Ask the Expert : Root Cause Analysis – Responding to Audit Non-Conformances

A food manufacturer’s food safety program must encourage continual improvement to their existing program in order to be successful and to comply with their food safety standard. And root cause analysis is a great tool for problem solving when a site is found not to be in conformance.

The food industry has been introduced to the concept of third-party certification to help manage and control their food safety programs. Food manufacturers benefit from a food safety quality system that is based on Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) principles.

Business People with Puzzle Pieces and Teamwork Concept

A food manufacturer’s food safety program must encourage continual improvement to their existing program in order to be successful. Current GFSI benchmarking initiatives have introduced the concept of implementing root cause analysis as a tool for problem solving when a site is found not to be in conformance with their food safety standard.

A new white paper from CERT ID covers relevant information that can assist food companies understand how to implement their solution, review and evaluate the results, and reflect and act on what was learned. This Q&A with CERT ID’s Michael J. Pearsall, Vice President of Business Development, offers some insights.

Q: These RCA tools are nice but require large amounts of resources to solve problems. Is this really necessary?

A: The effort and resources utilized to solve a problem should reflect the scale of the issue with regard to the impact on the person or organization. The tools that are normally advertised are to be used for complex problems. What about the simple day-to-day problems we all face as managers? A human being solves problems without even realizing it. You have a built in mechanism that you have acquired through life experiences and this device should be called upon first. Develop a personal strategy as to how to approach a problem that starts with observation; defining the issue; prioritization; short term strategy and finally a long term strategy to prevent issues from reoccurring. Complexity of problems change but your strategy should not.

Q: We went through a complex root cause analysis and solved the problem but it keeps reoccurring. It is very frustrating so how do we prevent this?

A: I hate to tell you this but problems are only temporarily solved. Many very intelligent people forget, the most important part of problem solving, developing a strategy to maintain the gains you spent so much of your resources to obtain.

There is an overused Old Testament bible story about David and Goliath. Many think that David killed Goliath with a stone from his sling but this is not true. David had developed a strategy to maintain his gain. David had to immobilize the giant to gain access to him. He solved the problem by hitting him in the head with a stone, but the long term strategy was to grab his sword to cut his head off securing the gains to his problem solving effort. It is necessary to think about how you will maintain the gain once a problem is unraveled.

For more information, click here to download Responding to Audit Non-Conformances: Root Cause Analysis, a complimentary white paper from CERT ID

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