Tag Archives: metrics

Food Safety Culture Series: 2016 Outlook

By Maria Fontanazza
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In the final article in Food Safety Tech’s Q&A series on food safety culture, Lone Jespersen, director of food safety at Maple Leaf Foods, and Brian Bedard, executive director of the GMA Science and Education Foundation sound off on the development of food safety culture this year.

Food Safety Tech: Where are we headed in the food safety culture landscape in 2016?

The GMA Science Forum takes place April 18–21, 2016 in Washington, DC | LEARN MORELone Jespersen: I think we’re going down a path of standardizing or at least agreeing on a set of definitions for food safety culture. Some of this will come out of the GFSI technical working group on food safety culture. That will lead us to better guidelines for what the different components of food safety culture are. That’s going to be strongly science based and collectively agreed upon. I think we’ll see a lot of that work done in 2016.

I think we’re also going to see a greater focus on connecting food safety culture to organizational culture. Many organizations are looking at integrating food safety and quality assessments into their organizational culture assessments and I think for larger organizations this makes sense.

Lone Jespersen of Maple Leaf Foods debates food safety culture at the 2015 Food Safety Consortium.
Lone Jespersen of Maple Leaf Foods debates food safety culture at the 2015 Food Safety Consortium.

I hope we’ll get closer to having compared measurement systems and be able to publish work around that so we don’t fall into a trap of a fragmented and independent approach, but rather building on each other as we work [together] and have a common definition.

Brian Bedard: The measurement tools and the gap analysis for which these tools are being developed needs to be done. In terms of operationalizing and actually getting food safety embedded in companies, I would envision a roadmap that looks at a four-tiered framework of who the targets are for changing behaviors. That would be focused around senior leaders in an organization, mid-level managers, supervisors in operations, and at the fourth level, the operators on the plant floor. At GMA’s Science & Education Foundation, we have a group of companies investing in this to roll out a portfolio of training programs. We’re trying to consolidate them under the umbrella of food safety culture and dealing with the full spectrum, from entry level and plant operators through to senior leadership.

Lone Jespersen, Maple Leaf Foods

Food Safety Culture Series: Measuring Behavior

By Maria Fontanazza
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Lone Jespersen, Maple Leaf Foods

Food safety culture is yet another example of the current and future state in food safety: The movement toward being proactive versus reactive. There are still many questions surrounding how companies should be measuring behavior and a lot of companies don’t know where to start. Lone Jesperson, director of food safety at Maple Leaf Foods, provides some guidance in part 3 of Food Safety Tech’s series on food safety culture.

Food Safety Tech: What are the most important behaviors that organizations should be measuring?

Lone Jespersen, Maple Leaf Foods
Lone Jespersen, Maple Leaf Foods

Lone Jespersen: I think we need to get the order right. You start by figuring out the metrics, which should drive behavior, not the other way around. If you’re not clear on how you’re going to measure success, then how are you going to know that the behaviors you’ve identified will make a difference to the safety of your products or food?

Ultimately you want to be in a situation where people are looking out for food safety so that if something goes wrong, it’s constructively brought forward and fixed. Predictive and preventive measures are defined and implemented as needed. When talking about food safety—the metrics and behaviors—these depend on the organization’s state of maturity. [For example,] in an organization with a relatively low level of maturity that doubts whether food safety [culture] is something that is going to help the business, they’re mostly checking boxes and conducting food safety tasks because regulators are saying they have to.

So if you’re in that state of doubt, I would look at measuring something like: Are you completing your food safety training? Does that manager complete food safety communication on a regular basis? Has the plant done its risk assessment in a standardized way? Do they have tools and infrastructures in place to meet food safety requirements? That can spill over into a measurement that your plant manager actively enforces the training schedule for food safety. It [becomes] a behavior you can define outright and measure the plant manager on.

The GMA Science Forum takes place April 18–21, 2016 in Washington, DC | LEARN MOREOn the other end of the maturity model, there’s the relatively high level of sophistication and maturity for food safety. For example, a CEO completes a food safety workout session in which he or she sits down and looks at what the plant needs to do to improve food safety, and the decisions are made on the spot. When you’re in that level of maturity, you’re improving your food safety costs, because you have better control of your food safety program and you’ll get more uptime, less downtime, and make product that goes out safely.

