Tag Archives: management

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.

Timothy Ahn, LRQA

Beyond the Fluff: Leadership Must Demonstrate Food Safety Culture Through Actions

By Maria Fontanazza
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Timothy Ahn, LRQA

As the popular phrase goes, if you’re going to talk the talk, then you need to walk the walk. This expression really does ring true when discussing an effective food safety culture within an organization. Timothy Ahn, senior technical manager of food safety at LRQA sheds some light on the importance of management commitment as a foundation for success in implementing a food safety culture and how employee training fits into the picture.

Food Safety Tech: In your column on Food Safety Tech, “Tackling the ‘Why’ of Food Safety”, you touch on the point that food safety culture needs to start at the top. What are the issues in management today that prevents a food safety culture from flourishing within organizations?

Timothy Ahn: First, it’s important to define food safety culture. It can mean a lot of different things to people. The culture is the collective behavior from the organization around shared values and beliefs. From that perspective, it’s extremely important the leadership understands its beliefs and values. The collective behaviors of the leaders become really important, because we’re also talking about how the leadership sets management commitment and drives what’s important in the organization. The organization will follow whatever the leaders do and not necessarily what they say. That’s the issue—having the ability to get commitment from leadership that is demonstrated through their actions, which then transfers into rewards, objectives and consequences. What are the issues that are preventing the culture from embedding itself? Actions aren’t aligned with their words. You have a senior leadership group that will say one thing, but then their actions are different.

In addition, when cascading priorities are very different, food safety doesn’t get the right messages. It’s about growth, market share, profits—all of those financial measures are extremely important, because they have consequences and are also rewarded. Meanwhile, depending on the organization, the objectives around food safety culture may or may not be talked about, defined, or even rewarded. It’s really about making sure that the organization has cascading priorities.

FST: When taking a holistic approach to employee training, what are some of the challenges that companies can expect to encounter?

Ahn: I put food safety into three different buckets that build on top of each other.

  1. At the bottom is the foundation. It’s around good manufacturing practices and all the foundational activities that need to be in place for factory operations. How often you clean your equipment? What do you do around allergens? Can you trace your materials from one end to the other? Do you have a pest control program?
  2. Our food safety system: This includes things around HACCP: Do you have a HACCP plan in place? Do you understand what your hazards are? Have you defined your control measures?
  3. The last bucket is around the management system that drives food safety. Have you defined your objectives? Do you have a policy? Do you conduct a management review? Do you have an internal audit?

The issue with training is many operations only focus on the foundation. You need to have people who know how to clean equipment; you have to make sure that the pest control is done; you need to have good allergen management. Those are all pretty well done. Now you’re starting to get more traction in the second bucket, which is around HACCP, because with FSMA, HACCP is no longer an option; you need to be able to do it.

But the missing piece in many organizations is at the top—the management systems. This is important, because when you talk about culture, that’s where it gets embedded within an organization—through implementation of the management system.

If you look at this holistically, you need to train across all of those areas, not just in the foundation. You can differentiate yourself from organizations that have effective food safety management systems (not just food safety systems) because they’re training across all those buckets.

The other part of training is management systems. Who do you train? Besides targeting first line employees and operators, you also need to train senior managers because these managers, along with leadership, need to better define the objectives and policies. What does it mean to conduct an effective management review? What does it mean to do an internal audit? What’s a good corrective action process? The training often falls apart because organizations haven’t embedded that very well.

FST: Do you see differences between implementing these practices in small versus large organizations?

Ahn: There are differences, but it’s not necessarily a function of the size of the company. It’s more around how they’ve approached developing and organizing their management system and in particular, their food safety management system.

FST: In reality, how long does it take a typical company to create an effective food safety culture?

Ahn: There are two parts to that question.

My belief is that if you want to implement a food safety culture, you need to create a food safety management system, otherwise it is just all words and talk. It’s what you do, not what you say. The way to do that is to embed a food safety management system within your organization.

