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Failed the Audit :*(


Best Answer Urban Explorer, 30 August 2013 - 01:18 AM

7 months later... and WE PASSED!!

 

Or should I say "I passed".  With still very little commitment from managers, we had enough momentum to pull us through to an 87.

 

We did switch auditing companies and the new auditor was very friendly and knew what he was doing without being condescending about it. Most of the minors were small details in policies that quite frankly should have been picked up by the other 3 auditors before him.  But I digress.  Easy fixes.

 

The most important thing that came out of the audit was him telling me that I am filling out too many papers that I should be verifying also.  I told him it's kind of tough to do HACCP recording and testing when you lose two techs and your boss is on vacation.  Who else can verify me?! So now I get to pass off my drudgery work on our new techs and work on expanding the program.  Maybe we can shoot for level 3 next year..

 

God bless anyone who gets those previous auditors I had, the ones I forever tarnished their records!

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#1 Urban Explorer

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Posted 06 January 2013 - 01:17 AM

We just failed our initial facility audit by one point. I am very upset even though my boss has reassured me that things were beyond my control.

Everyone on this forum that has posted guidance and answered questions has been a huge help, and I wanted to thank those that contribute regularly like Charles and Simon. It would have been an even more miserable time without knowing the things I know now.

Our biggest problem is lack of support. This program is too big for one or two people to manage. We have virtually no support from other departments and this is why we failed. Although we are a small company, there are not enough resources to keep on top of SQF. I also am responsible for many other things that I cannot neglect or put aside. This has been an extremely frustrating two days and I only hope that this will shock the other managers into action to get our act together.

The disappointing fact is, many of the hits were things that I've asked time and time again for them to fix.

When I go back in Monday, I have a four foot stack of papers to go through. I think I'm going to cry, seriously. Has anyone else taken it this hard?!


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#2 Charles.C

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Posted 06 January 2013 - 08:18 AM

We just failed our initial facility audit by one point. I am very upset even though my boss has reassured me that things were beyond my control.

Everyone on this forum that has posted guidance and answered questions has been a huge help, and I wanted to thank those that contribute regularly like Charles and Simon. It would have been an even more miserable time without knowing the things I know now.

Our biggest problem is lack of support. This program is too big for one or two people to manage. We have virtually no support from other departments and this is why we failed. Although we are a small company, there are not enough resources to keep on top of SQF. I also am responsible for many other things that I cannot neglect or put aside. This has been an extremely frustrating two days and I only hope that this will shock the other managers into action to get our act together.

The disappointing fact is, many of the hits were things that I've asked time and time again for them to fix.

When I go back in Monday, I have a four foot stack of papers to go through. I think I'm going to cry, seriously. Has anyone else taken it this hard?!


Dear Destinee,

My commiserations, and the answer to yr last sentence is, Yes, definitely, and in some cases frequently!, especially after having slogged one's guts out to try and get everything set up in advance of an audit. IMEX, your boss's non-volcanic reaction is very atypical so i can only assume that some of the problems were already anticipated ?. (Incorrect drainage design perhaps as per your earlier thread ?)

Not personally familiar with SQF terminologies but by "initial" do you mean this was a pre-audit, ie test audit; or the real thing ? If the latter did you have a pre-audit to warn of likely surprises (aka QA self-protection)?

I deduced from yr earlier posts that you are handling a considerable array of product categories, eg fish, meat plus everything from raw to RTE. IMEX (non-SQF) this is always going to attract a pretty rigorous audit scrutiny. If available resources is a serious limitation (eg one-person show) then almost certain to get headaches.

You haven't mentioned specific non-conformances but i presume one was related to yr current parallel post in that yr workplace is a constantly changing mixture of languages. I am also familiar with this problem but I have (luckily) only rarely encountered a case where workers cannot read their own language. If so probably preferable to situate them in a position such that adequate reading ability would not be a relevant (auditorial) work expectation, eg (worst case scenario) monitoring a CCP. Even where (non-English) reading is possible I have still met plenty of situations of HACCP difficulties for (basically) on-the-job trained employees. One helpful measure I hv seen implemented, particularly for CCP locations, was to install elevated white boards (sanitarily encapsulated) at the relevant process points spelling out the critical limits / (very) basic corrective action in appropriate languages to reinforce training programs. Plus facilitating our own internal auditing. This obviously has limitations if faced with a whole bunch of languages, tricky scenario.

