How Emerging FSQA Technoligies Help You Become Audit-Ready, On Demand

By Barbara Levin and Dan Bernkopf 

There are several reasons why “audit” is one of the most dreaded words in the food and beverage industry. If we look at all of the various types of audits – USDA, FDA, GFSI and customer audits – it’s likely that many medium-to-large size suppliers and manufacturers experience one or more audits per month, and this can get very demanding. Preparing for audits – today, a mostly manual process – can bring a food safety and quality assurance (FSQA) operation “to its knees” – disrupting and perhaps even compromising critical daily FSQA activities. And, of course, the most important and obvious priority is just passing the audit, hopefully with “flying colors.”

Features That Support Audit-Readiness

These factors, combined with the trend toward unannounced audits and end-retail/services customers’ increasing demand for supply chain transparency, make a solid business case for emerging FSQA software technologies that can help you be audit-ready “on demand.” New technologies help enforce food safety and quality at all points in a supply chain, providing critical audit-readiness features such as the ability to:

• Electronically collect and time/date stamp – in realtime – food safety and quality information from raw material and ingredient suppliers, third party labs, in-process control verifications, and finished product test results including output data from analytical testing equipment.

• Store and manage HACCP and all prerequisite programs like Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) and Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPS) in a single common electronic document repository. These can then be easily reviewed and revised under administrative control – and referenced by revision dates.

• Automatically schedule tasks associated with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), internal policies such as supplier approval, allergen control, raw material receiving and other tasks that may require annual reviews for accuracy and effectiveness – along with electronic notifications to alert key stakeholders when tasks are due.

• Allow all forms and records that support and verify SOP or policy task activities to be accessed not only by a computer in a plant, for example, but also from anywhere, at any time, with a mobile device such as a smart phone or tablet. Electronic records can then be evaluated against SOP and policy specifications. Should a non-compliant event occur, an email or text message is sent to the appropriate decision makers so corrective actions can be taken in the fastest manner possible.

• Display food safety and quality data as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and histograms – historical trending of food safety and quality attribute data.

• Automatically generate Certificates of Analysis (COA) when food safety and quality attributes meet specifications for a particular product have been met. For internal Hold & Release programs, an email or text notification can be sent electronically to the shipping department or sent to ERP software systems to release product for shipment.

Be Audit-Ready, On Demand

With these technological capabilities, every electronic document, every record and all data management elements, have an unalterable date and time stamp , as well as a 21 CFR compliant electronic log-in or signature, to demonstrate an even higher level of efficiency to auditors. This, combined with all of the previously mentioned components of FSQA solutions, help turn audits from a department-straining nightmare into a fast, effective and accurate on-demand process. For example, all policy documents (HACCP, SOPs, etceteras), forms and records (from updated programs to corrective actions), and other audit-related material are immediately available securely and electronically. This provides you with documented proof that you’ve accomplished the fundamental FSQA principle of “saying what you’ll do. Doing what you say. And documenting everything for verification and validation”. And, most importantly, you can go through an audit without the typical disruptions to your daily FSQA operations.

Additionally, many contemporary FSQA technologies are cloud-based with high security, so they are fast to deploy and provide real ROI by keeping non-compliant goods from coming in or going out; they speed product throughput; and, they can help you be audit-ready anytime, anywhere, and for any type of audit.

About the Authors

Barbara Levin is the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Customer Community for SafetyChain Software, a leading vendor of Safety Chain Management solutions. She is a frequent author and speaker on the strategic use of emerging technologies to execute on business initiatives.

Dan Bernkopf is the Vice President of Food Safety and Quality Applications for SafetyChain. He has spent more than 30 years as an innovator in the food safety and quality industry, with extensive front-line experience leading integrated safety and quality assurance initiatives as both a consultant to – and executive with – leading food producers and manufacturers. 


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