The two questions are: How do you get to initiate it? And, how long does it take to execute once you decide to initiate?

To address the first question: How do you initiate it?

There are a couple of ways that it can happen. There’s nothing like a crisis to get the fire under somebody’s feet, whether it’s a recall or an incident, it will draw attention to the fact that there’s a problem and something needs to happen. But, that’s reactive and detrimental.

The other way to initiate is that if you have enlightened leadership—an owner or group of owners who understand where they want to go, where they need to go, what needs to be avoided and understands the importance of the organization’s culture in getting to the right place, etc.

Secondly, once you start this process, how long does it take to get this type of system running?

Based on my experience in implementing food safety management systems like FSSC 22000, it takes anywhere from 18 months to 2 years to get it established, and then probably another 18 months or so to actually fully implement. So it’s not something that happens in a couple of months. It takes some time to really get it implemented and embedded, because these are foundational elements you  must put into place. There’s a lot of momentum involved, and it has to move throughout the organization.

The term food safety culture has gotten a lot of attention—it’s a buzzword. But what does it really mean and how do you make it come to life? That’s really where people need to start looking. You make it come to life through implementation of structured food safety management systems—ones that are verified, and independently verified. Put substance and real work around your food safety culture instead of using a lot of fluffy words to describe it.

Laura Nelson, Alchemy, Food Safety Tech

From the Top Down, Gaining Management Support

By Maria Fontanazza
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Laura Nelson, Alchemy, Food Safety Tech

The importance of accountability at the employee level should not be underestimated. Food safety professionals recognize this, and gaining support from management is key. In this video interview from the 2015 IAFP conference, Laura Nelson, vice president of business development at Alchemy, shares her thoughts on how companies should not only train their employees but also track the effectiveness of that training.


This year’s Food Safety Consortium Conference (November 17-20, 2015 in Schaumburg, IL) features sessions on employee engagement and involvement in Food Safety Culture. Register now.

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

By Barbara Levin
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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.

What’s the Long-Term Value of Compliance Management Software?

By Brenda Percy
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When looking for an enterprise software solution, it is important to take into consideration its potential for long-term value. What exactly does this mean?

EtQComplianceManagementCost-Nov2014In a nutshell, long-term value is the amount of savings you can expect after using the software for a long period of time. Are you paying less in the long run or do you end up paying more? Keep in mind that lower upfront costs don’t always equate to lower long-term costs. It’s important to consider this when evaluating software vendors in order to choose the vendor that will provide more for your money…even years down the line.

To make the case for long-term value, EtQ commissioned Forrester Consulting to conduct a Total Economic Impact (TEI) study to examine the potential Return on Investment (ROI) enterprises may realize by deploying the EtQ Reliance platform. This TEI study provides readers with a framework to evaluate the potential financial impact of the EtQ Reliance platform within their organizations.

Forrester derived its conclusions in large part from information received in a series of in-depth interviews conducted with executives and personnel at four customers, each of which had been using EtQ’s Reliance platform between 1 and 9 years. Forrester’s findings break down the cost saving potential of EtQ Reliance. Through interviewing these customers, Forrester created a composite organization to describe the TEI of EtQ Reliance.

Forrester classified the organization as a North American-based F-1000 company that manufactures and sells a wide variety of products and associated services, and with overseas operations in EMEA and APAC. This study projects the costs and benefits received over the course of three years. The composite organization has been using EtQ Reliance for three years to manage and track compliance and to meet its strategic goals. The study measured the use of the organization’s Document Control, Nonconformance Management, Change Management, Audits, Corrective Action and Delegation and Escalation tools.

The TEI methodology consisted of four components to evaluate the investment value of EtQ—benefits, costs, flexibility and risks. So what was the outcome?