The job-related comments you make are sadly only too common IMEX and might well be classified as basic facts-of-life for a QA manager. It is IMO sometimes necessary to adopt a covert technique to get things changed rather than confrontational methods but this varies with the situation. Basic lack of relevant people is always a tough one and likely to be rapidly self-evident to an auditor.

Rgds / Charles.C
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Charles.C


#3 Wine Gum

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Posted 06 January 2013 - 11:16 AM

Dear Destinee

I feel with you about what you are going through. If I read your post I can only make the assumption that there was no real support from top management . I experience the same lack of support and have come to a point where I have to make a choice about my career - it's just not worth it to have to fight to get things done and putting yourself constantly under pressure.

All the best with that stack of papers that you have to work through Posted Image

Regards

Makayla


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#4 DocGra

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Posted 06 January 2013 - 02:29 PM

Dear Destinee

With great respect and sympathetic feelings for a fellow auditee, may I add my support and commisserations.

I would also add support to Makayla's comments about the need for top management support.

We are a small company too and I know from first hand experience, just how much work is involved with external audits of this kind. Im my view, the ONLY way they succeed is with the co-operation of everyone - from the very top down.

Our sales folks proved useful to help define the costs of failure and so encourage everyone to co-operate. We are fortunate to have co-operative senior management board but even the best can be torn between the 'intrusion' of an audit and day to day profit making. I was able to persuade our site dirtector to chair Audit preparation briefing meetings an his direction was very useful at spreading the load

Suggest you use the non-conformances from your audit to identify root causes and perhaps to identify those who are in a position to prevent re-occurance, make sure your managers know who is in a position to improve things and then ask those folks to contribute to your re-audit work.

Keep the company focus on the long term goal, keep your company's most senior manager informed / involved and keep the audit profile and your plan for success very high on the Company's agenda. Easier said than done - I know - but that's my advice

Good luck in your preparations for your reaudit - and please don't cry tomnorrow - bounce back with determination instead and start on your Board of Directors ....

Kind regards,

Graham


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#5 Rodriguez-Gonzalez

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Posted 06 January 2013 - 03:24 PM

Destinee:

Very understandable your personal frustration.

I agree with you that IFSQN is a great resource for food safety personnel, and what gets my attention the most is how the administrators have managed to create an environment where we can openly discuss food safety issues and that the experts can share they experience without restrictions.

Your issue is an interesting topic to advance the idea of being a Food Safety Change Agent. I see this as a balancing act between advancing in your profession by doing the best in your job and understanding the company's situation. We must remember that the administrators role is managing risks, unfortunately in this case your boss lost the bet.

Probably this is a good moment to step back and analyze the human aspects that affected the errors in the audit (do a root cause analysis?). One of the reasons I prefer to use the words "manager" or "administrator" instead of "supervisor" is because people generally does not like "officers" or "referees". Probably this is your best opportunity to show your management skills and work it out from the bottom up.

My suggestion is to talk to your team in their terms, for example, if finance people talks money, talk to them using money words. You can make references to how much money did the company lost because of this error (because it was not just the cost of the audit, but also your time and theirs). In the other side people working with personnel are good in recognizing the human aspects of affecting society and protecting their company and jobs.

Cheers, and all the best,


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#6 Urban Explorer

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Posted 06 January 2013 - 03:58 PM

Thank you all. Without divulging too much info, I will give a rundown of what happened.

My company produces all RTE foods, some acidified foods, etc. Our facility is only 2 years old, but it was hurriedly designed and there are some flaws such as non-coated glass that were not taken into account upon construction. The glass was a major hit. A new machine was designed in Europe and shipped here with very little testing. It is a one of a kind thing and was in my opinion, poorly constructed. This was also a major hit because the official sanitation manual for this does not exist.

