I jokingly tell friends and colleagues that I am quite lazy. Their response is usually something like, “Oh, no, Rick, you work really hard,” which is quite flattering. While I believe in hard work, I also believe in working smart, and that’s where my reference to being lazy comes in.
Let me explain: People in all industries should work smart, and this is especially true in the food industry. When developing, documenting, and implementing a food safety, food quality, sanitation, food defense, or any one of the many other programs needed to protect your brand and your customer, the goal isn’t simply to put procedures on paper, but to build programs that are both efficient and effective.
Anyone who has worked in the food industry for a few years knows that Murphy’s Law (“anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”) certainly applies to our industry. Our efficient and effective programs should be designed to minimize Mr. Murphy’s visits. Working smart means that processors shouldn’t try to put programs together based on timelines, but instead build them slowly and thoughtfully so that the plans will meet their needs and anticipate potential problems. This is one good reason to encourage your conduct quality and safety people to conduct comprehensive risk assessments as required by the preventive controls for human food regulation found in 21 CFR Part 117.
There’s a corollary to Murphy’s Law that states, “There is never time to do it right, but there is always time to do it again.” Working smart means building those effective and efficient programs properly the first time around. This same mentality also applies to improvements to the physical plant, changes to current protocols, and any other element in a program in your plant. This is why many companies have implemented a change management program. This is a program that encourages processors to fully evaluate the potential risks and benefits of a proposed change before executing it. It’s kind of like the carpenter’s mantra, “Measure twice and cut once;” the goal is to maximize the chances of doing it properly.
This gets us to the comment about being lazy. I firmly believe in putting forth the time and effort up front to help minimize potential problems. If you build a good program, your effort goes toward maintaining the program and monitoring its efficiency. And, if needed, the program can be improved with small tweaks. Maintenance is much cheaper and easier than having to fight fires—hence the use of the term “lazy.” Personally, I prefer maintenance to firefighting, especially if the fire you’re fighting is one that should have been anticipated and addressed when developing the program.
The editors of Food Quality & Safety sincerely hope that the information we provide will give you and your operations information to not only develop, document, and implement effective and efficient programs, but that this information helps you work smarter and be a little lazy yourself.