The solution, ultimately, was to forego the paper-management system and embrace the present. With automated auditing and real-time reports, Tyson auditors now gather data and enter it on handheld computers on site. Then, within moments of completing an audit, audit findings are uploaded, reports are generated and sent out, and the audit is complete. “Now when an auditor leaves the plant, everything is done,” says Stanley. “Everyone likes that a lot.”
General Mills, one of the largest food companies in the United States, reports similar time savings. And equally important, with products and brands sold in more than 100 countries around the world, the company discovered a centralized, Web-based reporting system that is easily accessed by all of its international offices. And with a closed-loop approach to quality assurance, General Mills collects more critical business data in real time, with far greater accuracy, dramatically enhancing its ability to quickly identify potential problems and make essential adjustments.
JohnsonDiversy Inc. (Sturtevant Wis.) faced numerous challenges involved with its approach of paper auditing as well. With operations in more than 60 countries and over 14,000 employees worldwide, the company is a leading global provider of cleaning hygiene solutions to the institutional and industrial marketplace. Audits performed by its trained auditors were taking weeks to complete, so company officials welcomed the chance to develop a multi-language, customized, automated audit management system. Although instantaneous reports are one of the main benefits the company has enjoyed, officials are also happy to report that troublesome data errors have disappeared.
“Historically, we used paper to perform audits,” notes Suzanne Schwartz, IS analyst for JohnsonDiversey. “Audit results were then mailed in to headquarters. Data entry personnel would then transfer information to the computer, and reports were generated. Errors were often made due to the double-entry that took place with auditors and data entry clerks. Data errors are virtually eliminated with the new technology,” says Schwartz.
Big players are not the only ones taking advantage of this new automated auditing and validation approach. Smaller companies enjoy similar benefits when they make the move to automated software.
The Holland comprises three successful and growing restaurant brands based in the Northwest. To ensure health and safety compliance, each restaurant is regularly audited, and a comprehensive 12-page auditing report is filled out. However, “once the report was completed,” says Debe Nagy-Nero, director of Food Safety, “it was filed away. Making use of the audit information was primarily done by recalling critical issues from memory.”
With the growing popularity of its restaurants, The Holland needed a way to handle, record, track and access critical information as it planned for growth. Automation was the answer. “The biggest single benefit from implementing [this] software can be described in one word: Efficiency,” Nagy-Nero says. “After our audits are performed and uploaded . . . , all our information is available. Now, at any time, we can pull up noncompliant issues. We instantly know where restaurants need to improve and can quickly provide the necessary employee training.” In addition, Nagy-Nero points out, the software has made analytical projects, such as gathering information to identify trends, as easy as a couple clicks of the mouse.
As more and more food companies move to automated auditing, selecting software that integrates with other companies may become critical. In fact, the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) recently jumped on the auditing technology bandwagon. FMI’s Safe Quality Food (SQF) program will now provide consumers and retailers with an extra measure of protection.
“We have the audit content,” says Paul Ryan, executive director of the SQF program. “With [this] technology, we have the ability to more accurately, efficiently and quickly communicate, analyze and manage audit results. [This] technology will enable SQF auditors to reach the highest performance level.”