Tag Archives: management

Melody Ge, Corvium
Women in Food Safety

Trust Your Intuition, Embrace Empathy

By Melody Ge
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Melody Ge, Corvium

Early this year, Jill Stuber, who currently owns her own business called The Food Safety Coach, which focuses on coaching and consulting in the industry, accepted Women in Food Safety’s invitation to be interviewed. The hour went by fast, and Jill shared many insights on how her mindset changed from a microbiologist, to food safety professional to now as a business owner. Jill grew up on a farm in Wisconsin where she was first exposed to “food science 101”. It was not until her junior year of college that Jill officially took the course and confirmed that she really liked it. “It was the time I spent on the farm which formed my career foundation. It was the knowledge of agriculture and the intuition about product safety,” she said.

Jill Stuber, The Food Safety Coach
Jill Stuber, The Food Safety Coach

Jill still remembers how she got her first job out of college—a lot of which involved being persistent. She called Land O’Lakes every month to check whether there was an opening because it was her dream company, and she always wanted to be part of it. “Every time I drove past the building, I thought to myself, ‘I could work for them’”. Finally, the company responded that they were looking for someone to make the media in the lab, and Jill took the position without hesitation.

That first job started Jill’s career. She learned so much about lab management during her time at Land O’Lakes. Throughout her career, she tried many different roles related to food safety before she landed squarely in food safety. Jill suggested that those who are facing choices should trust their intuition. “It’s what drives you to the direction that there is something there for you,” she added.

It certainly was a shift when Jill started her own business during the pandemic. “I have always wanted to do it, but I hesitated for years, and COVID-19 helped me make the decision. It was my first full year owning my own business.” When asked what prompted her to start a business in coaching, Jill shared the following personal story.

Jill talked about an early career struggle when she first served as a corporate food safety & quality manager across three production facilities and the corporate lab. There was an instance in which the entire team was facing a challenging situation and her boss told her she had to let go one of her team members. She felt really bad—even until today. “In that moment, and for me, it was a personal thing. I just had to step back and say, ‘this is not right’. I still remembered the feeling, which was awful,” Jill said. This is certainly not the value Jill believed in and grew up with. She believed in working hard as a team and helping and trusting each other. “I asked the company to work with a coach so I could process the event, and that’s when it opened up my eyes to how coaches can navigate and support a person. I love helping people, and that’s how my interest in coaching started and it was the seed for establishing my business.”

Jill Stuber and other food safety experts discussed “The New Normal: COVID-19’s Lasting Impact on the Food Industry” during an Episode of the Food Safety Consortium Virtual Conference Series on May 20, 2021The one thing that Jill believes today and throughout all her obstacles is to never give up. “Never say ‘no’ and never take ‘no’ for an answer. Of course, there will be hard times, but I always find another pathway. You have to be persistent and know where you are going and why you are doing it, and keep on that,” Jill said.

We ended our conversation discussing how we see the future for talented female professionals in the industry. “I think women are on a fantastic path of providing support for each other and even for others, not just women. I think we are doing a great job of trying to connect and understand what that support looks like. We are going to see more and more women are in decision making roles—roles they are really engaged in and thriving,” she said. “Women are standing in their power and becoming more and more comfortable in these positions. It’s also about recognizing the gifts that you bring.”

Melody Ge: How does it feel of being a CEO? Do you feel any different versus other roles that you’ve had?

Jill Stuber: LOL! I do not feel differently. I enjoy the flexibility it offers me, especially this past year with COVID. My kids are home, distance studying, and so it really helped me balance my time with my family. My ultimate goal is to live life on my own terms by helping people. So, it is definitely getting me a step closer to be able to do that, which is really all about just trying to be more present and have richer experiences versus going through the motions.

Ge: Sometimes it’s very hard to achieve living on your own terms. How did you start? Any words of advice?

Stuber: I always recommend starting small. Sometimes it is overwhelming when you think of the entire plan, right? Like for me, for example, stepping away from a steady income with a company is really hard to do. It is scary. If I had done that first, I probably would have not made the leap. However, I started small by really doing something a little different or making different choices each day in the direction I wanted to go versus “all-in”. This applies even to how I spend my time. After work, I usually would do things for my family, make dinners and do laundry. But I passed that stuff all to my family, not that I neglected my family, but I get everyone involved so that way I can make choices to maybe work on my own business, spend time with my family or even focus on self-care. So, every day, it is evaluating every single small thing I can do to help move in the direction that I ultimately want to be at.

Ge: We often hear people say that women are too emotional. What’s your opinion on that? Does emotion have a big impact on your decision making as a CEO?

Stuber: I think the big factor really has a lot to do with trusting yourself and your intuition. I know one of the questions here is being emotional. However, I really think that as business owners and women in the industry, we should embrace being emotional, because it is what gives us the empathy and compassion. And for me, emotion really helps me better serve my clients. At the end of the day, if I cannot serve them to the best of my abilities, I have failed both of us. I really try to listen to what they need so that I am helping them get the results they want. Sometimes, I think, what is wrong with being emotional? Why is there judgement around being emotional?

Ge: Yes! I thought about it too!

Stuber: It’s important (and good) to remember that women are wildly different than men. We process emotions and feelings differently. When we listen to the messages that women send us, it helps us really step into where we need to go to provide support. When we ignore those things and cut them off, I think it gives us a gap where our intuition is telling us to go versus where our mind is telling us to go. Our emotions keep us on, and I think it is kind of a check and balance on where we are going, and what is true to us. Our emotions bring us to alignment to what is going on. Also, I think it relates to how emotions play into the conversation. Even as we talk about bringing more women into leadership positions and organizations, I love that we still talk about what skills we need to get in there. However, sometimes, I wonder about how we can prepare the people already at the table for the leadership styles we, women, bring. Because it is not always about women having to adopt a new style or learn to make a decision differently, or to be less emotional, but how we prepare people who are already there to work with us and to understand how that emotion makes female valuable leaders in the space.

Ge: Do you have any advice, or some lesson learned, to share with the young professionals in the Women in Food Safety group?

Stuber: I would say there are two. First, it is following your intuition. I didn’t do this well when I was young; I followed technical data for quite a while. Now, with more experience, I think following and trusting your intuition is more valuable. I used to rely on technical data and thinking I had to have the answers; but really taking the time and engaging in human-to-human interaction is so much more powerful. The second piece of advice I would offer is that it’s okay that you don’t have all the answers. I think we are programmed as we go through the school that we are supposed to know the answers. It’s equally important to know how to find the resources and answers. I think that is important to share because in the end, the group of young professionals coming into the industry are the next generation that is going to make the difference in the industry. So, whatever we do to support them is important! I would like to let them know that we all want them to be successful and to love what they are doing. So, even though sometimes the industry can be intimidating, never be hesitant to reach out to others in the industry. Utilize and build your own network and be part of communities that can support you and allow you to support them in return.