We’ve had some great discussions around food safety culture metrics. But I think we’re a little misguided, because we’re not measuring food safety culture, we’re measuring the organization’s performance, and food safety culture is an enabler that is tracked to performance. So if you have a weak culture, it’s reasonable to assume you’ll have higher costs and a higher level of incidents, and less competent individuals. There are some characteristics you can put around the performance of food safety if you have a weak culture. There’s lots of research that shows the connection between organizational effectiveness and organizational culture. I have yet to find a counterargument that says it should be different for food safety culture.

It’s not a food safety culture metric that you need, it’s a performance effectiveness measure. We are looking at culture because we want to improve our performance—for consumer and business protection.

Lone Jespersen, Food Safety Consortium

Food Safety Culture Series: What’s the Controversy?

By Maria Fontanazza
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Lone Jespersen, Food Safety Consortium

From measurement tools to a shift in mindset and leadership, a recent debate at the Food Safety Consortium brought to light the varying levels of opinion and understanding about food safety culture. In a four-part series with Food Safety Tech, Brian Bedard, executive director of the GMA Science and Education Foundation and Lone Jespersen, director of food safety at Maple Leaf Foods continue the conversation about food safety culture and where it’s headed in 2016.

Food Safety Tech: What is the most controversial aspect to the concept of Food Safety Culture?

Lone Jespersen, Food Safety Consortium
Lone Jespersen debates food safety culture at the Food Safety Consortium in November.

Lone Jespersen: I don’t think there are a lot of controversial aspects. I think the debate in Chicago [at the Food Safety Consortium] showed exactly that—companies understand the importance of food safety culture. The challenges that we collectively face lies in what food safety culture is and how we can best measure improvements within our organization to sustain a strong and effective food safety culture. That, by definition, requires that we know what food safety culture is and what we are going to measure. That is where the lack of clarity, understanding, and alignment is.

Over the last few months, I’ve done a lot of comparisons between the measurement tools, and they’re actually not terribly different, but as usual, we get confused by words. As long as we have a clear understanding of how tools are different and what they actually measure, it will be possible for each of us to select the best method for our organization. It’s more confusion than controversy. If we speak of controversy, I think it is with manufacturers and processors who are increasingly worried about what FDA is going to do when they talk about the food safety culture—will investigators come and look for food safety culture without a clear understanding of what it is? Again, it requires that we have a common understanding, which we don’t have today.

Brian Bedard, GMA, Food Safety Consortium
Brian Bedard of the GMA SEF at the Food Safety Consortium

Brian Bedard: I agree. It’s not really controversy; it’s more of confusion and misunderstanding. We’re seeing some alignment and a better understanding that food safety culture is not something totally different and out in left field; it’s a new way of looking at food safety that is all-encompassing and gets around what was happening in the past, which was an ad-hoc, disjointed approach to dealing with food safety issues. It gives companies a more refined process to drive food safety that everyone can understand, from senior managers right on down.

Regulators around the world are looking at food safety culture as one way to help them do their work better. Our concern is that food safety culture shouldn’t become a regulatory tool per se but should be awareness and [an] appreciation that food safety culture at a company can help regulators better understand the risks they are supposed to be evaluating in a preventive manner.

The GMA Science Forum takes place April 18–21, 2016 in Washington, DC | LEARN MOREJespersen: It’s also about looking at food safety culture and the discussion today, which largely takes place in the forum of food scientists, food safety leaders, heads of food safety at large organizations—in other words, between individuals who are educated and experienced food safety professionals. Their experience is in developing microbiological environmental testing programs, full-scale food safety management systems that go across manufacturing facilities—very complex and technical issues, all of which couldn’t be more different than that required of a professional within an organizational where it’s about behaviors and consequences. The same goes for investigators and auditors [and their roles]—they’re good at assessing written systems, etc. What about behavioural observations and assessments? This stakeholder assessment hasn’t been a part of the debate, and we need to bring it in.

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.

Michael Taylor reflects on FSMA journey

Metrics for FSMA Compliance a Work in Progress

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Michael Taylor reflects on FSMA journey

Ideally, FDA wants to have the ability to use metrics for monitoring and measuring reductions in foodborne illnesses. However, this is extremely difficult right now, according to Michael Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine. At the 2015 Food Safety Consortium, Taylor responds to an audience question of whether metrics for FSMA compliance have been established.

SafetyChain Software

Six Steps to Getting a Handle on Cost of Quality

By Barbara Levin
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SafetyChain Software

The importance of food safety is understood and hopefully, unquestioned. It is industry’s responsibility to protect consumers and of course, a major food safety event can ruin a company’s brand and financial health.

