When a company determines that achieving Certification – whether for HACCP, BRC, HALAL, ISO, etc. – or similarly, it elects to undergo a continuous improvement journey adopting GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices), implementing Lean, strengthening Health and Safety Programs and so forth - it is important that everyone understands what the “journey” is about and why it is being undertaken and the responsibilities and changes that will be coming their way.
It's a big decision when it comes to moving forward with any program - it immediately evokes the thought of "change" in some way, shape or form - and "change" more often than not is feared rather than anticipated. Change, however, is integral to the success of our organizations for without it, we would be completing the same tasks in exactly the same way, day after day, year after year. Lack of change inhibits our innovative abilities, our opportunities to become more efficient, competitive, perhaps reliable, and along the way stymies the growth and development of our employees - leading eventually to a culture that just "accepts" - completing their tasks without a sense of involvement or belonging - rather than one that challenges the status quo, digs enthusiastically into problem solving and development and generates ideas to continually improve our products, our lines, our efficiencies, our service, our ability to compete.
With some experience in implementing both the old (pre 1994) and new ISO 9001 programs, coupled with the opportunity to learn from Manufacturers first hand across the Province these past years, I have certainly come to respect the commitment and diligence it takes to begin an initiative of this nature. In true EMC spirit with respect to sharing experiences, I thought I might offer a few thoughts from my travels, from our incredible OMAFRA Team, the supportive group at GFTC (Guelph Foods Technology Centre) and your peers in industry.
There is a plethora of information available with respect to various Certification Programs - particularly those which are Food Safety related. Without looking at the specific criteria and requirements for HACCP, BRC, HALAL, etc., (although links to some of those suggested follow at the end of this Blog), I thought it might be helpful to share a more general perspective for those contemplating a journey of this nature and explore:
- Why might a Food and Beverage Company or Grower seek Certification?
- What are some key business elements to consider when implementing a program of any nature?
- Are you interested in hearing from others who have undertaken similar journeys?
- Where can you go for specific information?
With the above in mind, perhaps you are a company interested in making a commitment to gain Certification for your Food Safety initiatives or production processes or you represent a business who has already achieved those goals - to which we welcome and value your input - and you ask…
Why might a Food and Beverage company or Grower seek Certification?
- Food safety should certainly be paramount and regardless of the Certification or Program, it should play a key role in the development thereof;
- Ensuring traceability of products providing us with an expeditious, efficient and effective means of searching and fulfilling supplier, customer or consumer needs;
- Satisfying Customer requirements and strengthening those relationships which might result in anything from input on new product development through to increased supply and sales;
- Providing an opportunity to explore other potential markets and widening offerings perhaps not achievable or available otherwise;
- Increasing potential sales through growing markets such as Private Label;
- Industry regulations or sector compliances may dictate the necessity to become Certified;
- Enhancing Supplier relationships to ensure product quality, standards and safety;
- Providing a measure of due diligence and reinforcing actions to protect your brand and reputation;
- Improving processes, product handling, efficiencies and competitiveness; and
- Raising consumer awareness perhaps through marketing and branding initiatives…
What are some key business elements to consider when implementing a program of any nature?
Regardless of the Program, there are several things that a business should consider when beginning such a journey and there may be some stumbling blocks encountered along the way. A few important ingredients to consider as you move forward in your "recipe for success" might be as follows:
Strategy and good planning - one of the mainstays - without a plan in place, it is difficult to proceed and even more difficult to sustain any development along the growth path. As with any good plan, specific deliverables, accountabilities and timelines need to be specified.
Commitment from Senior Management - this has to be in place so that the organization has everyone "rowing" in the same direction and believes in the process - without Senior Management approval, the program will never be fully in place and accepted by the employees.
Communication is absolutely critical - in all corners of the plant, employees must know what the game plan is and what part they will be playing in it - where are we going? What are we going to be achieving? How does this impact me and the day-to-day job that I perform in this plant? What does it mean to our company and our future in business? Communication needs to start early on in the process and continue consistently until (and even after) the journey is complete.