Adam Serfas, R.S. Quality
FST Soapbox

Tips for Creating an Inclusive Color-Coding Plan for Food Manufacturing Facilities

By Adam Serfas
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Adam Serfas, R.S. Quality

Color-coding as a quality assurance and safety measure has been on the rise since the passage of FSMA in 2011. Now, 10 years later, color-coding is being used in a wide range of industries from food manufacturers and processors to pharmaceutical developers and even brewers. As the popularity of the practice of color-coding has increased, so too has the market for color-coded tools. Nowadays, those in the industry can find virtually every high-quality cleaning tool under the sun, and a hygienic tools storage option for that tool in the color needed. The improved quality and availability of these products is wonderful, but nice tools alone cannot ensure a successful color-coding plan. Color-coding compliance is only possible when there is team-wide buy-in. That means meeting the team where they are—making the plan important to every single employee who steps onto a production floor. To do that, it needs to be introduced in an inclusive manner. The following are some tips for creating and implementing an inclusive color-coding plan.

Draw Up the Plan With Folks Beyond Management

Before you ever lock in a color-coding plan—whether you plan to color-code by zone, by allergen or by shifts—you first need to consult a wide range of team members. One common mistake is developing a color-coding plan with only quality assurance experts and those in management. This presents a problem for a couple of reasons.

One, you’re missing out on the perspective of those who will most often be asked to execute the plan. Say you choose the color purple as one of the colors in your color-coding plan, and you purchase all of the tools you think you will need in that color. You roll out the plan only to find out there’s an essential tool you need, and it doesn’t come in that color. You now have a problem on your hands, and a costly one at that, as you’re going to need to start over with a new color and new tools.

Beyond needing that on-the-ground perspective, you miss out on a key opportunity to gain buy-in early on from those who will be directly involved in carrying out the plan. Do yourself a favor and invite shift leaders to the table. Explain to them what you would like to do with a color-coding plan and listen to any advice they might have on executing a plan everyone is going to want to see succeed. Generally speaking, it pays to go with a big-tent approach to planning, so spend some time thinking about which parties should be represented in the planning process to capture all of the varying viewpoints of those at your facility.

Ensure the Plan Is Color-Blind Friendly

As selecting colors is one of the most important things you do in drafting a color-coding plan,pay special attention to the colors themselves. Color-blindness affects 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women—certainly not a negligible amount, and something you want to take into consideration.

Once you figure out all of the tools you need, determine which colors can accommodate those needs. From that list, try to avoid the most commonly confused color pairings in your plan. Red and green, green and brown, green and blue, blue and gray, blue and purple, green and grey, and green and black are the most commonly confused. If possible, avoid using those color combinations. Instead, opt for high-contrast options such as orange and purple, purple and yellow, or blue and yellow to name a few.

Some people will also look to shades to help achieve a higher contrast. For example, lime green and a maroon red is much better for a color-blind person than your standard royal red and shamrock green. These days more tools are available in varied shades but, again, you need to ensure that you’re able to get every tool you need now—and in the foreseeable future—in the color you pick.

Should you need to use colors that are not high-contrast, do your best to keep those tools separate. If you are color-coding by zone, use the most commonly confused color combinations on the opposite ends of the facility, where they are less likely to swap places. You can also help by using tool storage boards such as shadow boards or wall racks that are color-coded to match the tools. That way, tools always go back to the same place after each use.

Employ Multilingual Trainings and Signage

Generally speaking, the food industry is particularly diverse, and many facilities employ staff whose first language is not English. Work with your HR team and managers to identify which languages are primarily spoken among your staff and ensure you can offer trainings on the color-coding plan in all of those languages. Frequently, facilities have employees who are multilingual and can therefore translate during a training session. If not, it may be wise to hire a translator. This presents a nominal fee, whereas an employee failing to follow a color-coding plan could have disastrous consequences.

It is also important to ensure that any signage you have explaining the color-coding plan is available in the primary languages of the employees.

Make Use of Different Teaching Methods

Just as in the classroom, employees come to work with different learning styles. It’s up to the employer to meet those different needs with varying teaching styles and materials that speak to the importance of the color-coding plan. For the auditory learners, an all-hands meeting where a leader explains the importance of color-coding is going to be great. For the visual learners, handouts and permanent signage throughout your facility will be appreciated.

Meanwhile, tactile learners might want to run through a practice of grabbing tools, seeing where they will be used and returning them to their designated storage spot to see the plan in action. While asking employees to go through these different teachings might draw some eye-rolls for those who feel they grasped the concept the first time, the exercise might help make the color-coding plan click for someone who struggled to understand what they were being asked to do. Additionally, repetition helps all learners, so revisit these trainings to refresh veteran staff and bring newer folks up to speed.

Invite Feedback

Finally, invite employees to share feedback with you along the way. An inclusive culture is one that allows everyone to have a voice. Make it clear that team members are welcome to share any feedback they have on the color-coding plan, the trainings and tools along the way. Once again, in the interest of accommodating everyone, it’s a good idea to offer multiple avenues for feedback reporting. You might like to invite employees to share feedback directly with managers and also offer an anonymous suggestion box that gets checked regularly. Every facility and every staff has unique needs, so listening to the suggestions that come your way can help shed light on important considerations.

Ben Schreiber, ActiveSense
Bug Bytes

How ERM Can Simplify Pest Management

By Benjamin Schreiber
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Ben Schreiber, ActiveSense

Whether you work in food manufacturing, distribution or retail, pests are both a fact of life as well as a regulatory disruption. At the same time, pest management solutions aren’t always clear-cut: While there are a variety of effective strategies employed by pest management professionals (PMPs) servicing the food industry, industry challenges—shifting regulatory standards, a lack of proper documentation and more—can complicate the process. For these reasons, short-term rodent problems can become long-term logistical nightmares, leaving food manufacturers in an undesirable situation when a third-party food plant auditor arrives.

Fortunately, emerging technologies in pest management practices are helping facility managers streamline their food and beverage quality assurance processes, reducing the risk of product loss, regulatory action, improper brand management and more. Specifically, electronic remote monitoring (ERM) allows PMPs to detect and monitor rodents in real time, providing you with important information to help reduce risk and increase audit compliance. As such, the value of food safety pest management strategies that incorporate ERM systems is only growing. Seeking out PMPs who use ERM allows you to invest in technologies that protect your margins, ensure the quality of your product and, ultimately, safeguard your most important asset—your reputation.

