The message from the Orthodox Union Kosher Division is as clear as can be: “Managing Your Account Has Never Been Simpler.” The source of this management wizardry is www.oudirect.org, the new six-part website designed to provide a vast amount of information to companies certified kosher by the Orthodox Union. After a period of testing, OU Direct went online this week.
OU companies are issued a user name and password to enable them to log-on to the system. Use of the website is free.
“The OU’s philosophy regarding kashrut certification is to make it as user-friendly as possible,” declared Rabbi Moshe Elefant, Chief Operating Officer of OU Kosher. “Given that we’re a communal organization, our goal is to provide the kosher marketplace, in all of its aspects, with the recognition that the simpler we make the process – of course, without compromising our high standards – the easier it will be to have more kosher products available. As a result, we spent a lot of effort and resources into creating this program.”
The result is a website which includes the OU’s Universal Kosher Database (UKD), which began operations earlier this year, and which contains a record of tens of thousands of products that are certified by the OU and participating kosher certifying agencies. The UKD allows manufacturers to use a powerful search engine to quickly locate ingredients that can be used for kosher production. All items listed in the UKD are accepted by the OU as kosher sources, and OU companies are assured that the products found in the UKD meet OU standards and requirements. The UKD also eliminates the tedious task of soliciting letters of certification which verify the kosher status of a product.
The other components of OU Direct include Letters of Certification (LOC’s), affirming that a product is certified kosher by the OU (OU, OU-D, OU Pareve, and OU-P (for Passover); a financial overview of the company’s account with the OU; applications for new plants, products and ingredients; and even variations of the famed , for use on labels.
“OU Direct is a triumph of technology for the benefit of the thousands of firms worldwide which are certified kosher by the Orthodox Union,” declared Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of OU Kosher. “The savings on time and paperwork, and the vast amount of information available, extend additional benefits to OU companies, to add to their greatest benefit of all: certification by the world’s most accepted and respected kosher organization.”
Rabbi Genack pointed out that when discussing OU certification with prospective companies, OU Direct is certain to be a major selling point.
According to the new website, OU Direct provides “enhanced management of your account, increased efficiency, greater customization, interactive on-line access, plus a help line.” For example, the financial overview includes statements, invoices, historical data, and “aging reports,” that is, how much is due from prior billing periods.
For both the OU, therefore, and the manufacturers of the 400,000 products certified by the OU in 80 countries, the system is a major asset. Already, both large and small companies have praised OU Direct, Rabbi Elefant declared.
The system wasn’t developed overnight, Rabbi Elefant explained. From the beginning, it had the full support of OU President Stephen J. Savitsky, who until recently was also Chair of the OU Kashrut Commission, which oversees OU Kosher. Nor has OU Direct’s development come to an end. “We clearly don’t intend to rest on our laurels; we have every intention to have a phase two with new and additional features,” explained Rabbi Elefant. “We’ll do what our clients want in terms of enhancing and expanding OU Direct.