Involvement - If a good plan is in place and Senior Management is committed and has communicated the information to the floor - getting people fully involved and motivated will make the change easier to deal with. Get people involved, delegate responsibility, develop and foster teamwork, encourage ideas and creative suggestions that allow you to build and grow your program accordingly - gain the buy-in and motivate them through good leadership to aid the change process.
Staying the course is difficult at times - we should expect to fail from time to time and view those steps backwards as learning opportunities - a chance to re-evaluate our thinking and to persist and remain committed to succeeding.
Celebrate success! So simple and yet fundamental when it comes to building a receptive and motivated workforce. Plan to celebrate major milestones along your development and implementation process. Celebrate once the journey is complete and the objective has been reached. Involvement and communication coupled with good leadership and planning can work wonders when it comes to growing a positive culture in our buildings.
Are you interested in hearing from others who have taken similar journeys?
OMAFRA has provided a link for those interested in hearing from participants about their involvement in a pilot food safety project with OMAFRA and the GFTC. If you click on this link, you will be able to access overviews from the following companies regarding their particular involvement in this project - perhaps echoing some of the "ingredients" we spoke of in our recipe for success above:
- Schinkels Legacy (meat)
- Derewlany Mini Carrots Ltd. (vegetables)
- Mariposa Dairy Ltd. (dairy)
- Ippolito Fruit and Produce Ltd. (vegetables)
- Plen Organics Inc. (snack, multi-commodity)
- Pillitteri Estates Winery (beverage)
If you would like to share your journey or a lesson from it - that would be wonderful! You may simply comment below or send in a separate email or - if you are interested in hosting and in highlighting your experiences, we would always welcome that opportunity as well!
If on the other hand, you are looking to learn from others and establish connections with those on a similar path, please also feel free to comment below or drop me an email at any time.
Finally, where can you go for specific Certification information?
If you are interested in learning more about the various Programs that are available - please free to touch base with the Team at OMAFRA or the GFTC anytime - they would be pleased to assist you!
OMAFRA - 888-479-3931 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
GFTC (Guelph Food Technology Centre) - Paul Medeiros: 519-821-1246 x 5043 - www.gftc.ca
- Provincial Program page (including a link to the Advantage Series of Food Safety Programs™)
- CFIA - (Federal) Food Safety Enhancement Program
- Quality Management Program - for Federally Registered Fish Processing Plants
- GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative) - http://www.mygfsi.com
- BRC (British Retail Consortium) - http://www.brcglobalstandards.com/standards/food/
- ISO 22000 - http://www.iso.org/iso/iso_catalogue/management_standards/specific_applications/specific-applications_food-safety.htm
- SQF (Safe Quality Food) - http://www.sqfi.com
Additional Certifications, Trademarks, Product Identification and Process Links follow below:
- LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) - http://www.cagbc.org/
- Organic - http://www.tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca/cgsb/on_the_net/organic/index-e.html
- Gluten-Free Certification Organization - (US) - http://www.gfco.org/
- Canadian Celiac Association - http://www.celiac.ca/EnglishCCA/egfdiet.html
- Halal - ISNA Canada - http://www.ifanca.org/procedure/
- Kosher - Kashruth Council of Canada - http://www.cor.ca/
- Foodland - http://www.foodland.gov.on.ca/english/index.html
Finally, it is with interest I read an article entitled "Safe Food a Global Commitment" in the latest Bakers Journal (July 2010) which highlighted the GFTC Safe Food Canada 2010 Symposium. John Coyne, Vice President, at Unilever Canada, was a keynote speaker at that Conference and he shared some thoughts, in this particular case relating to Food Safety, but they are thoughts that marry well with the points above:
"Coyne said companies have so much at stake when it comes to food safety that it's important to create a "culture of courage" to tackle the issues regardless of the cost. That starts at the research-and-development level, where prototypes and products should be designed with safety in mind. And it has to move through the levels of stakeholder relationships, so people are empowered to offer feedback about food safety and companies are committed to listening, whether it's a consumer, customer or employee speaking up."
I would encourage you to develop a "culture of courage" as you embark on your particular journeys for Certification or for Continuous Improvement initiatives of any kind!
All the best to each of you as you work towards fulfilling your Program goals!
Have a great week!