In its annual Food Safety & Quality Assurance (FSQA) Professional Survey, TraceGains polled professionals in food manufacturing, processing and distribution on their top priorities, challenges and predictions for 2015. “Quality isn’t suffering, but not having enough resources—which typically means money, leads to non-optimal staffing—does have a negative effect on the workforce,” says Gary Nowacki, CEO of TraceGains. Nowacki tells Food Safety Tech how companies are managing these challenges.
Food Safety Tech: How are companies managing the lack of resources? Is it negatively affecting how they operate from a safety and quality perspective?
Gary Nowacki: People have to work more hours or do more jobs. They often cannot advance in their careers because there is no skill redundancy, and [they] cannot do much of the proactive work they’d rather be performing to help their company excel. This is especially true as the number of audits has increased rather than decreased as has been promised, which command a strong resource commitment from a limited pool.
FST: How are firms preparing for the changing regulatory and compliance requirements, especially regarding final FSMA rules?
Nowacki: We’ve seen two approaches prevail: Being extremely proactive now or purposely waiting until the last minute to push off any potential expenses associated with compliance. The lengthy rollout of the Food Safety Modernization Act hasn’t helped spurn companies into action. Considering that food processing and manufacturing is a very low-margin business, it is understandable that many companies wish to have full clarity before committing the required resources. We haven’t found anyone who does not wish to be complying with FSMA—there is great respect for the purpose of the law, and all companies that we have encountered practice food safety first.
FST: How is information overload affecting how companies operate? What advice can you offer firms?
Nowacki: Information overload goes hand-in-hand with limited resources. Ever-increasing upstream requirements, be they regulatory or industry driven, command ever-increasing downstream requirements. This, coupled with the fact that most organizations still operate in siloed departments, puts increasing strain on data collection, analysis, and retention requirements. Automation, specifically software-based automation, can help companies accomplish more, but we don’t advocate “with less”.
Further, automation can help break down those department and information silos, as decisions can then be easily made from shared data. One of the things we often sense first is that automation is expected to replace people—that has been very true globally in manufacturing—so there is a great deal of fear or uncertainty involved. Our experience has been that automation helps the limited human resources be more productive and, more importantly, more proactive. Automation helps move people from clerical, error-prone tasks to higher-level and more strategically important tasks, as the overwhelming amounts of data are being handled digitally.