Modernizing Pest Management With ERM

At first glance, it might seem like pest management practices haven’t drastically changed since they were first implemented in the food manufacturing industry. Many rodent trapping systems remain similar to their original design: Devices designed to trap or kill that must be individually inspected and serviced by professional technicians. Technicians must then relay any risks to facility managers, who have to determine if additional resources are needed to avoid product loss or audit-based infractions.

Upon closer examination, it’s clear that while pests themselves have not significantly changed, both the pest management industry and the modern food supply chain have become increasingly complex. Food facility managers must contend with increasingly stringent food safety standards, and PMPs must rise to meet these needs with evolving pest management strategies.

In many ways, ERM technologies are the structural pest control industry’s response to these challenges, providing technicians with real-time notifications about rodent behavior and allowing them to make risk-based assessments that identify and treat problems before infestations occur. Unlike pest control strategies that rely on periodic service visits from technicians, PMPs who utilize ERM technology can monitor pest activity around the clock, 24/7/365, in virtually any environment. Instead of monitoring individual traps, PMPs can use ERM technology to know exactly when and where pest activity occurs, including in hard-to-monitor areas such as drop ceilings, crawlspaces, shelving undersides and other traditionally overlooked spaces. Technicians then receive valuable analytics from each trap they install, as well as documentation and reporting, that help managers achieve audit and regulatory compliance.

FSMA and ERM

In 2015, the FDA issued the final component of preventative control for human food under FSMA, officially enacting legislation that requires food safety plants to focus on risk-based pest prevention instead of reactive pest control strategies. As a result, quality assurance professionals and facility managers are often tasked with reallocating personnel toward proactive pest control activities in addition to their day-to-day responsibilities.

In many ways, ERM systems go hand-in-hand with FSMA and GFSI regulations. While preparing for a situation that hasn’t yet occurred can be a costly and time-consuming process, ERM has helped PMPs develop custom pest management strategies that assess and control situations in accordance with FSMA and other auditing firm guidelines. In many ways, ERM can provide all parties—PMPs, in-house auditors and third-party regulators—with a track record of pest history that all parties can cross-reference when assessing a facility.

From Risk-Averse to Risk-Based

When it comes to food safety rules and regulations, the only constant is change. In the structural pest control industry, auditors have historically implemented strict guidelines about trap placement that are frequently changing: For instance, traps should be placed every 10, 15, or 20 feet, regardless of facility susceptibility to various pest conditions. Failure to comply with regulations can result in point deductions on audits, even if the conditions that might lead to an infestation are not present. As such, food processing plants often choose to abide by the most stringent audit guidelines imposed upon them by other parties, such as retailers. By utilizing ERM technologies, food safety and quality assurance professionals can use additional pest monitoring analytics to focus on specific compliance issues, rather than spending additional time and money on other strategies.

Additionally, ERM allows PMPs to focus their efforts not only on weekly service visits and station checks, but also on important tasks, including assessing facility vulnerabilities, tracking rodent access points, and providing consultation and additional management strategies to their client—you.

Approaching the Audit with ERM

Food plant managers and retailers alike know that auditor approval is everything. Because ERM is a fast-developing technology, many quality assurance managers and facility owners are curious to know if ERM is audit approved. In truth, there are many kinds of audits, each with different goals, assessment techniques and regulatory standards. When it comes to audits, the gold standard is not necessarily the assessment of the facility and production line itself, but rather how well the assessment matches records kept by the food production plant.

To this end, ERM might be the answer to a streamlined audit process. No matter what kind of audit a plant is currently undergoing, ERM allows PMPs to provide records auditors need to verify that all systems are working properly. ERM can mean the difference between a streamlined process and a laborious audit, acting as a documentation system that helps officials conduct a PMP-verified “second-check.” This kind of verification is invaluable in an industry where there are already more than enough regulatory categories to consider without having to further worry about potential pest infestations.

ERM-Oriented Solutions

Thanks to the many advantages they offer, ERM and other remote pest monitoring technologies are growing in popularity. Many facility managers appreciate that ERM allows them to assess pest activity, prevent infestations before they occur, gather data that helps them remain industry-compliant, and acquire and share information with additional parties. If you’re a facility manager, quality assurance professional or other food safety decision-maker interested in the opportunities ERM technologies provide, consider starting the conversation about your pest prevention system with your PMP and how ERM might help improve it.

Trust, But Verify

There is an overwhelming consensus in the pest control industry that technology should be developed to provide end-users with more information. ERM systems are a natural extension of this belief, providing each component of the food production and distribution supply chain—manufacturers, distributors, retailers, quality assurance officials, technicians and others—with more data about how pest control decisions are made. Without data, it can be difficult to ensure technician service visits end in greater transparency about the issues facility owners will face as they prepare for an audit.

Fortunately, ERM can help provide the level of trust and assurance plant managers need to feel confident in their day-to-day operations. ERM is an important step forward for manufacturer-regulator relations, which require a strong combination of data, trust and transparency to ensure that communication systems don’t break down. After all, there are many industries in which miscommunication can lead to catastrophic consequences, and food production is no exception.

While each manufacturing facility, processing plant, distribution center, storage warehouse and retail outlet is different, none are insusceptible to pest infestations, and none can avoid audits required to keep them compliant. Because rigorous oversight is crucial for food producers and consumers alike, working with your PMP to develop pest monitoring strategies that utilize ERM systems and other cutting-edge technologies should be part of your larger pest control consideration process.

In the end, the pest infestation that causes the least damage to your product, profit potential and industry reputation is the infestation that never occurs.

Melody Ge, Corvium
Women in Food Safety

Women in Food Safety: Meet the Members…and Join Us!

By Melody Ge
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Melody Ge, Corvium

“For Women, By Women in Food Safety” is a professional group that was formed in January 2019. Comprised of outstanding female leadership, food safety professionals and students who are passionate about this field, the goal is to provide a community and networking platform for the industry to share their stories and experiences, help young professionals, and grow together. Hopefully, the lessons and challenges that are shared will prove useful throughout one’s career journey.

“I see this group as means of connecting young, female food safety professionals to other females in food safety roles so they can share insights from their own experiences in their careers,” says Jill Hoffman, group committee member, and director of global quality systems and food safety at McCormick & Company.