Minors were simply housekeeping items. Open boxes, primary containers for secondary use, MSDS book not updated, etc. Noted was the training register, not the training program itself, though I did mention my frustration at this on another thread. A few other maintenance issues, including the drain. But they all added up to a total fail. We had a desk audit and passed with flying colors (which is why the training register bothered me now because it should have been caught then) and this was the second phase for certification audit.

As I mentioned, we are a small company. A small company with big dreams and a mom-and-pop mentality. This needs to change. We are so short staffed that it's almost laughable how many hats some people wear. As an example, I do everything from managing the SQF/HACCP program, micro testing, exporting, government regulation and designing box labels, in addition to my regular role of food safety. My boss is a VP, reporting only to the president of the company. My boss is well aware of these problems and he has spent so much of his time trying to fix it, with little support. So basically it is he and me against the world. In my opinion, this is why we failed. None of the other managers were even present in the opening and closing meetings, which speaks volumes.

There is a lack of focus on the things that matter. We can't possibly consider being globally certified and continue to keep up bad habits. When I started 1.5 years ago, there were no official programs, poor record keeping and total disorganization. We have come a long way but we are still not there.

Putting this into financial terms will be the most effective. Not only the 60 hours a week I've been putting in for the last 3 months, but the audit cost and potential loss of business. You can't sell what doesn't exist.

Charles, thank you for the idea of the postings in the room at the stations. I know for a fact that many of the employees do know what they are doing and why they are doing it but with such a high turnover rate and use of temporary employees, it is an almost impossible hurdle to overcome.


Edited by Destinee, 06 January 2013 - 04:00 PM.

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#7 chip

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Posted 06 January 2013 - 08:18 PM

Do not worry Destinee without the seniors committment and focus you were destined to fail. He must realize now the full cost of failure, which will lead to his latent comittment and I'm sure your stock will actually raise in his eyes. From what I can see this is a frequent chain of events. All you can do is your best. Come Monday stand proud and be resolute.

Chip


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#8 George @ Safefood 360°

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 11:10 AM

Destinee, commiserations on the audit outcome. A failed audit result can be a distressing experience at the best of times and particularly so when so much effort and work has been put into avoiding such an outcome. Once you have had the opportunity to get over the initial shock it is important for you to put the whole thing into context. GFSI outcomes either lead to certification or no certification. This is nature of the scheme. The ultimate outcome depends on many factors some of which are beyond our direct control and some can be subjective in nature. I have been following your threads and as already mentioned by previous posters you are not alone in these issues. They are suprisingly common across the global food sector and I would start by giving yourself a major pat on the back for achieving so much in an environment where suffcient senior level management support was lacking.

In the US at the moment there are significant changes taking place in the whole area of food safety management certification including the momentium of GFSI and the introduction of FSMA. This is a process that took place over a decade ago in Europe and we saw then that the rate of change was always slower in smaller businesses compared to the larger well resource companies. It is a fact of life that the consciousness of owner/managers in small businesses is lower than larger corporate companies and this is something that cannot be change over night by you or anyone else for that matter. It is a process that takes time and indeed some companies will ultimately not make the mark.

Over the years working with many food companies, I have had clients who simply failed to get it. They wanted certification but did not want to do the necessary work or make the required investment. It was not that these companies were bad or that their owners or managers were in anyway neglectful. They simply did not get it! They did not understand what was happining objectively and therefore it was beyond my powers to effect the required change in a timely way. I never took it personally and in time I learned different strategies to motivate these companies and increase their understanding. In the end I knew a FAILED audit would be required to get progress. In these cases I maintained an ongoing communication with the client and explained clearly that failure was certain and the reasons why. Once the failed audit occured supporting my position the management learned to trust my perspective and things tended to get easier.

Small food businesses seldom move quickly on these things and it takes powerful motivators including loss of business or regulatory actions. Here are some things you might consider in working with the senior management to improve their understanding:

Focus on Regulatory change: FSMA will in time introduce more and more changes. Use this to your advantage! Pitch the required improvements as being required by law. It is not what you want - it is a legal requirement. making them aware of the potential impact on their business but do not overstate it as this will undermine your credibility. Be direct but balanced.

