What might the following terms have in common?
- Quality assurance
- Capital investment
- Risk metrics
- Duration and timeline
- Research and development
- Communication channels
- Operational manual development
- Management and associate training
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These are links to the common train of thought that runs through the minds of most food safety and quality consultants.
There are essentially two types of consultants. The first one being an internal personnel or a team of professionally certified associates, who are familiar with the ropes of the business and visit various processing units under the same umbrella or brand. The food quality and safety management system is built and maintained by the team internally and they engage in cross training departments and sharing reports within the organization.
The second type of consultant is a certified and experienced expert from the food and beverage industry, who works with a plethora of businesses across the supply chain and predominantly juggles multiple projects at the same time, without being directly employed by one particular business or in this case, client.
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The very definition of a consultant has evolved over time and it’s only natural to witness a gradient in the consultant’s roles and responsibilities. With increased globalization of the supply chain, one of those evolving responsibilities is learning to work on international projects. If you are a consultant (internal or external) or a manager in charge of the consultant team, there are a few factors to consider before tackling food quality and safety challenges overseas. Here are some key pointers.
- Be mindful of the regional food culture and workplace culture. Food safety culture development is baseless if the existing workplace culture is not strong enough to support it. Understanding the regional movement of ingredients is a plus as this further aids in menu planning and risk assessments.
- Standards and regulatory guidelines. Being involved in projects tied to franchised establishments mean that not only do the standards of the parent organizations need to be set up, but the regional regulatory guidelines need to be followed as well. What might work in one country may not necessarily pan out in another.
- Brush up on your history. What were some of the past areas of improvements? Are there written contingency plans in place already or should one be developed? If you’re working on a previously set up system, what were the gaps identified? Did the business meet its food quality and safety benchmark? These are some of the meaningful questions to ask and reflect on.
- Do support systems exist? Building bridges—and the right ones, matter significantly when it comes to making a food brand’s presence felt. Having a healthy relationship with certification agencies, food and environment testing laboratories, transportation and logistics contractors, sanitation and pest control agencies, etc. pave the path towards having a good support system to back the business.
- Troubleshooting. Life happens and when it does, chalked out plans sometimes wash away. That being said, being able to wear different hats at the same time is helpful because sometimes decisions have to be made on the fly. Always approach a situation with a calm composure and try to view it from different perspectives before making a final decision.
While these tips are merely a contour and not an exhaustive list, they emphasize that a consultant employed in a diverse environment must work with accuracy, remain ethical, and strive for quality.
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