Meet the Group Founder

Melody Ge, Corvium
Melody Ge is also a Food Safety Tech Editorial Advisory Board member

Melody Ge has 10+ years’ experience in food safety and is passionate about food safety on a global scale. She holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in food science and engineering, starting her career journey with Beyond Meat as the technical director for product development and food safety and quality control. Following this position Ge established the compliance and integrity program at SQFI, and then worked as the deputy QA director at Lidl US. Currently, Ge is the head of compliance at Corvium, Inc. where she continues to foster food safety culture using advanced technology within the industry. As a non-U.S. citizen, Ge is fortunate to work with different cultures and industries, including retailers and manufacturers, using her multi-language skills and expertise in food safety. Ge believes in women’s leadership and in using their strengths to be successful in their roles.

Meet Some of the Committee Members

Jacqueline Southee, Ph.D.
Jacqueline Southee, Ph.D., FSSC 22000

Jacqueline Southee, North American Representative, FSSC 22000
Jacqueline Southee is an agricultural scientist with a Ph.D. in animal science.She has an academic foundation with what one might call “earthy roots”. “I worked in the animal welfare arena for years before taking a career break to relocate from Europe to the USA and raise two boys. I was fortunate to have an opportunity to return to work with FSSC 22000 in 2013 and have enjoyed building the profile of the organization’s certification program in North America,” says Southee. “I also have experience in (and have encountered challenges) developing and evaluating standard operating procedures. This is becoming more relevant today in the food industry as regulations demand worldwide consistency in the use of standard approaches to minimizing risk and controlling hazards,” she says.

One of Southee’s greatest attributes is her “internationalism”, her experience working professionally with different cultures and fields, and her ability to communicate with all levels of an organization. She believes that there are huge opportunities in food safety for women of all ages and a need for a range of experiences. It remains important to communicate, encourage and to share in order to cultivate the next generation of food safety professionals.

Jill Hoffman, Director of Global Quality Systems and Food Safety, McCormick & Company

Jill Hoffman, McCormick & Company
Jill Hoffman, McCormick & Company

Jill Hoffman started her journey in food safety in college with a major in food science, when her exposure and desire to pursue a career in food came to her while taking a human nutrition course. Since then, Hoffman has had many roles in food manufacturing, both in food safety and quality as well as in operations management. In 2019, she completed her master’s degree in food safety at Michigan State University, which resolved her dilemma of pursuing an advanced degree without having to go back to school full-time (not an option for her!). Hoffman found the online master’s program was perfect for her to pursue an advanced degree in an area that truly interested her and was relevant to her career.

Currently, Hoffman works at McCormick & Co., Inc. as the director of global quality systems and food safety. At McCormick, she has been able to grow as a food safety professional as well as gain valuable experience working internationally and understanding the dynamics of working across cultures. She enjoys working to develop programs and solutions to address the ever-changing food safety and quality challenges that present themselves.

As Hoffman’s career continues to grow, she has learned and values the importance of work/life balance. She actively works to ensure balance between the two, as it is so important to take care of all aspects of yourself, not just your professional self. “The things we do outside of our ‘work self’ can help to grow and shape us as people just as much as the formal coaching and learning that we do in our day-to-day jobs,” Jill says.

What prompted the launch of a group that focuses on female professional development in the food safety sector?

Read the interview with Melody Ge, Technology Helps Your Food Safety Employees Work Smarter, Not HarderMelody Ge: I started this group because I received many questions from students about building their careers in food safety. I would love to help more, and I know my own experience is limited, so I wanted to leverage the knowledge of so many outstanding women out there. Hence, I formed this group with the hopes that it could be a resource to those who are seeking solutions in the industry.

Jacqueline Southee: I believe the food safety sector is growing exponentially with increasingly diverse requirements for a wider skill set, which needs to be communicated to young food scientists still making academic choices and building their proficiencies and talents. In addition, new opportunities are being created by this global industry that the next generation of food scientists need to be made aware of.

Jill Hoffman: I see this group as an opportunity to bring women together to share stories and challenges that have arisen throughout their careers. The group gives women an ability to learn how others have navigated both challenging and rewarding moments in their careers so that they can incorporate this awareness into their own journey. Additionally, this group will help with sharing the diverse opportunities in food safety. Everyone has a different road they’ve traveled to get to where they are today, and it’s important to share these stories as a testament to knowing that everyone doesn’t have to have traveled the same pathway in education or career experience to get into a role of ensuring food safety.

How do you see this group positioned in the future?

Ge: I would like to see this group sustain itself in the food safety industry and become a safe harbor for women to talk about their passions, experiences, challenges and learn from each other so ultimately, we all can be stronger in the industry together.

Southee: As the industry becomes more global, its success will depend on tech-savvy technologists and food scientists who have a wide range of skills, including in information science, regulations, quality management systems, economics, politics and climatology. The list is endless. We need to make sure the lines of communication are open, the opportunities are open to all and that we can help shepherd young women through.

Hoffman: I think there’s a flexible vision for the group to grow into a recognized forum for women to engage in at all points in their careers. The group will grow into an active space for sharing, learning and networking among food safety professionals and female students pursuing an interest in the field of food safety.

We can do this together!

Are you interested in helping the group? Although, it’s a female-focused group, we are open to all feedback, support, and partnership opportunities to grow this group together. We hope to hear from you. You can join the group, For Women, By Women in Food Safety or direct message Melody Ge on LinkedIn.

Currently, this is a LinkedIn group, and all committee members have joined voluntarily. However, with support from Food Safety Tech, we are planning on writing monthly columns for the publication, scheduling in-person meet ups at some of the industry conferences, and engaging in mentoring programs, webinars and more activities in the near future. We hope our visions can be achieved throughout the team efforts together.

Don Groover, DEKRA OSR
FST Soapbox

Why Changing Workplace Safety Culture Must Start From the Top

By Don Groover
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Don Groover, DEKRA OSR

Workplace safety in the food industry can be challenging. The precision required of workers in slaughter, meat packing or wholesale processing facilities can lead to serious harm or worse. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the potential hazards in this industry are many: Knife cuts to the hands and the torso, falls, back injuries, exposure to toxic substances, carpal tunnel syndrome, and even infectious diseases.

This industry may have more challenges in safety than any other industry. Yet, there are companies that excel in safety performance, even given these challenges.

Organizations that are serious about protecting their workers must do far more than react after an injury or rely on awareness-based safety efforts. Typically this approach only delays the next injury. Safety is not just about responding to injuries, but is about the ongoing identification of exposure, the implementation of control systems, and assuring these controls are used to neutralize the exposure.

