What’s the correct way to implement a color-coding plan in your facility? Here are some quick tips to consider when creating a plan and the necessary steps to allow for company-wide adoption, consistency, and compliance.
Know the rules you’re being asked to play by. FDA regulations for food safety are lengthy but they’re there for a reason. It’s advisable to jump in and reread these every once in a while to stay up to speed on what inspectors will be looking for when constructing your plan.
Ask the experts. When in doubt, producers and distributors of color coding are a great resource. Most will be happy to answer questions and even help you develop a color-coding plan. They know what has worked well in the past and what you need to plan for depending on your plant’s needs.
Keep it simple. A color-coding plan works best when it is as simple as possible. If your plant only requires two colors of tools, don’t implement a third just because you can. Keeping it simple helps everyone understand the plan and stick to it.
Select colors that will accommodate all needed products. When selecting colors, it’s tempting to pick exciting colors like pink. Oftentimes companies also want to pick the colors of their branding. This is fine to do as long as you are able to get all of the necessary tools in that color. Sometimes you’ll find that for less common colors, you won’t be able to find every product necessary for your color-coding plan. In that case, it’s better to switch to a more common color so you can get everything you need.
Plan for the worst. When developing your color-coding plan, be a negative Nancy—think of every possible scenario that could cause a contamination or recall. Oftentimes, this helps you identify your most pressing needs. Then you can switch back to an optimistic mindset and come up with ways to prevent these things from happening.
Fully carry out plan. A color-coded plan will not work without being fully implemented. You need to color code all of the tools possible according to your plan. And you shouldn’t skimp on things like color coding the racks that the tools hang on. If you want people to follow procedure, they need to be able to follow it in all aspects of their daily job. If only some tools are color coded and others are not, procedures vary and may not be carried out properly.
Evaluate success of plan. Sometimes a color-coding plan is implemented perfectly the first time. Oftentimes, however, this is not the case. Plan to set aside time about every six months for the first two years to see how the plan is working. If any issues are identified, consider modifying your plan. In addition, after major changes occur at a plant, you should revisit your color-coding plan to see if the way it currently exists still makes sense for the needs of the plant.
Leave all decision making to management team. This is an item that is commonly overlooked by executives. Managers and workers in plants have very different perspectives when it comes to planning for color coding. If one party is overlooked, the other can miss out on important insights that may be key further along the line. Taking the time to invite everyone to the planning table ensures that this doesn’t happen, allowing the plan to be the best it can be—saving time and money in the long run.
Implement without proper communication to employees. Once a plan is in place, it is important to let everyone know about it. This sounds common sense but it’s a step that’s missed all the time. You simply cannot expect a plan to be followed if everyone involved doesn’t know and fully understand the plan. Take the time to explain procedure plans and answer any and all questions to ensure proper follow through.
Assume that all employees can read posters. This point builds on the last point. Communicating the plan prior to implementing is absolutely vital. Simply posting a poster with instructions is not enough. Especially considering employees that may not have English as their first language or are not literally competent. Proper training needs to accompany visual cues such as posters that detail the color-coding plan.
Serfas is founder and executive of R.S. Quality Products. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.