What Food Safety Audits and Bill Murray Have in Common

Posted by Alex Hanley on

A Groundhog

Why Isn’t Food Safety Making Sense at the Plant Level?

Ever have that moment during a food safety audit when you feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day - in a loop, repeating the same patterns, audit after audit.

In 15 years auditing hundreds of plants across North America and abroad I can tell you it’s the same everywhere. I see plants facing:
  • boom and bust cycles
  • complicated programs
  • doing it for the audit
  • feeling they are faking it
  • quality super hero holding the food safety ball for everyone
  • worker disengagement 
  • resentment of upper management’s ‘lack of commitment’

But there’s hope because I also see:

  • intelligent people
  • concern and commitment to food safety
  • concerted effort
  • good will
  • commitment to making a quality product
  • people willing to work to make things better

I am blessed with, and perhaps cursed by, a passion for system analysis. I can’t help but see the patterns inside a system and can't help but see things can and have to be better.

I’m so passionate about things getting better - I spent the last 5 years figuring out how. In this space I will share my vision for how change can happen. It can be easy.

What do we need to do to make things better? Simplify.

Most plants are working with complicated piecemeal systems where everyone is confused. When things don’t make sense we tend to disengage, and the way we do our work becomes inconsistent. Eventually there’s a failure to execute in a big way that leads to crisis like recall, wasted product or food borne illness. Fingers point to the workers, there’s a quick jump to “they need more training. More training is a bolt-on solution that makes the process even more complicated. And the beat goes on…

broken food safety process.svg

And how would things be in a perfect (and quite achievable) world:

Plants can have a simple, solid system based in the reality of their product and process. That system comprises the essence of what it takes to be compliant, safe and confident. It makes sense to everyone. Workers are engaged and when something doesn’t seem right, they flag it and it gets corrected or tweaked. This leads to consistently executing without crisis and the simple system gets more solid every day, so much so that the culture of food safety is inherent to the plant… and we love that beat.

What's possible in food safety plants

 

So if the norm is plants are stuck in the negative cycle, it’s not surprising most are challenged when it comes to making sense of food safety. Take heart! My team and I have been helping plants create simple, solid systems for some time now with amazing results. So it’s not a pipe dream - it works! You can percolate on that for a bit or you can call us to know more… either way, glad you’re reading and open to new ideas. 

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