Make the Business Case: The management cannot afford to invest. Yes this may be the case. But in reality can they afford not to invest? Every day in the US there are product recall and withdrawals. Use this information with management. Teach them the folly of not taking food safety seriously. Explain that it will only get more demanding and not less.

Customers: these can be a great source of change. Use any positive relationships with customers to support you in improvements.

Process: A food safety system is a living, breathing thing. It is never finished and you will always be changing it. Your audit result is the initial step in this process and your starting point for building it up to where you want it. The experience will serve you well in the long term. Remember we have all been there.

George


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#9 arleneinoh

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 03:39 PM

Everyone experiences a failed audit at one time or another in their career.

Believe me, we all feel your pain!

Take comfort in that fact that the failure will bring the audit to everyone's attention, and hopefully you will get the support you need and deserve.
Stand firm, and ask for what you need. Its time to get tough!

Arlene


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#10 bacon

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 07:48 PM

Dear Destinee,

Fortunately my foundation is in a US industry that up to global food safety standards 12+ years ago (with the Assi/NZ WQA standard and EFSIS out of Europe before it transformed into BRC), so I have generally had good Senior Management Commitment. Years of being coddled buy FDA/USDA is catching up with many US food packers and many of us seem to be in the same boat.

As voiced in many post above, a constant theme of Senior Management, as Mr. Howlett stated: just don’t get it. I have stated those exact words as I refuse to endorse a QMP that senior management will not stand behind. A company can only fake the 1st 18 (roughly) of SQF without either failing or finally “getting it”. Everybody can talk about safety and quality, but pass a GFSI benchmark for 4-5 years, after burning out one QA manager after another, they will realize that Senior Management Commitment = Resource Commitment to ones QMP. Personally, I like GFSI audits, pending on your CB’s rigorousness, NC’s usually get the eye and attention of Senior Management.

PS – Use the company’s (signed by Senior Management) mission statement to drive positive change (this is why it is #1 of W. Edwards Deming’s Key principles): very powerful.

Chin up!

-Baron


Edited by baron, 09 January 2013 - 02:05 PM.

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#11 Urban Explorer

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 09:26 PM

Thanks again to all who responded.

Today went better than I expected. The president of the company was not outrageously upset, he said whatever it takes to get it done, let's do it. However, he is considering challenging some of the audit findings. I personally feel, and I stated this, that it's better to fix the known problems and try again.

With a challenge, if accepted and upgraded to barely passing: All majors and minors corrected in short time frame and Surveillance audit in 6 months.

Fixing it now under a less constrained time frame will allow us to possibly pass into the good or excellent category (in my dreams!) and we won't be under surveillance.

The other managers seemed very receptive and willing to help out. We just came out of our busy season and it was probably the worst time to prepare for an audit.

Let's breathe and regroup!!


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#12 Setanta

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 09:33 PM

Great attitude! I felt your sorrow when you posted, but I agree with all the comments, you will come back better for this. Oh yeah, it hurts to have this happen, but you have responded well to this challenge!

S


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#13 SLadd

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 10:02 PM

You're a trooper Destinee!
Remember our failed audit at your former company ;-) - pre-SQF. The customer said she didn't feel like we were getting the support we needed. That was the kick in the pants the managers needed and by the time we got around to project SQF, we were ready. This was just your corporate kick in the pants. I have the utmost confidence in you! And I'm glad to hear you challenged some of those hits and got your score changed.


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#14 Urban Explorer

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 10:20 PM

Thanks Mrs Ladd! :) The challenge is still be written up and I'm not sure what's going to happen with that. The auditors were very clever in grouping several things together at once into one minor. Like no screen on a roof vent along with a disorganized storage area. That didn't seem right.


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#15 bibi

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Posted 08 January 2013 - 08:07 AM

Thanks Mrs Ladd! :) The challenge is still be written up and I'm not sure what's going to happen with that. The auditors were very clever in grouping several things together at once into one minor. Like no screen on a roof vent along with a disorganized storage area. That didn't seem right.