Yet when it comes to food quality management, the complexities and overall economics of quality are often underestimated. While lapses in food safety can destroy a brand, it is the consistent adherence to food quality attributes that build brand loyalty. This is why that brand of bread always has that certain softness, or why that French fry always has the same taste regardless of where you buy it. And that is why manufacturers continue to purchase, or decide not to purchase, ingredients from certain suppliers.

Food quality management can often be more complex than food safety. Think 3 CCPs vs. 30 quality attributes, for example. And, Cost of Quality can have the biggest impact on a food company’s overall key performance indicators (KPIs), profitability and brand reputation. Non-conformances in food quality often cause the most rework and the most customer rejections, which has a significant impact on what can be referred to as the Economics of Food Quality Management.

Since most food safety and quality assurance (FSQA) operations are often “data rich and information poor” — meaning they don’t have an effective way to do trending and benchmarking on the volume of quality data they collect — it can be difficult to fully understand, and therefore reduce, Cost of Quality.

Getting a handle on Cost of Quality is a process. These six steps are a good place to start:

  • Define quality in your organization
  • Determine the right metrics for a better understanding of Cost of Quality
  • Improve transparency and visibility of your processes, products and supplier quality requirements
  • Fully understand where your quality risks come from
  • Make your quality data both accessible and actionable for continuous improvement to reduce Cost of Quality
  • Understand what tools are available, such as automation technologies, that can improve performance and lower Cost of Quality

SafetyChain is hosting a complimentary webinar, “The Economics of Food Quality Management: Understanding and Reducing Cost of Quality,” on June 25. The event features Lamont Rumbers, president and founder of Fully Integrated Quality Solutions, and former senior director of quality for Sam’s Club. Rumbers will discuss these six steps and much more. Learn more about the webinar and register.

Holly Mockus, Product Manager, Alchemy Systems

10 Training Concepts for an Effective, Engaged Workforce

By Holly Mockus
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Holly Mockus, Product Manager, Alchemy Systems

Effective training programs are the cornerstone of a high performing workplace. Providing the basic knowledge to workers and reinforcing the need to apply that learning in their daily activities are just two critically important facets of a well thought out training system.

Here are 10 concepts that need to be implemented to bring training and education full circle and to provide forward momentum in the process of developing a fully engaged highly productive workforce.

  1. Set learning objectives – determine first what the key points or factors are that will be influenced by this knowledge exchange and how will the outcomes be measured.
  2. Create the content – tailor the message or training information to the specific audience for maximum absorption and comprehension.
  3. Deliver the content – ensure the set-up is conducive to learning. Keeping the message relevant to the workers level of comprehension and using real life examples that they can relate to is a best practice.
  4. Keep training top of mind – use awareness programs as visual and audio prompts that keep the topic out in front of the organization. When everyone walks the walk and talks the talk it makes it harder for the individual leaner to forget what needs to be done and how to do it.
  5. Verify comprehension – use testing, observation and constructive feedback to help employees apply what they have been taught. Be sure that feedback is constructive not punitive and is delivered in real time for maximum effectiveness and greater adoption by the worker.
  6. Track and trend using metrics – Measurement of desired outcomes should be used as a yardstick to help determine if the content, delivery and application of the training is on track or needs course correction.
  7. Never pass up an opportunity to train – refresher training on a regular basis is needed for any program to be effective. Retraining is also very impactful when used as a corrective action or as part of an investigative process.
  8. Keep it fun – capture the learner’s attention by using bright colorful presentations, games or game show formats, and some light humor. A little friendly competition between departments is a great way to engage the workforce while promoting the learning process.
  9. Use positive reinforcement – those that absorb and apply need to be recognized and reinforced. Don’t just say thank you. Recognize the positive impact of their good work habits and how their application of those work habits has resulted in good outcomes.
  10. Hold people accountable – employees that are unwilling to follow training principles need to be held accountable with appropriate consequences. Deciding in advance what the consequences are and hold all employees to the same level of accountability will drive continuous improvement and strengthen the overall training program.

These 10 basic training concepts will provide an excellent cornerstone to support programs across an organization and drive consistency, accountability and employee engagement.

Hear the author speak more on food safety training at the Food Safety Consortium, November 17-18, 2014, Schaumburg, IL. Click here for more details and to register