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#1 Guitardr85

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Posted 31 January 2017 - 08:41 PM

Good Morning Everyone.  

 

I have been working at a food company for several months now as the Quality Manager (not my first rodeo by any means) and the biggest struggle I am having is how to drive a positive food safety and quality culture.  Most of the employees, other managers, and even senior management do not take quality and food safety very seriously.  It is constantly considered a laughable matter.  Recently, my direct superior even came up to me and said, and I am paraphrasing here, that during a managers meeting they had talked about a lot of things concerning customer complaints and other quality programs and he gave me suggestions on how to proceed.  I, as the Quality MANAGER, was a little put off by this seeing as how if there was a managers meeting, I would have thought I would have been included for my own input on matters.

 

I am not looking for validation of my situation but rather, if anyone has any suggestions on how to start driving a more positive quality culture or at least generate more senior management buy-in/awareness of the importance of quality, I am all ears!

 

Thank you in advance for the positive comments!


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#2 FurFarmandFork

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Posted 31 January 2017 - 11:42 PM

Yikes. Not a good situation there. But at the same time, good for you for trying to effect change rather than jump ship immediately, that's good for public health :)

 

The fact is if you have poor culture at the very top of the company they don't often learn the lesson of quality until they finally have that bad recall/fda action/etc. But here are some thoughts if your company ends up being willing to embrace quality as a culture.

 

1. Make sure you are respected first.

No one is going to take quality culture, preventative food safety, etc. seriously if they don't take the person leading it seriously. This is true for personal safety, lean ideas, or really any culture change. Make sure you're not on any kind of quality high horse, and make sure you're making contributions that are relevant and help the floor and supervisors, rather than impose burdens. Examples would be anywhere where you can streamline quality checkpoints or bring in equipment that improves food safety while also increasing efficiency.

 

Common QA mistake: When working in an environment where a "compliant" culture isn't in place, don't cite regulations to make your point. No one wants to make change because the government says so (especially if they aren't enforcing it), and no one wants to do it to make your annual audit easier. As far as they're concerned audits are your problem once a year and because it's hard for you you want to make it theirs every day. Demonstrate the need for change based on risk to products, people, and business.

 

2. Prioritize, and let it go

In tandem with #1, unless you have an obvious high-risk product for bare hand contact or hair, let some of that stuff go. We know it's important, but CCP's, QCP's, and sanitation are the big ones that you need to use your "good will" currency on. Don't spend all your patience and points on forcing bangs under hairnets, immediately breaking down that cardboard, etc. And if it's getting bad, make your production guys enforce the small stuff so it isn't all coming from quality. You have bigger fish to fry and a limited amount of points to cash in.

 

3. Data, data, data

Start getting statistical verification of how you're doing as a company (complaints, defective products, production paperwork errors, sensory failures, mispicks, # of rags left on the floor at the end of the day, disposal costs, time cost for equipment breakdowns).

Lack of quality culture is based on observed cost-benefit. Without data, everyone flies by the seat of their pants and dismisses your concerns with "It's not that much product, we produce a ton of okay product", "it just happens sometimes", or "it wouldn't be worth it for how often it actually happens". Half the time issues don't go away, we just get complacent with them. As a new employee you didn't bring in any of that complacency with sub-par products or food safety risk, and you have to bust some chops with data.

Data also provides a tool to those people who do want to support a quality culture, but haven't had any compelling evidence to disagree with their peers.

 

I'm a big fan of the ADKAR model for supporting change (and of this graphic detailing what happens when any one component is missing: https://s-media-cach...bf9f8b9986.png)

 

Here's a limited piece of what you can directly do as a QA manager to support ADKAR.

