It’s 2020 and we live in a high-tech culture, so why are so many food businesses still using paper records to manage something as important as food quality and safety?
As many have now learned, digital tools are especially critical during a crisis, including the COVID-19 pandemic. As businesses shift the way they operate—dramatically elevating their safety and cleanliness protocols—companies that use digital tools will have distinct advantages as they react to and recover from this crisis.
For example: A major food and beverage brand with thousands of locations nationwide distributes a laminated COVID-19 checklist to all their units as a guide to their new protocols. While this is a good place to start, this company has set up a system that isn’t flexible and can’t be easily updated company wide. That’s when antiquated paper-and-pen systems become a huge pitfall and, potentially, a costly liability. These problems are only made worse during a global health pandemic.
The Pitfalls of Managing Pen & Paper Quality Management Systems
- You can’t quickly update safety and compliance policy across all locations, which is essential when there’s a crisis such as the current pandemic.
- Critical paper records can easily be lost or misfiled, opening you up to liabilities, government sanctions, and location closures when health and safety issues arise, such as a foodborne illness.
- It’s difficult for the person in charge (PIC) to ensure that essential safety checks are being performed regularly and correctly; the checks and balances of compliance end up leaning too much on the honor system, and it’s unclear when employees need training.
- You have no visibility, and it’s difficult to collect and organize data to gain critical insights; manual data management processes are time consuming and error-prone, and you often find insights or corrective action-preventive action (CAPA) items when it’s too late.
If you are still using pen and paper, you have probably felt the true burden it is as you’ve been responding to COVID-19 and increasing your efforts to keep employees and customers safe. The main reason for this feeling is that the pen and paper method is driven by reactive rather than proactive action.
When you’re always responding to issues as they arise, it becomes more and more difficult to be strategic and complete critical work without being interrupted by eight hours of new issue problem solving every day. While it’s important to acknowledge that there will always be reactive pieces to a quality management system (nothing is ever perfect), it’s also clear that dedicating the time and budget to becoming more proactive in preventing issues saves time, money, reputations, and, in the long run, even lives.
This will not happen with any amount of “optimization” of pen and paper systems, because you’ll never get the visibility you need to spot trends and fix small issues before they become big problems. On the other side of the spectrum, the right digital quality management system can give you immediate visibility that can drive instant corrective actions.
Elevate Safety & Cleanliness Protocols
Using digital tools offers huge benefits. Digital tools can better gather data from all sources, including audits, assessments, checklists certifications, and completed training, so you can track and report on critical information from all locations, providing a clear, accurate view on compliance across the enterprise. When you go digital, you can more easily solve the challenges stated above:
- You can quickly update safety and compliance policy across all locations, which is essential when there’s a crisis, such as the novel coronavirus.
- Critical records are easily found when issues, such as a foodborne illness, arise.
- The PIC can more easily ensure essential safety checks are being performed regularly and correctly and can quickly supplement training when needed.
- You have visibility like you’ve never had before, with data that’s quickly collected and organized to gain critical insights for proactive planning.
Benefits of Quality Management Software in a COVID-19 World
This “new normal” is our new reality, not just a temporary situation. Because of the virus, you must change the way you operate, train employees on new protocols, ensure compliance, and implement corrective actions. And, you must manage these protocols on a consistent, ongoing basis, knowing that lives are at stake if you and your employees have a misstep. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world completely, and it’s essential to transition from “the way we’ve always done things” to a whole new way of operating, including using digital tools.