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Is quality management different in the food industry?

Guest blog by Bruce Ferree
Guest blog by Bruce Ferree

CFS, IFT Fellow, CFSQA, CQA, owner of Insight Food Safety Consulting

I used to think that all quality management was the same no matter what, but I’ve had to rethink that. Years ago, I became certified as a ‘Certified Food Safety and Quality Auditor’ (CFSQA) through the American Society for Quality (ASQ). The exam process that goes along with this certification was certainly a learning point in my career. Learning about all the quality tools like PDCA, Six Sigma, Statistical Process Control, Root Cause Analyses, and more really opened my eyes to what the food industry could be doing. I’ve recently become acquainted with quality managers in industries other than the food industry and it’s been eye-popping. 

The question now becomes ‘Is quality management different in the food industry’?

In the food industry, quality management is blended with food safety management. Certainly other industries have to manage the safety of their products also – just maybe not all industries. If you’re making nuts and bolts, probably not. If you’re making automobiles, yes definitely. The food industry has its list of specialized programs (HACCP, Allergens, Food Fraud, etc.), but I’m betting that all industries have their lists as well.

In recent days, I’ve tried to group food industry programs into 3 categories – Preventive, Reactive, and General. By no means is this list exhaustive but it gives a good indication that quality management focuses on preventing safety and quality concerns but is still prepared to react when issues arise. I believe this is similar to most other industries and how the quality groups work.

Preventive programs

HACCP, Sanitation, Process Controls, SOPs, Training, GMPs, Calibration, Internal Audit, Specifications, Supplier Approvals, Product testing, Package coding and Traceability, Allergens, preventive Maintenance, Food Defense, Food Fraud, Pest Control, Regulatory Oversight, Records Management, Water Management (both ingredient and waste), Environmental Monitoring (for pathogens and others)

Reactive programs

Product Hold and Release, Rework/Salvage, Recall Plan, CAPA, Complaints

General programs

Costs of Quality and Costs of poor quality, Certification efforts (Kosher/Halal, Gluten-free, GFSI, etc.)

My next thought was to see if different quality tools are used. A short list of tools in a quality manager’s toolbox includes: SPC, Six Sigma, PDCA, Lean, DMAIC, Root Cause Analyses. I know this is not a full list of tools but I do know that all quality managers use these tools daily to manage the consistency and reliability of their programs and products.

So where does this take us? It gets us started talking about managing programs. We manage programs with data.  But we need to turn that data into information so that we make good decisions. For potential users of any CMMS in the food industry, this simply starts a discussion about how software can assist you. 

In upcoming blog posts, I will share examples of how having data easily turned into information can improve your programs and save you effort and time.

After a life-long career managing quality and food safety programs and working as a consultant, trainer and auditor, Bruce is now owner of Insight Food Safety Consulting. He is a member of the Institute of Food Scientists (IFT), the International Association of Food Protection (IAFP) and the American Society for Quality (ASQ). In 2016, Bruce was selected as an IFT Fellow – a designation recognizing outstanding contributions to the science of food and IFT. He is a published author and has served as a member of the editorial advisory board for QA and Food Safety Magazine since 2011. He has served as a Trustee for Feeding Tomorrow, the Foundation of the IFT, and currently serves as the Vice-Chair of the International Food Scientist Certification Commission.