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What is a Product Specification Compliance (PSC) Program?

written by:Kristine Graves

It sounds daunting, doesn't it?

It's not, we promise.

In the immortal words of that Bard of Bad Pants, MC Hammer, let's break it down (we'll wait while you go close the door so you can dance).

Back? Feel good? Okay: Product Specification Compliance.

Product: What do you buy?

Specification: What are the specific parameters the product must meet before you agree to buy it?

Compliance: Are your suppliers meeting your specification for that product?

See how Easy (Like Sunday Morning) that was?

Specifications detail the requirements of equipment, products or raw materials. They are used as the basis for purchasing and in order to evaluate quality compliance.

A PSC program will help establish comprehensive specifications for your equipment, products, or raw materials based on your intended use requirements. Some of the ways you can accomplish this are to:

  • Partner with an objective, 3rd party laboratory
  • Use analytical services (experts, software programs, etc.), sensory evaluations, & your own primo problem solving skills
  • Insist on full transparency of your suppliers’ and products’ quality statistics

Who needs a PSC Program?

  • Restaurant operators
  • Retailers
  • Wholesalers
  • Processors
  • Anyone wishing to ensure quality through increased supply chain visibility
  • YOU

You know you should have a PSC Program. We know you should have a PSC Program. The public would be stunned that you don't.

But do you?

Some frequently asked question to either get you started, or refine your program:

Should I outsource product cuttings?

Product cuttings should be outsourced to take subjectivity and bias out of the testing. By having a 3rd party evaluate your product, you can ensure the data won't be skewed by things like supplier relationships and the cost of the product versus others in your supply chain. Vetted 3rd party labs have invested in trained food scientists so you don't have to. Use an appropriate program to review the data so that when an issue is identified with a product, you can work with the supplier to rectify the issue and prevent it from happening again. (Where are those programs? Yes, we know. That's why we created AQA.)

How do I know what to test on a given product and how often?

Obviously, there are federal guideline, but you should also formulate internal guidelines. There's help available in the form of consultants, more highly trained QA specialists, and software systems. All PSC Programs use product specifications as a basis for testing and, regardless of the level of sophistication of your specs, you can and should proactively seek-out best-practice recommendations for testing all products.

How is the pricing done for product evaluations and how can I fund a PSC Program when I have no budget?

The pricing of a product evaluation is based on the time it takes a food scientist to evaluate the product, plus any other costs for analytical testing (fat %, micro, etc.). In the case of most PSC Programs, suppliers pay for the analytical testing as part of their purchasing contract with your restaurant chain. Product evaluations are a nominal charge that will not create hardship for any supplier and if you're getting pushback on setting up a proper PSC Program, you should question why.

I have a PSC Program...but it still doesn't allow me to be as proactive as I'd like. What now?

Things have changed in the world of food safety. What worked 25 years ago isn't good enough any longer. We have better tools, and they're not being widely used as a standard part of a comprehensive PSC Program. That's going to have to change. It's not enough to react, and the only way to be proactive is to predict problems before they happen. A comprehensive software is the solution that will enable you to address issues before they become real problems, that will allow you to be proactive, not reactive. Reactive always costs more money than proactive. Ask Blue Bell, ask Nestle, ask any company that's had to reorganize in order to stay in business because there was a breakdown somewhere in their Quality Assurance program that led to a food safety event.

Fortunately, that comprehensive solution is already here. The AQA System was designed to take a product specification compliance program to the next level. Combining advanced analytics, trending, and graphical capabilities within one intuitive system allows a restaurant's QA team to manage more data, more effectively than ever before. So contact AQA today, schedule your free demo, and ensure control over your brand.

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