  • The research shows a three-year risk-adjusted ROI of 77 percent for organizations using the Reliance platform.
  • Net Present Value (NPV) of more than $1.6 million attributed to modules such as Document Control, Nonconformance Management, Corrective Action and others.
  • Savings of more than $3 million over the course of three years.
  • 30,000 manufacturing labor hours saved.

The organization had a goal of achieving the following benefits which it was able to do with EtQ:

  • Increased productivity through compliance tracking and reporting.
  • Reduced employee time and effort in managing and tracking compliance processes.
  • Reduced risk of nonconformance in safety and quality.
  • Grow revenue and profits.

EtQ has been proven to provide long-term value and we are pleased with the results. To see more highlights from this study, see the TEI infographic (click on it to enlarge).

*This is a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of EtQ. It is not meant to be used as a competitive analysis.


Gary Nowacki, CEO, TraceGains, Inc.

How Can You Improve Your Supplier Qualification and Management?

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Gary Nowacki, CEO, TraceGains, Inc.

Proposed rules under Food Safety Modernization Act are putting new demands on food and beverage companies for prevention-based risk controls. FSMA specifically addresses issues related to this for both foreign and domestic suppliers. This is going to mean either allocating more people and more time or coming up with modern ways to address these increasing and emerging demands.

Gary Nowacki, CEO at TraceGains, Inc. will address the topic of Supplier Qualification and Management at Food Safety Tech’s Food Safety Consortium to be held next month in Chicago. He will speak about how companies are struggling with managing up-stream supplier and ingredient risk and how they can both save time and be more in control of these challenges by using powerful tools and techniques.

Nowacki says that often companies have partial information on necessary documents: “Previously, companies might have felt ok about having at least certain data on their suppliers. That’s not enough under FSMA and the increasing demands of GFSI schemes, audits, and auditors.” By automating tasks that free up valuable human resources to focus on more complex issues, says Nowacki.

Giving an example, he says think about automatically sending out notices to suppliers who are non-compliant on certain information or documents so that a valuable resource doesn’t have to waste time calling or emailing the suppliers.

The role of desk audits

Another way to strengthen supplier relationships is by doing desk audits, the topic that Chris Petrlik-Siegel, Supplier Quality Manager at TIC Gums, will address at the Food Safety Consortium.

In a desk audit, the auditor checks to see if a supplier’s system as documented meets the requirements of the GFSI code under which they are certified. It also confirms if the concerned person has validated and verified the Food Safety Plans and Food Quality Plans. The Desk Audit can be conducted as an off-site or on-site activity and issues found during the Desk Audit will be documented as non-conformities. Depending on the number and type of non-conformities documented, the audit will move to the next phase – the Facility Audit – or not move forward until and critical and major non-conformities identified are properly corrected and corrective action is verified.

“Desk audits are a great way to check how ready you are to be audited. These take a lot less time than an on-site audit, and really help in preparing for the actual audit. Desk audits are more to establish or strengthen the partnership with the supplier rather than to work on an audit for the purpose of complying with regulations,” says Petrlik-Siegel.

She explains that many times, a food company visits a supplier to do an audit, and realizes that it’s a waste of time due to lack of preparedness of the supplier. “Now due to new rules being proposed under FSMA, as an end product supplier, we are responsible for the ingredients in the products, and all the products we are importing from foreign suppliers. So we rely on in-depth audits to ensure that our suppliers have robust systems and procedures in place, in addition to what we follow in-house,” describes Petrlik-Siegel.

So with 70 suppliers, each on an average supplying about 10 ingredients, the Quality Manager stresses on the importance of desk audits preparing you for the final site audits, and also for better compliance with FSMA rules. It’s often overwhelming to do a thorough audit in a matter of one or two days, so it helps to look at documentation and identify any gaps ahead of time, Petrlik-Siegel adds.

Listen to Nowacki and Petrlik-Siegel speak about Supplier Qualification and Management at the Food Safety Consortium. Click here for more information and to register.