The challenge is that the root of why an exposure exists or can even thrive in an organization maybe due to culture, organizational urgency, operational instability or a lack of understanding about the concept of exposure, to mention a few. Because the issue is bigger than safety programs, safety excellence requires all levels of an organization, from the C-Suite to the frontline worker, committing to a process that focuses on exposure. This needs to be done in a way that creates trust that safety is a value and if there is a values conflict, that safety has top priority.

Ultimately, it’s about shifting culture by making a safety excellence a priority.

Oftentimes leaders articulate that they want a safe culture, but they may not fully understand their role in creating the culture they desire and how they sustain the change. Senior leaders must go beyond a catch phrase approach to safety and actually articulate what are the cultural attributes they want to see firmly embedded in their organization.

These may be:

  • Workers watching out for each other and a willingness to step in if somebody is at risk.
  • Excellent housekeeping.
  • Workers stepping up to address physical hazards without being asked.
  • A willingness to report safety concerns and incidents.

Once the attributes are defined, then the organization is ready to understand what it takes to support that culture.
However, senior leadership needs to drive that change. Once upper management understands that accountability starts with them and not with the worker, they can move forward and create a culture that reinforces practices that identify potential exposure before incidents take place and not after. Doing so not only has the potential to lower incident rates, but it also:

  • Boosts morale. Workers believe the company has their backs and will commit to safety principles.
  • Strengthens trust between workers and management. Workers believe that safety excellence is a shared responsibility.
  • Increases commitment to all organizational objectives. Social theory research has shown that if you do something for someone else, they experience a pull to reciprocate. The more we do, the stronger the pull. When management shows that they can be trusted with employee safety, employees are free to reciprocate in other areas.

Our strongest and deepest relationships are built on a foundation of safety—not just physical safety but also psychological safety. If we come to believe that another person is interested in our physical or mental wellbeing, the foundation strengthens.

When leadership uses the power of safety they will see employee engagement increase. And the safety implications of worker engagement are profound: Disengaged workers are focused on their own safety. Involved workers are concerned with their own safety but are likely also concerned with the safety of their workmates and perhaps certain other people they interact with. Fully engaged workers are concerned with the safety of everyone around them and without prompting take proactive actions to help others.

Engaged workers are more likely to follow rules and procedures, be more receptive to change, and give discretionary effort. It seems like all companies are doing some type of engagement survey, yet the actions they develop to try and raise their scores are often lacking. Organizations that are serious about having an engaged workforce must fully understand how safety is foundational to engagement. More importantly, safety involvement activities need to be designed and implemented in a way that moves employees beyond mere involvement to full on engagement.

When a company demonstrates it values safety, workers will volunteer to get involved. Leadership must carefully consider what safety involvement activity is right for the culture. When employees participate in a successful and rewarding involvement activity, their personal level of engagement will move upward. Leadership must then figure out how to expand safety involvement. This isn’t done by demanding involvement. It requires purposeful planning and patience.

Jennifer van de Ligt, Food Protection and Defense Institute, University of Minnesota
FST Soapbox

The Changing Face of Leadership in the Food and Beverage Industry

By Jennifer van de Ligt, Ph.D.
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Jennifer van de Ligt, Food Protection and Defense Institute, University of Minnesota

Our food system is facing daunting challenges. We must adapt our food systems to sustainably feed almost 10 billion people by 2050 in a world with shifting climate and environmental pressures. In addition, we need to reduce the rising number of undernourished people (an estimated 821 million people in recent years) and confront the significant issue of more than 30% of food production being lost or wasted. Tackling these challenges will require collaboration across all aspects of the food system to assure that production processes, policies and regulations, food safety practices, and affordability align to assure we live in a food secure future. However, most of the current generation of leaders in the food industry has not approached leadership from the systems-thinking approach that will be required to succeed.

Thus, focusing on developing the right skills in the rising next generation of leaders in the food and beverage industry in order to solve these problems will be critical. We need people who can think broadly and are empowered to navigate the complexities of the global food system. Professionals in the food industry need to think beyond the specialties and silos where they currently work. Approaching food problems in an open-minded and cross-disciplinary way will achieve better results for business growth, population well-being, food production and planet sustainability.

In my decades of working in the food industry, I was acutely aware of the challenges that we would face in the future. Now, as part of the Integrated Food Systems Leadership program at the University of Minnesota, we are addressing these issues by helping to train the future leaders that will transform the food system. The following topics are just a few of the areas that we see as essential to develop the food leaders of tomorrow.

Next-Gen Leaders with a Holistic Approach

One of the key steps for new leaders in food and beverage industry is to adapt to food systems thinking. Most professionals were hired for their knowledge in a specific area. Now, to become next-gen leaders, they will need to think about the whole food production system and how all decisions made in this system, from sourcing and production to supply chain and retail sale, affect people and the environment.

Where we source our food and how we produce it is truly global and interconnected. The ingredient and material supply chains are vast and complex. We can no longer afford not to take into consideration where and how these items are being sourced and supplied. Additionally, we can no longer afford not to be responsible for the products produced and how they are affecting the health and well-being of consumers as well as the planet.

The next generation of leaders, no matter what part of the food system they are working in, will need to understand these relationships and think about how all these little pieces from production to marketing and sales work together. When one change is made to the system, whether the idea is from R&D or the marketing department or is caused by a new regulation, this will produce ripple effects across the food system.

True Leadership vs. Management in the Food System

Often times, the idea of leadership is thought of as just managing people—observing a team and making sure each person is doing their job. This is management and not a true definition of leadership. To be a leader means you have a vision and can paint a clear picture of what you see to others. Leaders build relationships with people who help turn a vision into reality. Leaders aren’t afraid to change the status quo and take risks if those risks will help the long-term plan. Leaders help their team achieve more than any individual on the team thought possible.

Leaders have many qualities. First, they have ideas that should be heard. However, in order for those ideas to see the light of day, professionals must know how to communicate so their opinions and thoughts are considered. Knowing how to package a vision and communicate it more effectively are critical to leadership development.

Second, leaders desire to have a meaningful impact in the world. To be able to effect change, seeing the bigger picture and understanding the interdependencies throughout the food system is paramount. As part of this, they want and need to help other people be heard to move the vision and plan forward. They will need the skills to foster collaboration and innovation within their teams and across disciplines to help everyone succeed in making the changes needed in the food system.

Third, although leaders want to grow their companies, they also want to grow personally. When a vision is created and steps taken to pave the way for that vision to come to fruition, a journey begins. Leaders know that any journey embarked upon is a life-changing experience, and they welcome that new stage.

