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The Important Role of Fully Automated Quality Management Systems in the Food Industry

By: Mike Koeris on May 24th, 2017

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The Important Role of Fully Automated Quality Management Systems in the Food Industry

FSMA  |  Food Safety  |  Listeria Prevention and Control

Yes, the food safety industry is majorly transforming as we speak. Yes, you need to shift your mindset immediately and refine your processes dramatically. Yes, there’s a hefty, potentially devastating price to pay if you continue to rely on outdated approaches and refuse to adopt proactive measures.

But no, this doesn’t have to be a nightmare for your manufacturing company. And no, you don’t have to be afraid. Why?

Because the reality of change is as old as time, and with most periods of change come evolution and innovation. This can certainly be said of the food processing industry.

Today, your food quality management system doesn’t have to be a labor-intensive, time-devouring cycle of manual spreadsheets, messy paper trails and gaps in communication that lead to errors and inefficiencies. Automation is at hand, and it puts a more streamlined, risk-mitigating option at your fingertips. In fact, an automated food quality management system is no longer a “nice-to-have,” but rather an essential component of any effective food safety plan in this age of change.

Still not convinced that a fully automated system is right for your operation? Here are four paramount reasons why you absolutely need one now.

Reason 1: Process Improvement

It’s time to face the truth: You can’t keep up with shifting food safety regulations and keep your operation running efficiently unless you have streamlined, standardized processes in place. To say that your manufacturing company is a complex operation would be an understatement. It comprises a myriad of departments, functions, schedules and data -- all of which must be tightly managed if you have any chance of overcoming food safety challenges, reputational risks and costly outcomes.

This is one fundamental reason why automation is so vital. Automation enables you to keep all of the segmented pieces and parts working in an organized, efficient and compliant way. An automated food quality management system equips your organization to:

  • Strengthen communication between departments
  • Collect, assess and report on critical data
  • Identify food safety plan patterns
  • Manage the scheduling of preventative controls and testing
  • Stay on top of compliance requirements and prepare for audits
  • Increase productivity as well as eliminate inefficiencies and duplicated efforts
  • Respond quickly when corrective actions are necessary
  • Verify performance and effectiveness

Can you imagine how your operation will survive without these crucial process improvements? Can you picture how a reliance on outdated, manual methods will hold you back significantly and impede your business goals? This is the reality facing food manufacturing organizations that fail to embrace change and improve their processes through automation.  

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Reason 2: Increased Profits, Decreased Costs

Do you know the true cost of stagnation in an evolving industry? Have you tallied the expense of a major compliance breach or severe brand equity loss? Do you have a handle on the savings you’re in a position to reap from improved processes, greater efficiencies and higher productivity?

Ignoring the need for automation can lead to revenue plummets, food recalls, wasted investments, loss in consumer trust and possibly even business failure. These are serious financial reasons to make the full automation of your food quality management system a high priority.

Reason 3: Widespread Employee Involvement

To minimize the safety and quality risks that come with manufacturing foods, it is essential to have effective tools in place that make this responsibility a wholly shared one. Think about every level of your company and how each team needs to be accountable for mitigating risk:

  • Key Stakeholders: The plant manager, the corporate quality and food safety group, the corporate supply chain -- they’re the ultimate organizational leaders, and their actions affect the entire system, even though they are sometimes far removed from day-to-day activities.
  • Operations: Executing the entire workflow of food processing, handling and distribution, this team is critical to the organization’s culture of food safety and quality. They must be accountable for adhering to procedures and should share in the responsibility of meeting high food safety standards.
  • Maintenance: The maintenance and sanitation of the plant as a whole is a pivotal contributor to overall food safety and risk management.
  • Quality Assurance: QA personnel own the task of taking environmental and product samples before and during production, which makes them key contributors to risk prevention and food safety.
  • Laboratory: Responsible for processing testing samples quickly and effectively, this group must be equipped to generate and communicate accurate results.
  • Crisis Management: It’s up to this team to execute a proper plan for rapidly identifying and removing any recalled product from the marketplace in order to ensure the health of the public, as well as trigger actions at the plant level to locate the source of the contamination and remediate it.

Without a fully automated food quality management system in place, how can you really empower each of these departments to gain a strong understanding of food safety and take part in risk management? To unite these groups and attain widespread employee involvement, you have to equip them with easy access to an organized database of policies, workflows and reporting, a way to engage in a seamless exchange of information and time-saving features that support scheduling, standardization and compliance.

Reason 4: High Level of Control and Visibility

Do you have an ability to view your plant in its entirety and see every test point at whichever level of detail you desire? Can it be visualized with a color-coded floorplan, individual pictures and powerful reporting tools? Are there scheduling, monitoring and documentation features that support the program? Can results and actions be communicated quickly to the entire team?

If you haven’t yet opted for a fully automated quality food management system, your answer to each of these questions is unlikely to be a positive one. When it comes to ensuring quality and safety, a lack of control, visibility and communication has the potential to cause major problems.

So, what exactly do your tools enable you to detect and control, from personnel cleanliness and hygiene to equipment sanitation protocols, temperature requirements, chemical reactions, ingredient mixing and package storage? For every component of your quality and safety plan, there must be a verification process, documentation, evaluation, reporting and more. Without the control and visibility that automation provides, your efforts to meet these needs become further and further out of reach.

With all of these compelling reasons to adopt a fully automated food quality management system, what’s been holding you back? If you’re focused on the future of your company and are concerned about the consequences of maintaining outdated, ineffective methods, it’s time to adapt.

Take the first step toward evolving your systems to keep up with the changing food safety landscape by answering the questions in this free FSMA Assessment quiz.

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