Wake up :angry:
this is not the end but the begining :rolleyes:
you are right support is the key, but you have to find out how to get it.
we are as well a small company 5 people to run the system, 3 of them are in the production. the last few years we acheived BRC grade A.
Be optimistic, a failure will make you stronger.
An audit is for improvements which will never end :bye:

BIBI
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#16 shrugg

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 09:37 PM

Hello Destinee,
We can all feel your pain. Keep your chin up. Your hard work will not go unrewarded, even though it feels that way. My boss is the Corp. Quality Manager and hired me so that he could spend all day, every day keeping up with our GFSI/BRC. It sounds like you were doing that all by yourself. I hope your upper management lends some more hands and feet.

We just failed our initial facility audit by one point. I am very upset even though my boss has reassured me that things were beyond my control.

Everyone on this forum that has posted guidance and answered questions has been a huge help, and I wanted to thank those that contribute regularly like Charles and Simon. It would have been an even more miserable time without knowing the things I know now.

Our biggest problem is lack of support. This program is too big for one or two people to manage. We have virtually no support from other departments and this is why we failed. Although we are a small company, there are not enough resources to keep on top of SQF. I also am responsible for many other things that I cannot neglect or put aside. This has been an extremely frustrating two days and I only hope that this will shock the other managers into action to get our act together.

The disappointing fact is, many of the hits were things that I've asked time and time again for them to fix.

When I go back in Monday, I have a four foot stack of papers to go through. I think I'm going to cry, seriously. Has anyone else taken it this hard?!


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#17 john123

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 11:04 PM

Hi Destinee,

I'm a new poster here, but felt compelled to reply to your situation. We just went through an SQF Level 2 (our first SQF audit) and I have to tell you it as nerve racking to say the least. I've only been involved in food production for 4 months, appointed to a Quality Supervisor position our company previously never had. To top it off, our auditing firm asked if they could have an additional auditor accompany the primary as a training experience. Having two sets of eyes wandering the floor is even more nerve racking!

Like the others have said, take this as an opportunity to grow and improve. Consider a consultant to come in and help you prepare for the next audit. Ours was worth his weight in gold, working with us to rewrite our ragtag SOP's into a FS-QMS that flew through the desk audit. You mentioned coated glass in a previous post: our consultant had me go out and cover all the windows in our facility with clear tint. We even put little blue stickers under the tint to prove to the auditor that the tint was there (i.e. he couldn't scrape the blue dot off, so there must be a film present), might be something that can help you... Little things like that really added up to help ensure we got the "good" grade.

Although we passed, I felt terrible afterward. I updated our glass and hard plastic inventory for the company (they hadn't updated it in over 6 years), and I took it from a couple paragraphs typed to an Excel Spreadsheet with over 940 items detailing location and whether they were a button or display, etc. Sure enough, our auditors walked the facility with the inventory in hand and would randomly point to items and say "show me." And, sure enough, they found a strobe light and a control panel I missed inside our 80,000 sq ft building... I was directly at fault for that minor, and it's a sucky feeling. But again, keep your head up, learn from it, and be ready for the next round :-)


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#18 Urban Explorer

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 11:13 PM

Thanks so much for the glass suggestion, John. I just forwarded that to my boss. They're talking about plexiglass and caulk and blah blah, and I knew in the back of my mind there was a very simple solution that wouldn't create condensate. It is safety glass, ie it won't break into huge shards. Kind of funny, but the reason we can't get glass specs is we never paid the glass company apparently, so they aren't releasing the specs. Oh geez.

We also had two auditors because we fall under several food sectors. They were everywhere and in everything.

It's so tricky to figure out where they'll be looking. As you said with your glass audit. We always joke about our rotating USDA inspectors. One looks up, the other looks down.


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#19 john123

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 11:30 PM

Our consultant also performs audits for various bodies and entities, and he said one thing that is consistent in auditor training is a whole section dedicated to "looking up." And I kid you not, the auditors I've dealt with thus far will be walking and then randomly stop- and look up.