Finally, it is important to note that leaders can be found in more places than the corner office. Leaders are not just CEOs, but come in varying roles and titles. Developing people’s leadership potential, style and goals for whatever capacity they work in is a critical part of leadership building. Leaders exist within every team, department and work group across a business. Finding them, to grow and foster their potential, is the challenge.

Fostering Professional Development in the Field

Food and beverage companies can do a great deal to address these pressing issues today by instilling a culture of learning in the organization. I have found, more often than not, people who enter this industry are passionate about it. However, when individuals enter a company, especially early in their career, they sometimes face a crisis of faith moment and question that their lifelong training has not prepared them for what they truly want to do.

Many times those in the industry feel like they have ideas or skills that aren’t being leveraged. They may feel like they aren’t being heard or that they’ve been pigeon-holed into one segment of or role in the business. These professionals could be the collateral damage of silo mentality and lack of a culture of learning and growth, especially when they are high-value and have specialized knowledge. Corporations have perfected efficiency by keeping certain departments, and individuals within them, separated in order to optimize their segment’s function. But slotting the business, and individuals, into distinct categories can hinder the ability of these organizations to see and understand the big picture.

By breaking down this silo mentality and promoting systems thinking, businesses can help their talented and dedicated people grow their career, become a better leader, and enable a move across the lattice structure within an organization. Many times these individuals feel a little lost in the mix and frustrated as a cog in the machine and are looking for growth opportunities. This doesn’t necessarily mean they want to move vertically within the organization, but rather learn and grow laterally or diagonally within an organization to both enhance their career and provide a broader benefit to the entire business.

When companies equip professionals with critical-thinking skills, they are developing their professionals who want to make a meaningful impact within their organizations as well as in the entire food system. This is true empowerment to improve the future of food and make companies viable and competitive for the future.

If a company doesn’t have this training ability internally, organizations can support programs that are helping to build these leaders. Programs like the new Integrated Food Systems Leadership are designed to help future leaders bridge the current skills gap in the food system. These future leaders will have the tools to drive the change critical for many companies to succeed while we feed the future.

Training Vs. Education: Understanding the role of TWI (Part I)

By Debby L. Newslow, Alan Lane
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Related to training requirements, GFSI approved CPOs and the ISO standards place a strong emphasis on the evaluation of qualifications, competency, and the effectiveness of training. It is critical to make sure that today’s associates are aware of the importance of their actions and how they contribute to the overall achievement of measurable food safety, quality and system objectives. Records that document training results, both positive and negative, must be maintained. Although follow-up and documentation take time, the overall positive impact on the business and success of the organization is well worth the extra effort.

It is important that each associate understands the role that he or she plays in his or her company’s success. Individual roles are established by upper management and communicated to the staff. It requires the cooperation and communication of all operational levels to result in an effective and value-added management system. If the necessary lines of communication are developed and a proper work environment is established, then the results should be the production of a safe product with product conformity and all the records to prove it.

Necessary provisions of a successful management system include: Applicable job assignments for personnel and identifying all training needs while providing the appropriate training. It is critical that management apply the proactive approach to training, rather than being reactive after something goes wrong. Without a structured, proactive, effective program established to communicate and educate employees, the organization will be putting its products at risk. Products will be at a food safety risk, as well as, pose a risk to basic business success.

When defining the necessary competencies, management must consider how each position affects the processes and the system overall. Written, well-defined job requirements are necessary to identify competencies and qualifications. Job requirements should at least define the following aspects:

  • Criteria for each area of responsibility as it affects the management system and the needs of the organization
  • Criteria based on related documentation (procedures and work instructions)
  • New hire orientation training
  • Requirements for the compliant management system
  • Specific training needs
  • Records necessary to demonstrate conformance with training and education requirements
  • Competency of associates to be evaluated, recorded, effective, and defined in a manner that is appropriate for the organization.

The training, competence and awareness program must focus on educating the associates. “Education” is a critical term that communicates sharing the knowledge and explains reasons why an activity must be done in the manner presented. Training is communicating the required actions and showing how these actions are important.

Education” is the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment; the act or process of imparting or acquiring specific knowledge or skills.

Training” is to develop or form the habits, thoughts, or behavior of by discipline and instruction and to make proficient by instruction and practice, as in some art, profession, or work.
A favorite example when comparing these two terms is how Pavlov’s dog was trained to respond to the ringing bell for food, but education is understanding that it is necessary to perform an action in a specific manner.

The training program must be developed and presented in a manner that effectively educates associates. Each associate, at a minimum, should have an overview of the compliance requirements of the management system and how he or she impacts the goals of the organization.

Training Within Industry – Did You Know?

Training Within Industry’s (TWI) rich history originated in the United States in the 1940s where the program was an unqualified success, boosting industrial production of war material beyond expectations. Training Within Industry (TWI) leverages the role of supervisors and team leaders to do the following:

  • Standardize work
  • Increase productivity & quality
  • Reduce training time
  • Work safely
  • Improve morale
  • Solve problems

TWI is an essential element of lean and lean six sigma programs, as it provides frontline personnel with the skills and organizational framework for standard work along with continuous improvement.

The 5 TWI Program Modules:

  1. Job Instruction (JI): Quickly training employees to do a job correctly, safely, and efficiently
    The demands of developing a flexible workforce and training employees are best accomplished with standardized best practices. Job Instruction teaches how to effectively break down a job and deliver the necessary instructions for individual tasks. By developing and delivering training in this structured fashion, the process becomes more consistent and efficient throughout the company. JI results in reduced training time, less scrap and rework, fewer accidents and increased job satisfaction.
  2.  Job Relations (JR): Building positive employee relations, increasing cooperation and motivation, and effectively resolving conflict
    Job Relations teaches the foundations of positive employee relations, preventing potential problems and earning loyalty and cooperation. It utilizes a proven method of resolving problems, therefore, resulting in increased productivity, improved attendance, better morale, and higher employee retention rates.
  3.  Job Methods (JM): Improving the way jobs are done for continual improvement
    Job Methods focuses on producing greater quantities of quality products, in less time, by making the best use of the people, machines and materials currently available. Jobs are broken down into their constituent operations. Every detail should be questioned in a systematic manner to generate ideas for improvement. JM yields significant benefits including reduced cost through productivity gains, increased throughput, and reduced work in process.
  4. Job Safety (JS): Creating a safe workplace
    Job Safety provides the framework through which supervisors can engage employees in identifying potential hazards and eliminating them based on their training and knowledge in OSHA and EPA regulations. This provides supervisors a viable method to use when analyzing the events leading to accidents and hazardous situations. JS stresses that the relationship of the supervisor to the employees plays a pivotal role in a safe and environmentally responsible workplace.
  5.  Problem Solving (PS): Providing supervisors and other leaders with higher-level problem-solving skills
    Problem Solving is the next step for an organization wanting to advance to the next level, after implementing one or more “J” classes. This final process seamlessly incorporates the other four steps. Results include proper identification of problem points, effective solutions, and continuous improvement.

