For a food business, if there is any silver lining to be found in a food safety recall of their products (and frankly I struggle to find any) it may be the inevitable change in the culture of the organization. Fresh with the open wounds of public, regulatory and media scrutiny, the food company undertakes a process of managerial and procedural change which will ensure a repeat of the issue(s) leading to the recall is prevented. This reaction usually takes the form of management and operational staff conducting a root and branch review of activities, every batch being forensically analysed and increased frequency in reporting to senior management. In short the organization becomes more alert!
Being alert is essential
This week Safefood 360 announced its Alert Facility enhancement. This new product feature addresses what every senior and food safety manager knows:
To be alerted in real time, to any significant product, process or procedural deviations or omissions is not just a powerful tool, it is in reality essential.
Why? Simply put, it is these deviations and omissions which come together over time to create the conditions for failures both internally and in the market place. They can easily go unnoticed in operations where manual and paper systems require humans to physically go through records to find gaps and deviations. Failures in local operations can be festering away for years before they finally explode in a crisis impacting on the larger organization. And it happens even to the biggest and best resourced companies. The resulting increase in organizational alertness is welcome and necessary. But in almost all cases it is a temporary phenomenon. Over time as things settle down this alertness diminishes. It’s not a deliberate thing, it is simply human nature.
Real world consequences
In the last week we have seen a very real example of this. A major global dairy processor recently announced a recall of some of its products in a large market due to potential microbial contamination. The recall has led to internal investigations within the business and the prime minister announcing a special government enquiry – serious stuff. Here we have a perfect example of where an apparent failure to control a basic PRP program in a local processing site has an impact globally, commercially and politically on a major food business. This will undoubtedly make every CEO and senior executive in a major food business uneasy in their chairs. While they are busy strategically developing the business could there be some basic food safety control in some remote plant being overlooked, ready to detonate? The answer is they do not know for sure. And the reason they do not know is because their local manual food safety systems do not highlight or alert senior members of the team to issues as they arise. At best a scheduled audit might highlight concerns but it may be too late. Bottom line – if an activity in a food processing plant is important enough to be specified, scheduled, recorded and reviewed then it is important enough to be alerted in real time when it fails or is neglected.
Stay up-to-date with our new Alerts
This is where Alerts in Safefood 360 comes in. It is a simple, yet tremendously powerful tool which allows each local or group food safety manager to define what events, results, tests, activities, records or workflows trigger alerts specific team members when defined conditions are met. And the solution covers everything in your food safety system. For example, you can within seconds tell Safefood 360 that if a specific high risk sanitizing program is not completed within a specific time after it is due then an alert will be sent to the senior local manager. If the senior local manager does not react within an additional amount of time an alert can be sent to a divisional manager. These alerts can be sent to the individual’s dashboard or by SMS text message and email. Another example, you can tell the system to alert you if a high risk complaint is recorded in any local site. Even better, you can tell the system to alert you if this same high risk complaint is not investigated with 2, 3, or 4 days of receipt. In other words you now have full oversight minute by minute on what is happening in any production unit 24/7 all year around. If a scheduled monitoring inspection or test is overlooked or not completed, again an alert can be sent out. You are in control; your team are in control and where things deviate you will know about it. This is how it should be. We put so much time, energy and resources into developing our control systems only to overlook the most important part. When it goes wrong do we know about it in a timely way? Safefood 360 Alerts feature provides you with the missing link and it is easy to set up, change and control. No expensive consultants required!
Improved company culture
Coming back to human nature. Another positive aspect of having in place an alert system is it changes the culture of the business. Having real time oversight of all local systems is great and for the senior manager essential. However, as your team become aware that all failures or overlooked activities will be alerted and acted upon, the internal culture will change. Over time the need for oversight will decrease for no other reason that you have an oversight system in place. This is how we humans operate and we all work better under a business culture that clearly defines standards. As I say there are few benefits to a product recall except a renewed but diminishing Alert culture. The business objective is to install this as the normal condition. I would like to invite all our existing and potential customers to view a brief demo of this new feature, its benefits and how it can help you and your team.