This is not to say that by correcting all the pointers made in the pre-audit you will be guaranteed success, but it does help in my opinion. For instance, should you get a critical non-conformance during the facility audit despite a successful desk and pre-audit, you will fail the audit, as a critical non-conformity automatically deducts 50 points, and you need 70 points at minimum to pass.
The code provides details on critical, major, and minor non-conformances, in addition to opportunities for improvements.
Step 5: Knowing the code. While the SQF practitioner must know the code, it is advisable that all backup to the SQF practitioner be familiar with the code as well, such as the HACCP team. There is no rule that says only one SQF practitioner can be on staff, you can have as many as best provide success to the company and the SQF program. However, each SQF practitioner must know the code. Knowing the code is your best tool for successful certification, and in knowing the code, you can better share the expectation to management and other staff, who for the most part will not have time to study the code due to their busy schedule.
Step 6: Confidence. If you know you have a good written and implemented program, it increases your confidence. Your confidence however might not be felt across the team. Therefore, you need to find a way to share that confidence and thus boost the confidence of your team members. I remember in the middle of the second month before our facility audit, we had a meeting where the team members started asking what were our options should we fail? That question brought me back to earth as I never thought of failing. It was a good question as it drove me to revisit the code and look at all alternatives that I never considered before. Don’t be afraid of failing and have a plan in the event of failure. Thankfully, we never had to use our backup plan, as we went through the process with flying colors.
Step 7: Networking. There are numerous resources available today and many qualified personnel; it would be very challenging in my opinion to not find someone who has not guided a company similar to yours through the SQF certification process. While you can expect reluctance in sharing company documents, which is understandable, they may be willing to share pointers that helped them to get through the certification process no matter what level they applied. Reaching out might help to guarantee your success.
My company’s approval for SQF certification is exciting as I have not yet reached my second-year anniversary in food safety, which proves that if my team can do it, any dedicated team can too.
Dr. Chambers is a food safety specialist at Sun River Service Co., Wilson, N.C. Reach him at email@example.com.
For further information on SQF, go to http://www.sqfi.com/about-sqf/.