TWI: History

The Central New York Technology Development Organization (TDO), a member of the U.S. Manufacturers Extension Partnership (MEP), successfully reincarnated the original TWI programs in 2001. They subsequently formed the TWI Institute to oversee the global deployment of the program.

The TWI Institute is the center for education, trainer certification and connections in the TWI community of practitioners and trainers. It is a large, rapidly expanding network of certified trainers delivering the TWI Program in the United States and across the globe. The TWI Institute, USA Southern Region, was recently established to serve the southern region of the United States. This region is currently busy introducing the new TWI: 2018-Training Management System International Standard. This standard focuses on training as an integral part of any quality management system. It ultimately defines what all companies need to ensure that their training programs will be effective.

TWI has seen a lot of success throughout its 70+ years, both nationally and internationally, but there has been one common complaint over the years: It is difficult to sustain the training over the long haul.

This can be said for most initiatives undertaken in the lean manufacturing world of continuous improvement elements, whether it is SS, SUR, TPM or any of the other acronyms for the many tools in the lean toolbox. Regardless of the initiative, training must be done to bring everyone up to speed. The success of the training will determine the effectiveness and value of the initiative.

In part two of this series, we will examine the newly released TWI:2018 Training Management System International Standard. We will examine the outcomes to determine how this standard will provide a company with safe, efficient and effective training standards that will provide a lasting benefit.

Christopher Sheeren

How To Recruit The Best Leaders

By Christopher Sheeren
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Christopher Sheeren

Unless they want to shut off the lights upon retirement, private business owners have to think about succession planning. Even more, if all key customer and vendor relationships reside with the owner, there isn’t much value to the business without him or her. Building a strong leadership team and implementing a succession plan are essential to a company’s continued success.

Baby Boomers will be transitioning out of the workplace in vast numbers over the next decade. This exodus, particularly involving those in leadership or ownership positions, will result in substantial transfers of wealth as businesses are shifted across generations or to new owners.
Valuing physical assets, such as equipment and facilities, is relatively simple, but the value of firms that provide services or intellectual assets to clients is harder to define. Their valuation is heavily dependent on their reputations, relationships and management teams. As a result, the long-term survival for many of those businesses is highly reliant on strategic succession planning to build bench strength and the future leadership team.

Begin with a plan

Companies and owners who strategically plan for succession help ensure an orderly transition of management with minimal uncertainty, decreased productivity, fewer employee morale issues, and limited impact on day-to-day business. That’s true especially in family-owned firms, where emotions and personal issues can impede efforts.

However, according to data from CNBC and the Financial Planning Association, 78 percent of small-business owners intend to fund their retirement by selling their company, yet less than 30 percent of companies have a written succession plan.

The lack of planning among larger organizations is even more pronounced. Less than 25 percent of private company boards have an official succession plan, according to the National Association of Corporate Directors.

Branding and clarifying the role

The transition to new leadership – and possibly ownership – doesn’t happen overnight. It may happen faster if the company is known as a great place to work and can provide a successful career path. Competitive compensation and benefits are important, but so is finding a good fit for the position and its responsibilities. Developing a clearly defined role (and the compensation package ranges) will help an owner focus his or her efforts on finding the right person.

Consider the following when defining the leadership role:

  • How many years of experience in a similar role does a candidate need?
  • What management style fits the culture?
  • What education, qualifications or knowledge of the industry must the candidate possess?
  • What communication skills does a candidate need? Does the role require negotiating, establishing direction, and instilling confidence from the board of directors, clients, staff and others?

Recruiting options

Besides strategically determining the need for succession planning or backfilling, it is important to develop a communications/recruiting strategy for the position. This includes determining where to look and establishing a budget for the effort.

Internally

Many companies either assume from the start that positions require new blood or that they should automatically promote from within. Growing staff internally by increasing levels of responsibility is important when grooming a trainee for the future. When companies immediately look to fill positions from the outside, it can be demoralizing to employees who wish to advance. Being overlooked can spur people to seek opportunities elsewhere, costing the company valuable employee experience. To be effective and efficient, fully vet internal candidates before searching outside, and make sure they understand what the position requires. It also helps to ask staff what they believe is needed as they may offer fresh insight.

Spreading the word internally also allows companies to mine employee networks. A 2016 Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) survey indicated that referrals are the top source of new hires for 96 percent of companies with at least 10,000 employees and for 80 percent of firms with under 100 workers.

The do-it-yourself approach

Companies that do not do a lot of recruiting often try to handle the task of finding new leaders themselves. Job postings, LinkedIn, industry sources and other platforms can work, particularly if the recruiter or person heading the search has access to a pipeline of great contacts.
However, relying solely on job listings is usually a poor sourcing strategy. While there may be outstanding candidates scanning the listings at that point, the candidate pool will be limited to those currently looking for a position as opposed to the best possible options. A do-it-yourself talent search can be effective, however, filling a higher-level position often requires more than a single approach.

Outsourcing the recruitment effort

Engaging an executive search firm or professional recruiter opens up a hidden market of talent. Recruiters remain connected to ‘the trenches’ because their livelihoods depend on it. They have typically built up a network of contacts already performing similar roles and can tap into it and proactively target (or ‘head hunt’) the best possible candidates.

Turning to a professional search firm is not cheap. Typically, the cost is a percentage of the first year’s compensation (25 to33 percent is typical) or a flat finder’s fee. But, searching for talent that is critical to a company’s succession planning is not an area to skimp.

Other considerations

A best recruiting practice is to meet with someone at least three times, in three different settings (e.g. office, coffee, and dinner). Each meeting can take on a different tone to closely analyze the individual. Thought-provoking questions can help determine management aptitude, and the more social engagements can help in assessing the personality traits that comprise effective leadership and whether or not the person will fit in.

Give a candidate a thorough review in person, with a background check, and by checking references before making a final offer. Additionally, consider bringing a representative from a key partner, a trusted advisor, or an important client to the dinner meeting and ask their opinion of the candidate.

To ensure success, set aside an adequate transition and training period. Then, let everyone in key positions know about it. This demonstrates to employees that leadership wants to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Too many business leaders and owners fail to recognize the importance of succession planning and developing the best future leaders until the end of their careers.

