“People are like tea bags, when you put them in hot water you find out what they’re truly made of.” I’ve heard various iterations of this aphorism, as I’m sure you have too.
As we find ourselves closer to the hectic pre-holiday season, this saying really begins to resonate. Time and time again we see that when the pressure is on, decisions must be made on competing priorities, often leaving food safety left behind. It’s in this critical “crunch” time, when production ramps up and tensions are high, that food safety and product quality are more important than ever. Unfortunately, over the years several companies have compromised on food safety, resulting in recalls, great financial costs, foodborne illness, and even death. That is why we have created a list of areas to focus your attention to help you get through this crazy time.
Training & Tailgate meetings
We often describe training as the best investment you can make with your food safety dollar. Yes, purchasing the right equipment and software are important, but more often than not, food safety issues come down to human error. This is where regular, scheduled training comes in. Whether a large group discussion, a small pre-shift tailgate meeting, or on-the-job training, making sure your staff understand and are able to demonstrate proper food safety techniques is vital. Don’t wait until people make an error to re-train them; talk about procedures early, and often. If the cost of training alarms you, just keep in mind the cost of a multi-million-dollar recall. And don’t forget that food safety is everyone’s job!
See for Yourself
It’s funny how old things become new again. Over the years, management has evolved from plant floor supervision into endless meetings, computers, and smartphones. In contrast to current techniques, popular leadership and management gurus advocate the value of intentionally spending time on the production floor, monitoring processes and gaining face to face time with employees. In the Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma programs, this is called the “gemba walk”, derived from the Japanese term “gembutsu”, which means “real thing”. The idea is simply to be present and observant, without specific intent to find fault. See this as an opportunity to drive higher employee morale through better communication, consideration, and understanding, all the while reinforcing the company’s Food Safety Culture.
Internal audits are more than just a GMP inspection or a quick facility walk-through. The intent of an internal audit is to evaluate and reinforce all of a company’s procedures and processes, including reviewing maintenance programs, evaluating document control, interviewing employees to ensure comprehension, and detailed review of records. If done well, internal audits find gaps in your system, improve efficiencies, create better communication, and drive buy-in from employees, all of which will help you help you get through your busy season with less mistakes.
If you or members of your team haven’t yet received internal auditor training or other food safety training, be sure to check out our upcoming courses!
Strategic, Intentional Meetings
Management’s time is limited. With countless meetings, emails, phone calls, and the like all vying for our time, the importance of strategic management meetings cannot be understated. Make sure that food safety issues are discussed regularly by being integrated into standing management meetings, or as separate dedicated meeting. Either way, there should be goals or KPIs (“Key Process Indicators”) established by management for key food safety and quality parameters, such as first-pass quality and customer complaints. Well-crafted goals will ensure that meetings happen efficiently and propel a company forward. Ask your team, “What will have the best long-term impact on our organization?”
If you’re responsible for coordinating these meetings, be efficient.
Here’s a great article on how to run one. Here’s a few tips:
- Communicate in advance
- Be clear
- Takes notes and track progress to ensure resolution
Don’t forget that great notes can often be documented as a corrective action or preventive action!
Use your Schedule as a Tool
As already mentioned above, an efficient use of our time is essential. The most successful food companies schedule key activities that need to occur and apply the appropriate discipline to make sure they happen on schedule. Set aside specific times for tasks like checking email, and avoid letting it become a constant distraction. If an activity must occur regularly; be sure it’s on your calendar at a specific time, with a plan of action for if you get overbooked. Trying to keep track of everything that needs to happen, just by remembering, simply won’t work. Add the hectic environment of the season and you have a recipe for disaster. Many of the gaps we discover in our third-party audits relate back to simple oversight because someone was just busy and missed a detail. Applying a disciplined schedule helps prevent issues, and increase time, profits, and the ability to plan ahead.
We hope that these helpful tips prove useful to you. For more ideas or further assistance with your programs, be sure to reach out to us! We are always happy to hear from you and help you in your process.