Auditing Advancements

Surviving in the world of food business takes intelligence, planning, attention to detail and, according to many industry leaders, the latest auditing technology. Mike Dunn, zone director for quality assurance and food safety at Sodexho Corp. (Houston, Texas), says auditing software has allowed the food and facilities management services company to proactively manage its auditing system and substantially increase efficiency and accuracy.

“Our software gives us a consistency you just cannot achieve with books and paper,” Dunn adds.

Audits play an ever increasing critical role in ensuring processes and procedures in the food business operate correctly and safely. Yet these essential audits have consistently been problematic in terms of time, accuracy and efficiency.

As Dunn indicates, the availability of technology that automates the management of safety and quality assurance programs provides significant benefits to today’s food companies, including time savings, real-time reporting, improved data accuracy, corrective-action tracking, reliable validation and customizable data collection and management.

Today’s technology advancements permeate every aspect of the business world. And companies successful in the food industry are quickly recognizing the power technology gives them to gather information quickly, organize and report it instantly, and validate their processes and procedures to ensure accuracy, efficiency and success.

Sodexho is only one of many companies leaving paper-based and semi-automated auditing systems behind to fully utilize more comprehensive and analytical features gained from the latest technology developments. Although Sodexho had relied on paper audits to monitor food and physical safety in the past, the challenges of a technology-driven marketplace and the necessity of transferring information instantaneously made it critical for the company to implement a new system that would provide the speed and precision essential to the company’s objectives. After extensive research, Sodexho opted to move to an automated system.

“The data we collected was difficult to organize into a manageable review format,” Dunn explains. “This system has provided us with a mechanism to quickly and easily identify food safety and physical safety deficiencies and implement corrective action plans.”

The flexibility of the technology allows Sodexho to not only examine data from a company-wide perspective, but also view it by division and even subdivision. Reports are generated immediately after audit information is uploaded, then instantly e-mailed to key company officials.

“Recent technology has allowed us to create an audit summary report that is sent electronically to executive team members as soon as their division’s latest audits have been updated to the system,” Dunn notes.

And this increased efficiency has not cost the company a huge chunk of change either. “By assuming more administrative controls, our costs . . . have actually been reduced,” Dunn says.

“We have significantly increased our efficiency, thus increasing the annual number of compliance audits completed throughout our company,” he adds. “More completed audits allowed us to raise the bar on our “satisfactory” or “passing” scores, which resulted in decreased risks for the company. Automatically generated customized reports provide Sodexho with immediate knowledge, key insights, and decision-making power that was simply not possible with a manual system.”

Other food companies echo Dunn’s sentiments. Tyson Foods Inc. (Springdale, Ark.), one of the world’s largest processors and marketers of chicken, beef and pork, has a comprehensive auditing program that calls for its safety department officials to perform nearly 700 extensive audits every year, each taking three to five days to complete.

Once an audit was complete, it took up to three months for the audit findings to be organized, interpreted and communicated, says Debbie Stanley, Tyson’s safety administrator.

Tyson faced the huge task of managing this mountain-load of audit information, as well as tracking much-needed corrective actions. “We were not successful,” Stanley admits. “It is difficult to manage the number of audits we do and effectively perform the required follow up afterwards.”

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