Interview: FSQA Enabling Technologies as a Food Safety and Quality Assurance Game Changer

By Barbara Levin
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FSQA enabling technologies can have a great impact on transforming and harmonizing food safety and quality assurance, mitigating risk and improving ability to meet operational KPIs, says SafetyChain Software’s Barbara Levin.

In an interview withFood Safety Tech, Barbara Levin, Senior Vice President and Co-Founder of SafetyChain Software, talks about FSQA Enabling Technologies – the Food Safety and Quality Assurance (FSQA) Game Changer, a series of leadership forums, tech talks and executive briefs that SafetyChain has launched this month.

Barbara-Levin2The focus of the series is how technology can help FSQA teams execute to meet today’s biggest food safety and quality challenges in program management, compliance, continuous improvement, risk mitigation and much more.

Food Safety Tech (FST): SafetyChain is launching a new series, called FSQA Enabling Technologies – the Food Safety and Quality Assurance Game Changer. What is the series about and what will it include?

Barbara Levin: For the past three years, working with thought leaders throughout the food and beverage industry, SafetyChain has helped educate and share insights on critical topics – such as FSMA and GFSI. In 2015, we’re excited to bring the conversation to the next level – to discuss the tools that are available to execute on challenges such as FSMA compliance, managing GFSI programs, risk management/brand protection, audit readiness, cost of quality, supplier compliance, operational KPI performance and much more.

FST: Why is technology an important topic in food safety today as we enter 2015?

Levin: I strongly believe that adoption of FSQA enabling technologies is vital, necessary and inevitable – and the only way food companies are going to be able to scale to meet all of the challenges ahead of them. And industry is realizing this and wants to learn more as technology adoption is becoming more mainstream. Think about the technologies we all use at work and home today – things like employee portals to view our paychecks, email, online banking, all of the apps on our computer tablets – none of us can imagine doing without them now. Well think about suppliers entering Certificate of Analysis info on portals. FSQA folks doing pre-harvest inspections on mobile app forms, getting safety and quality information in realtime to determine if there are non-conformances and CAPAs required. And there are hundreds of other examples. We think these will become a way of life too in food safety and quality. So we’re really excited to provide a forum for this FSQA technology conversation.

FST: What changes have we seen in Food Safety and Quality Assurance enabling technologies that are allowing them to achieve more widespread, mainstream adoption?

Levin: There’s a wrong perception that the food industry lags behind some other industries when it comes to technology adoption. In reality, food companies have automated a lot of their functions – look at finance, human resources, payroll systems, supply chain, purchasing, inventory and such. These functions were automated because it saved time, saved money and created operational efficiencies.

Where there was a lag was in adoption of FSQA technologies. I think that this was because first generation safety and quality technologies were behind the firewall – and as we know food safety and quality folks are not sitting at their desks looking at a computer all day. Instead, they are out in the field doing a pre-harvest inspections, or on the plant floor, or at the supplier site doing an audit, or with the customer… basically they are everywhere except at a desk. But today, there are many cloud-based, mobile food safety and quality technologies that can be accessed anywhere, at anytime – and this has really been a game changer when it comes to adoption. Now, food companies are deploying technologies and gaining the same advantages – saving time, saving money and creating efficiencies that improve FSQA.

FST: What are some of the triggers leading teams to explore technology for the first time?

Levin: The word “more” is key to this answer. FSQA is seeing more regulation (think FSMA), more third party schemes like GFSI to manage, more audits, more pressure to improve operational KPIs and reduce the cost of quality. The only thing there’s not more of usually is people – and so technology is the most efficient way to scale to do “more with less.” Additionally technology is the key to getting FSQA information in the fastest manner possible – for timely CAPAs – and be preventive vs. reactive in ensuring that non-compliant products do not go into commerce.

FST: Where do you see FSQA enabling technologies as having the biggest impact on safety and quality operations?

Levin: For me, FSQA enabling technology can have great impact in these areas:

  • Reducing risk for withdrawals, rejections and recalls;
  • Having real time and continuous information to generate CAPAs and ensure safe, quality food;
  • Managing supplier risk and supply chain controls;
  • Scalability to do more without having to add more people;
  • Being audit ready – for regulatory, GFSI, customer and internal audits all the time – even for unannounced audits;
  • Reducing the cost of quality; and
  • Having actionable data for meaningful continuous improvement.

All of these really come under one umbrella, which is protecting the brand and financial value of your company.

FST: What’s coming up in terms of topics and speakers during the series kickoff?

Levin: The series has three components – Leadership Forums on “big picture” topics, Tech Talks on specific FSQA issues and how technology helps resolve challenges associated with those issues, and executive brief whitepapers on the business side of technology benefits.

The first leadership forum, scheduled for March 13, will feature Bob Butcher, Ipswich Shellfish Company’s FSQA Group Operations Manager, and Jeff Chilton, President of Chilton Consulting Group, and will focus on The Business Case for Food Safety and Quality Technology. Future topics include the Role of Technology in Risk Mitigation and Brand Protection, and Technology as an Enabler to Reduce the Cost of Quality.

The FSQA Tech Talks kick off at the end of March with the following topics:

  • March 31 – Tackling FSMA Compliance: How Automation Enables HACCP-to-HARPC migration, FSMA Reporting, Supply Chain Controls and More
  • April 21 – Harmonizing FSQA – It’s All About the Cloud: How the Cloud and Mobile Technologies Enable Anywhere, Anytime FSQA Data Capture and CAPA Generation
  • May 19 – Facilitating Continuous Improvement: Enabling Actionable Data for Trending, Benchmarking and Reporting Across Your Entire Operation

The first executive brief is available now and is titled, “The Critical Role of FSQA Enabling Technologies for Today’s Food Safety and Quality Operations: Technology as an Enabler to Fundamentally Change How Food Safety & Quality Operations Manage Risk and Meet Key Performance Indicators.”

Additional details on the entire series – along with registration and download information – is available at www.safetychain.com/2015TechSeries.

FST: Who should attend this series, and how can they get more information?

Levin: Folks from Food Safety, Food Quality, Operations, Legal, Financial, Executive and Information Technology Management from all sectors of the food and beverage industry are encouraged to register and participate in the series. Everything is complimentary and new topics and dates will be announced frequently. We also invite FoodSafetyTech readers to let us know what topics they’d like to see – they can email us at info@safetychain.com.

About The Author

Barbara Levin, SVP of Marketing & Customer Community, SafetyChain Software

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