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Best practice for smaller food plant to eliminate case coding errors?


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#1 JPO

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Posted 04 January 2011 - 01:32 PM

Everywhere I've worked, every once in a bit, people incorrectly code information on the cases. I'd like to eliminate the source and cause of the issue rather than come up with yet another checklist or form.

These cases are coded with inkjet printers. The information is entered by the operator at the beginning of the run of the product. They are presented with the correct code on production paperwork and they are supposed to note on the packaging paperwork that they have the correct code.

Quality assurance checks are done on a repeating schedule (gather samples, check x-ray detectors, verify codes and weights, etc) and the tech are to verify that all the codes are correct (and record them).

STILL, every once in a bit (once or twice a year) the damn codes get printed on the case wrong. Numbers are transposed or the date is off by a year, or some other issue. I'd like to eliminate this once and for all. Other than going to a fully integrated computerized and pre-programmed total coding solution, is there a way to fix this so I don't have an embarrassment with a customer at best and a product I can't identify because I can't locate the code (because it's wrong on the case) in the event of a complaint or recall?

Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope.


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#2 GMO

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Posted 04 January 2011 - 03:32 PM

IME even computerised systems aren't foolproof and once or twice a year is similar to some bigger manufacturers.

First thing; training. People have to understand what they're doing and most importantly, why. They also need to understand the implications of not doing it or doing it poorly. Use this training as well to get information from them; why do errors occur? Are they pressured to get tonnage out at the cost of quality? Do they feel unable to think with the pressures of the line? Might even be worth spending a shift on the line so you can see the problems.

Assuming you have trained people and there is no good reason for them not to do this task well, then you do need to get a bit tough. Near misses where errors are caught internally need to be investigated and could result in disciplinary action if proven to be cutting corners or not checking. The reason I say this is by having that QA double check, people might just think "it's QA's job". They very much need to understand it's not and if a QA finds a problem, they've messed up and need to feel some accountability. I'm not saying sack everyone but when you start looking you might find that 80% of the errors are caused by 20% of the people.

Sorry, gotta change my baby's nappy but I'll think on about this...


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#3 QLD

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Posted 04 January 2011 - 08:01 PM

IMO the machine operator as the closest person and owner of the date coder equipment should have full ownership over this step. The frequency of checking the coding should take into consideration whether any bad stock would still be in your control and how much potiential rework you are prepared to suffer.

Personally I have always asked that coding be checked start, every 30mins and end of any run. Even so we do get caught out with small patches of stock with faded code so we are considering implementing a vision based system as a double check as such system are now very reasonably priced.


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#4 MQA

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Posted 05 January 2011 - 12:55 AM

GMP & QLD have great points. To add to their invaluable comments:

Make sure the coding employees are trained in Recall procedures. If they have an understanding of time, money, energy, product lost on a recall and how serious an incorrect code can lead to a recall, perhaps their focus will become more stringent.

I started as a bakery retail assistant and then administrator back in 1988. I was introduced to food safety in 2001. I can assure you it was my years since food safety knowledge and understanding rather than just experience within the industry that our product quality was improved.

People need to understand why rules and regulations exist. They need to understand the consequences of their poor actions. Get them involved in recall procedures. Make sure they are involved with every customer complaint caused by their department and the consequence of each complaint. Set reasonable disciplinary action. Worked in our business.

Much luck.


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#5 Tony-C

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Posted 05 January 2011 - 06:38 AM

Everywhere I've worked, every once in a bit, people incorrectly code information on the cases. I'd like to eliminate the source and cause of the issue rather than come up with yet another checklist or form.


This has been one of my worst nightmares as well, 100's of sku's and a variety of use by or best before dates is a recipe for disaster.

One thing that might help is to identify risk areas such as when the date code changes month. See the attached example of how the month change is highlighted to the operator.

Attached File  Code Sheet.pdf   62.8KB   100 downloads

It is a simple idea but I have found it works quite well.

Regards,

Tony
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#6 GMO

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Posted 05 January 2011 - 02:23 PM

This has been one of my worst nightmares as well, 100's of sku's and a variety of use by or best before dates is a recipe for disaster.

One thing that might help is to identify risk areas such as when the date code changes month. See the attached example of how the month change is highlighted to the operator.

Attached File  Code Sheet.pdf   62.8KB   100 downloads

It is a simple idea but I have found it works quite well.

Regards,

Tony



Yep, I've done something similar by highlighting key changes on a week by week basis more for promotional activity but it could also work with coding.

Now I've escaped the pooey nappy...

I agree with a lot of points made here. Start, end, changes of code and every 30 min checking (retaining samples) has been effective for me in the past. Just ensure the paperwork is regularly audited on the line, some staff are tinkers for filling this kind of paperwork out in advance :thumbdown:

I think the other thing which is key is to get the management in the area on side. You will need their help if one of their staff are negligent, also if the message is genuinely coming from them, it holds more power. They are often the sources of the pressure on front line staff for tonnage at all costs as well and bad production managers have been known to turn a blind eye to quality near misses. If the quality of the coding is as important to them you will see a noticable change in the production operator culture. When I was a production shift manager, I had a problem on our shift and it required repacking and relabelling loads of cases. I wasn't pleased it had happened on my shift so I led by example and helped with the repacking. We never had another issue with it.
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#7 Simon

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Posted 13 January 2011 - 09:01 PM

This might seem like a strange tip, but ask operators to read the code / date forwards and backwards when checking. This is an old print industry trick. Because we are used to reading forwards we finish things off, basically guess, reading backwards you have no choice but to read every letter or digit. I recognise you are talking about a batch code and date rather than words, but it's free and easy and could help. Try it out. :bye:


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