Good quality planning, independent 3rd party gap-assessment audits, and automated systems can address these deficiencies. The same principles of industrial automation should be applied to best practices in quality and safety management automation with a system-wide program that trains employees, implements well-documented standard operating procedures (SOPs), and properly utilizes technology to put global practices and procedures in place.
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Explore This IssueDecember/January 2010
Many companies within the pharmaceutical industry, which parallels the food processing industry in several ways, have recognized the benefits of an integrated and automated quality and safety platform.
Steps in the Process
Planning and Documentation: The foundation of a successful quality and safety management system is adequate planning and setup. Define code rules and ownership, and determine the rules and the variances to those rules. Determine the processes and the owners of those processes. Decide how severity levels for issues will be defined, as well as who will enter the information.
The new system must be scalable, simple, risk-based, and easily integrated throughout the organization. Ensure that sufficient mechanisms are in place so that all steps are completed for each event. Determine the right people to involve in the quality and safety process and when to involve them. Determine how procedure revisions will be handled and how these rules and procedures should be enforced on a global level.
With good documentation standards and practices, fully automated document management and SOP training, and an effective enforcement system, companies can demonstrate a commitment to food and consumer safety that will be an asset in any future liability litigation.
Error Tracking: Many companies lack connected data sources, while others cross-reference by hand any errors, deviations, and events across files, dates, lots, and other criteria, a time-consuming process that often misses impacts and trends. It is an inefficient approach that allows for repeated mistakes.
The first step should be to identify, collect, and record information that can occur anywhere throughout the process, including potential problems in the supply chain, final processing, labeling, distribution life cycle, and any potential for customer complaints. Being able to identify the root cause of a problem and focus on prevention and corrective actions are key. The more information there is available, the faster the response to a problem will be. Tracking problems allows companies to develop best practices and verify effectiveness.
Without an integrated system, identifying root causes is little more than guesswork. Assumptions are made based on rumor and conjecture, not on accurate and reliable data. Islands of information created by multiple data streams lead to inconsistencies and waste. Genuine measuring tools enable managers to determine precisely where, when, and why mistakes are occurring.
Auditing: Food processing companies need to have transparency about their supplier performance across the entire organization and all products to ensure consistency, quality control, and compliance. This means that organizations need to start focusing on global audit programs and planning. With paper-based solutions, the approach to global planning becomes more resource and time intensive.
Ensuring the rollout of a good audit program requires appropriate schedules for pre-qualification as well as for ongoing performance. But with suppliers all over the world, limited resources for internal auditors or costly third-party auditors, and limited availability of supplier teams, both initial and follow-up scheduling can be a nightmare. Follow-up audits may not happen.
Automated central systems for supplier audits can provide a complete closed-loop mechanism with checklists, schedules, findings, actions, and follow-up, helping standardize and streamline audit processes and cycles and ensuring that the management and quality team are more productive and efficient. These systems mean no document overload, as well as simplified and consistent reporting with complete traceability.