While time-consuming, succession planning is truly planning for future success. Realistically, preserving an organization’s value for the future can be as challenging as building that value in the first place. Hiring professionals who work with companies on building leaders, transferring the equity of businesses in all industries, and valuation is a wise investment.

Top 10 Tips for Creating a Sustained Food Safety Culture

By Holly Mockus
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After much anticipation, FDA has finally published the FSMA final rules. If you’ve had time to dig into the details, you most likely noted the new initiative that requires companies to measure food safety culture. The industry is also seeing SQF, BRC and other GFSI audit schemes ramping up discussions around measuring food safety culture. However, FDA and GFSI audits aside, how do you create a culture for sustained compliance with this initiative? Follow these 10 tips to ensure your food safety culture is constant and in line with the new requirements

Photo credit: Dennis Burnett for Alchemy Systems
Set clear expectations for employees across the board. Photo credit: Dennis Burnett for Alchemy Systems

1: Create a solid foundation of programs, procedures and policies

Have a preset annual schedule for review and update of all programs, procedures and policies. Don’t let the schedule slide because there are competing priorities. A small pebble is all it takes to start ripple effect in the company, making it difficult to recover.

2: Set clear expectations, driven from the top down

Everyone should follow the rules and guidelines—from visitors to the CEO to the plant manager to the hourly employee. A “no exceptions” policy will drive a culture that is sustainable and drive a “this-is-just-how-we-do-things” mindset.

3: Use record keeping to ensure that food safety culture is well documented and data-driven

Collect the data that is measureable and non-subjective to help drive continuous improvement. If you collect it, you must do something with it. Good documentation is imperative to proving you did what you said you were going to do, especially in the event of an audit. Be stringent in training, and review all documentation before it hits the file cabinet to ensure it is accurate and appropriate.

4: Implement a robust continuous improvement process

Forward momentum through a continuous improvement process cannot be achieved unless management nurtures the program. If you are not continuously improving, you are falling behind.

5: Have a 360-degree approach to employee engagement with 24/7 awareness and communication

Top-down communication is critical to highlighting the priorities and needs of an organization and will not be effective unless an organized program is in place. Organizations that are not making the necessary pivots to communicate with the multiple generations within their workplace today will struggle to sustain change.

6: Foster an atmosphere of mutual respect

Treat people as you would like to be treated, turn the other cheek, etc. There may be lots of adages you quote, but which one best describes your facility and the relationships with management and peers on a daily basis?

7: Be sure employees have consumer awareness for the products they produce

Do your employees know who the end consumer is of the product that they are producing every day?  Does your culture include a review of consumer complaints and customer complaints with your frontline workers?  Listening in to a call center is a very powerful way to help employees understand what affects consumers and how their job is critical to avoiding a food safety or quality issue.

8: Create accountability across the board

Hold folks who do not support the culture in which you are striving to develop or maintain accountable, regardless of their position or stature.

9: Provide positive reinforcement. It’s the best motivator

Work to catch people doing things right and make a big fuss when you do. Positive reinforcement for a job well done is the most powerful motivator. It helps keep every team member on board with food safety commitments.

10: Celebrate often

We spend too much time at work not to celebrate all the good things that are accomplished. Whether it’s a cake and recognition for those that served in the armed forces on Veterans Day or a successful launch of a new product—celebrations are a great way to recognize and reinforce your employees’ hard work. Identifying and correcting mistakes should also be celebrated; they are fertile ground for making changes and provide great nutrients for continuous improvement.

Make Your Data More Meaningful

By Maria Fontanazza
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Data can be a very powerful tool, but only if it is used in an effective manner. It needs to be easily consumable and understood by all levels within an organization. “It’s great to collect information, but if you don’t do something with it, you’re not doing yourself, your facility or your employees any favors,” says Holly Mockus, product manager at Alchemy Systems. “It can really trip you up during a regulatory inspection to have all of this information that you haven’t looked at, tracked, trended or reacted to.”

As FSMA places more importance on documentation and record keeping, FDA-regulated facilities will need to not only capture information but also translate data into easily digestible content for management and employees in order to drive continuous improvement. In a discussion with Food Safety Tech, Mockus shares some key points on how companies can transform their data from numbers and statistics into meaningful and actionable information.

  1. Collect meaningful data from the start. From the beginning of the data collection process, be mindful of exactly what outcome the organization wants to achieve. Having an understanding that the data will be measured and acted upon encourages facilities to avoid gathering information just for the sake of collecting it.
  2. Involve the employees who actually collect the data. Data is more meaningful when employees understand why they’re gathering information and are involved in the process from the beginning.
  3. React to the data. If the information reveals a good or bad trend, or that a process or procedure is out of spec, take action. In addition, document how the business reacted to the issue and the corrections that were put in place.
  4. Close the loop for continuous improvement. Establish a closed loop for data collection, focusing on how gaps were addressed, with an emphasis on continuously improving on the process.
  5. Really examine the data collected. Whether collected for a product, process or equipment line, sit down and take a close look at the data. This exercise is intended to reveal redundancies across departments and help reduce record keeping tasks.

Food Safety Tech: How do companies transform data into a meaningful tool for management?

Mockus: That’s such a challenge for us. It should be easily consumable, especially for management and the higher ups in organizations, because they don’t have as much time to sit down and digest a 20-page document that’s full of numbers and statistics. Work towards to summarizing the information in a way that allows executives and plant managers to look at a graph and know instantly what it means; they don’t need to get into the nitty-gritty. Simplifying the scientific data, whether environmental sampling, quality assurance data, or microtesting in general, and taking it down to base a level so that the non-scientist can understand it—I think that’s something we have to work on, especially for those coming under more regulation. Keep in mind that people who look at the tracking and trending [might not] understand graphs and scientific terms.

A lot of people put the data into a graphic format—it doesn’t have to be a line graph or pie chart, it can be a red, yellow, green [indicator] or a scale of justice. Look at the graphics that are meaningful to your specific organization and use those. Be creative, but keep it simple.

FST: When companies set metrics, how can they ensure that those metrics are taking them in the right direction from a food safety perspective?

Mockus: Especially when you have metrics that are tied to performance for a manufacturing facility, you want to be careful how you set them and how you reward them. For example, if your metric for environmental testing is very low or at zero, you’re encouraging your workforce not to find those Listeria niches or areas in which Salmonella can grow, because you’re telling them that they have to be at a zero rate to be incentivized. It’s more about measuring the outcomes of the activities—are we finding the niches and eliminating them so we don’t have those issues versus saying we want to be at “zero”? [It’s important] to work with upper management so that they understand the consequences of their expectations and the incentive programs that they put in place.