solution

In an ideal world, WD-40 and all their trading partners would be recall and withdrawal ready. Meaning, as soon as a notification is dispersed from the company, all trading partners are able to action it instantly and provide confirmation upon completion using the same method.

“We would like all our customers on the GS1 Recall portal, this would save us an immense amount of time, effort and money. Fortunately, in this instance the action was not a recall and distribution was limited. Had it been a more significant action, our outcome would have been much more painful” insists Stockley.

GS1 Recall enables automated communication between the affected company and its subscribed and non-subscribed trading partners. In the case of WD-40, all trading partners were automatically notified of the withdrawal and those who were subscribed to GS1 Recall were able to provide WD-40 with an automated digital response, making the whole process faster and more effective for all involved.

The future

WD-40 is now incorporating the GS1 Recall portal process into their standard operating procedures and will be requesting all their trading partners to use the portal. “We want a process that makes it easier for our customers to action a notice with minimal disruption” says Stockley. Ensuring that they and their trading partners are always recall ready, not only saves time and money but also safeguards their brand and consumers.

Call to action

GS1 Recall is administered by not-for-profit organisation GS1 Australia on a cost-recovery basis. Access to the portal is available to all suppliers and retailers, with fees based on annual turnover including access to full training as well as the ability to undertake mock recalls.

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