On dual auditors, I got really frustrated during one part: We walked outside the front of our facility to check exterior items, then we entered the office that leads to our production floor. Everyone donned their hair nets and we moved out to the floor. We were so focused on the primary auditor that we didn't notice our second auditor had decided to test us on GMP's and intentionally skipped his beard net. We didn't catch it till he brought it up. Oy. (Our consultant said we should've escorted him off the floor for intentionally violating our GMP's, as our signage clearly states we will... Food for thought for future audits I guess)


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#20 MCIAN

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 01:36 AM

You've done well Destinee. You failed the audit but passed your baptism of fire.

I too failed my very first audit with my current company, precisely due to disregard of the top management of the recommendations I made.
Since I was new then, they thought that they knew better.

After that, they started to support my recommendations and from then on, we have passed all customers and third party audits. I hope you too will get the same results.

Oh, let me share some secret: I used the Law of Attraction to get certified to ISO 9001. I had a similar copy of the Certificate i want to get posted behind me at the office and every time I looked at it, I affirmed that we are gonna get it. You know what? I didn't need to exert too much effort getting what needed to be done especially with material resources and management support. For example, I was just thinking about doing a 5S Audit but even before I could make the memo, the Operations Manager called me to say that she wants a 5S Audit conducted regularly and proceeded to announce it to department and section heads.

BTW, Happy new year everyone! Hope this will be a really prosperous, peaceful and healthy year for all of us.


Edited by MCIAN, 11 January 2013 - 01:38 AM.

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#21 HACCP Mentor

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 04:14 AM

Attitude is everything Destinee, and it reads that you are looking at the positives. As an auditor (for SQF and other multiple food standards), I see the disappointment on QA managers faces all the time. For the most, you can see the huge amount of effort that they put in to try and achieve compliance to the audit criteria. I have also been around long enough to see when management are just not committed to the process or they don’t really understand what is truly at stake.

It really needs to start from the top down. I have recently had 2 audits at the polar ends of the earth with regards to management commitment. Both failed the SQF audit. Company A proceeded to spend and excessive amount of time and energy fighting and arguing every single CAR raised where Company B took a more proactive approach and got on with the job by fixing the issues, allocating sufficient resources and so on. I am sure you can guess which one has certification and which one does not.

From my side of things, I think that QA Managers really need to be co-ordinators and delegators. This gets all the business involved and allows you to spend your time pushing compliance. Having a very clear plan on who and what departments are responsible for what sections of the SQF standard will definitely help in future compliance and in achieving a successful audit outcome.

As for the auditor comments - Sometimes I think I have special powers...it makes me laugh. Power to make a mouse run out in front of me on a production floor, power to find that one unsigned CCP monitoring record out of a sample of about 300, power to catch that one employee with their fingers up their nose, power to select that one lidded food container that has a dead cockroach in it. The co-incidence of it all just makes me giggle....what are the chances! Posted Image


Edited by HACCP Mentor, 12 January 2013 - 06:37 AM.

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#22 George @ Safefood 360°

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 02:34 PM

Great to see (non-technical) support from the IFSQN community on a very real and human aspect of food safety management.

I have just updated my blog on a subjected matter somewhat related to this thread. Some members may find it of interest.

Management Committment and the Food Safety Manager

Regards,
George


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#23 esquef

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 04:07 PM

Fantastic article George! Thanks for posting this.


 


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#24 Urban Explorer

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 10:39 PM

We are now getting a quote for window lamination! Such a simple fix. Thanks again, John. My boss thanks you too.
:biggrin:


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#25 john123

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 11:24 PM

We are now getting a quote for window lamination! Such a simple fix. Thanks again, John. My boss thanks you too.
:biggrin:



You're welcome! We did ours in house (I was the unlucky bastard who got to cover 15 some odd windows). If you guys have a janitor or custodian on site, get some clear window tint from an automotive store and tell them to do it. And don't forget to put something between the tint and the glass, or face trying to prove to a auditor you put a totally clear piece of material on a clear window haha
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