The Struggles of Managing Supplier Documentation

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Providing customers with updated certificates and audit documents, and migrating to digital platforms are steps suppliers can take to conquer document management.

In its annual Food Safety & Quality Assurance (FSQA) Professional Survey, TraceGains polled professionals in food manufacturing, processing and distribution on the challenges they face at various levels of the supply chain. Rajan Gupta, vice president of Customer Success at TraceGains discusses the importance they place on supplier document management.
Food Safety Tech: Companies understand the importance of document management. How do they struggle when collecting and managing supplier documentation?

Rajan Gupta: The greatest challenge to document management is that there is a complicated web of requirements that companies need to maintain for compliance, safety and business growth. For example, companies are required to maintain documentation proving compliance with rules and regulations such as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), labeling, allergen control programs, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), as well as FDA and third-party audits, just to name a few. With each entity, rule or regulation, companies are faced with a different set of required documentation that they must maintain and furnish upon request. Obviously, this poses a challenge for companies to not only remain abreast of new rules and regulations, but also know exactly where they stand.
FST: How often do manufacturers need to monitor supplier documents to ensure they are up to date?

Gupta: Despite the common misconception that safety and compliance documents should be updated every year, this is not always the case.  Certain documents, such as Kosher certificates and third-party audits, should be updated annually; however, other documents only need to be updated when something changes. To complicate matters, the industry is so far behind that catching up is becoming difficult. Often, suppliers do not proactively send updated documents to their customers, thus forcing them to require new documents each year and further complicating the company’s ability to confidently know where they stand with compliance and safety rules and regulations.

Credit: 2015 Annual TraceGains FSQA Professional Survey

FST: What’s the biggest tip you can offer manufacturers when it comes to ensuring documentation is in place, especially when considering the requirements of an audit?

Gupta: The key to documentation success is actively working with suppliers to minimize the “noise” of unorganized information sharing. Companies should make it a priority to take steps towards digital information sharing, thereby enabling efficiency in an otherwise very inefficient environment.  Such small steps require vision, leadership, and an inclination towards entrepreneurship.

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