The promised world of big data has certainly come to fruition. IBM estimates that every day, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is created—so much that 90 percent of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. In the everyday lives of food service and food safety, there’s a veritable data deluge as information is monitored in order to be successful.
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Generated from a variety of sources—including sensors wisely placed throughout the farm-to-fork global supply chains, customer experience input gathered from social media sources, point-of-sale figures, and your own quality measurement results—this data is necessary to ensure the safety of your customers and the longevity of your business.
When adding in the necessity of government health and safety regulations, there’s a lot to think about. There is no shortage of regulations driving industries to meet higher standards. Whether you are driven by regulations tied to the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (i.e. HACCP), the Food Safety Modernization Act, Country of Origin Labeling requirements, or even proactive participation in the Produce Traceability Initiative, you’re probably generating more and more data to manage. And frankly, it can get overwhelming.
How do you keep up with corporate and government standards and deal with the growing mountain of data generated? How do you turn that data into actionable insights more powerful than those previously available? And how do you drive continuous improvement in quality, safety, and cleanliness scores across the organization without further overwhelming you and your team? The answer lies in defining your end goals and choosing technology solutions that facilitate continuous improvement. I’ve been working with the world’s biggest brands for more than a decade and have seen how quality management software help those brands grow and maintain a positive brand reputation.
Best Practices in Quality Measurements
The foundation of continuous improvement relies on data that tells a story. From regulations to food temperatures, it’s important to only collect data that matters and eliminate obsolete questions. To do this, start by looking at what your competitors are tracking; if similar operations are finding success using a certain practice, you will likely have a similar experience in your operation.
From my experience with top food service brands, I found award-winning food safety programs share a best practice—a robust quality, safety, and cleanliness (QSC) program that includes these key parameters:
- Adherence to standard operating manual requirements;
- Having permits and certifications complete and on-hand;
- Health department and other regulatory requirements;
- Food storage, protection, handling, and temperature;
- Food and beverage preparation;
- Glove use for food production and safety;
- Food labeling (calories and allergens);
- Equipment fulfillment and maintenance;
- Staff hygiene, handwashing, clothing, and footwear;
- Cleanliness and safety in consumer-observed areas, employee work areas, and facility exterior;
- Facility maintenance and overall condition;
- Cleaning chemicals and cleaning materials;
- Pest control;
- Trash handling; and
- Cautionary signage and devices.
The list of recommended conditions to monitor is long, and there are numerous contributing factors for each area. The key to a successful QSC program is determining what’s important for your business. Starting with goals—an increase in unit sales of a specific food item, utility cost savings, 3 percent profitability increase—will help identify the areas that need a closer look.
It then may be the case that all your locations or suppliers consistently meet your standards nearly every time their results are monitored. If this is true, you may be ready to move on to monitoring next-level standards that don’t just let you stay in compliance, but set your operation apart from the competition. It could also be the case that you are kicking off new quality and safety programs and simply need to start with the basics. Regardless, it pays to take the time to determine critical items to measure, the nice items to monitor, and the unnecessary details to leave behind.
Insights that Matter Most
After determining what’s critical for your operation today, create a checklist of specific quality, safety, and cleanliness elements to monitor throughout your suppliers and locations. Be sure to think carefully about the insights you’d like to glean from the results you’ll monitor.