“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”
The way I interpret this Chinese proverb is: “You probably should have invested in something important a long time ago, but just because you slacked off then, doesn’t mean you can’t start today.”
For managers in the field of food manufacturing wondering if you should plant the proverbial tree smack in the middle of your QA team, here are five signs to guide you in the right direction:
Rate of Attrition and High Employee Turnover
Let’s start with the obvious: If your HR department has deleted so many LinkedIn profiles that they have to recruit new employees through Facebook or Twitter, that may be a sign. Another obvious sign? The number of two week notices you’ve received in the last two years from your QA department. If your number is above 0, you probably aren’t doing enough to keep those professionals. Yes, some people leave for money, but people also leave because they don’t see professional growth potential. I won’t get into the money discussion because, let’s face it, I’m a scientist, not an economist. However, two things that all QA professionals love are cool certificates and credentials. What can I say? We’re huge nerds. To us, this is sometimes better than money. Why? Because it tells us that someone can see our potential and future growth within the company.
Lack of Proper HACCP and CCP’s
If your HACCP plan (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) and its CCP’s were just destroyed by an FDA, USDA, or Third Party Audit, this is a pretty good sign that it’s time to invest in HACCP training courses. Your QA team will thank you. These courses are intended to help your employees understand the inner workings of a HACCP plan, CCP’s, and what should be done on the manufacturing floor to reduce food safety risks. The courses range from beginner to intermediate and advanced. Bonus Tip: Ensure that your course is accredited through the international HACCP alliance (website), as more customers are making this a requirement.
Pre-Requisite Programs and Bonus Acronym Fun
IMNSHO, the fundamentals of any good HACCP plan are pre-requisite programs. Consider these to be the building blocks of any good food safety program. Some programs that fall under the pre-requisites are: GHP’s, GMP’s, GLP’s, SOP’s, SSOP’s, QAP’s, PCO, SMH, OMG and YOLO. (BTW, those last three were totally made up…LOL.) All jokes aside, if today is the first time you’ve seen these acronyms, learn more about them ASAP, as they are used on a daily basis in the world of QA and government agencies. FWIW.
SOP’s and Policies
SOP’s (Standard Operating Procedures) and Food Safety Policies are just two examples of pre-requisite components. If your SOP’s and policies are efficient, succinct, and accurate, it will be easier for your QA team to implement them. If these policies consist of only one to two paragraphs, it would be wise for you to bulk them up a bit. An excellent example of SOP and food safety policy failures can be seen on a daily basis on the FDA enforcement website. Bonus Tip: Instead of over-complicating your SOP’s with thousands of boring, life-sucking, and make-you-want-to-get-a-double-shot-of-espresso paragraphs, consider creating an OPL or a one point lesson plan. These one page visual instructions are primarily used by safety and maintenance crews to quickly communicate hazards and procedures. Remember, if something is too good to pass up, borrow it, make it better, and call it your own. Just look at Microsoft.
Improper Traceability Program
How many mock recall drills has your company completed in the past twelve months? I certainly hope your answer is more than five. You may say, “Five?! Buddy, are you crazy?! The GFSI standard calls for only two mock recalls per year, and I’m busy learning all those acronyms!” True, but the GFSI standard considers these “minimum requirements” for a reason. What if your doctor asked you how many times you’ve exercised in the past twelve months? Would you feel comfortable with your response of twice per year? Just like any healthy body requires proper exercise, so does your food traceability program. The more you exercise, the stronger you and your team will be.
The takeaway here is very simple; properly invest in your QA and QC teams. Not only will the teams appreciate this from a professional standpoint, but your group’s know-how will increase, and you will see tremendous pay backs. After all, zero recalls is a fantastic score any food manufacturer would be proud of.