 

Awareness of the need for change: Data, data, data

 

Desire to participate and support the change: respect, focusing only on one problem at a time (I know, it's hard when it feels like an imminent food safety threat)

 

Knowledge on how to change: Come with multiple solutions or a goal oriented request (What could we change that would get the dirty mop bucket out of the room during production?), demonstrate that changes work with: data, data, data

 

Ability to implement required skills and behaviors: Volunteer to train employees on new procedures, and change your quality program to make it easier. Maybe you can replace that titration kit for a rapid test method? Maybe you can make a checklist?

 

Reinforcement to sustain the change: Persistence is key on your ONE issue you're fixing. You may have changed the procedure, but unless they're doing it without help for at least 60 days, you don't get to move on to your next project yet. And if you throw it out there, move onto the next shiny and hope it will stick, it won't.

 

Ultimately you'll need to decide if your company can do it, because QA is hard and it's only harder if your efforts aren't recognized as beneficial to the business (did I mention data?). Make sure you can do the job ethically and legally and see what change you can effect, but know your personal lines and be ready to walk away from a bad situation.


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For discussions related to food safety, production, and agriculture. Check out my blog at http://furfarmandfork.com/.

 


#3 Ryan M.

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Posted 01 February 2017 - 09:35 PM

Great input by Earth20.

 

My only additional input is to start with what a recall may cost the company.  See the attached article.  Being able to express food safety and quality in terms of numbers, statistics and what not is great, but driving it home with the $$$$ is even better.

 

Good luck!  Sounds like you have a tough hill to climb, but once you are at the top it will all be worth it.  I would suggest you have a very frank discussion with your superior.  He/she needs to be on board and supporting you 100% otherwise it won't happen.  He/she has to drive this as much, if not more, than you.

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#4 dfreund

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Posted 01 February 2017 - 10:01 PM

My recommendation is to start by setting a high standard.  Find one they know but can't achieve ye,t or pick a GFSI issue that you see looming in the "to be done file".  You will need somebody with authority to back it up and demonstrate that meeting this standard is important.

 

Then, gently communicate the gaps or deficiencies, even involving the resistors in uncovering issues will get you momentum.  They will have to "own" the solution anyway, so get them involved early.

 

Recommend little but ask the questions that lead in your direction.

 

Don't be put off if they see you as a "rookie" in their sandbox.  They are trying to prove themselves to you too.  Let pride run its course and use it to motivate.

 

Make sure you give credit for the fantastic improvements made against the standard and in one or two loops you will have an advocate on your side.

 

A past US President (can't recall which one) said, " It is amazing how much gets done when it doesn't matter who gets the credit"

 

Dave


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#5 FurFarmandFork

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Posted 01 February 2017 - 10:26 PM

Sorry to chime in again, but this:

Recommend little but ask the questions that lead in your direction.

 

 

Is such simple and perfect advice that I wanted to point it out. Here would be some examples from my experience of these types of questions.

 

"If the equipment was already clean and ready to go when the operators arrive, do you think we would start-up faster or run better?"

QA direction: dedicated sanitation personnel, less conflict at startup between production goals and pre-op QA"

 

"Would it be easier for them to hop back-and-forth if there's a problem if there was more space?"

QA direction: De-clutter workspace to make auditing tools and NPC sanitation easier/effective.

 

"Would it be better if they didn't have to stop to measure and write down all this stuff?"

QA direction: installation of dataloggers, sanitizer dilution pumps, alarm-based checks

 

This belongs in this thread also, It's my personal ROI calculator I've uploaded elsewhere. Use it to show return on quality equipment updates or procedural changes (additional steps across the room are expensive, time them!).

 

 

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#6 Guitardr85

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Posted 02 February 2017 - 01:41 PM

 Everybody, thanks for the terrific input so far.  In terms of GFSI schemed audits I was actually hired to develop the company's SQF program (I have developed them in the past for other companies; though I see now I don't think my current company knew what really was being asked of them).  

 

I have been getting statistical data on process efficiency, attempting to generate Cpk and Ppk values for individual processes, and have started trending everything from customer complaints and defect levels to cost loss from hidden factory and COPQ variables that could drive a lot of CI endeavors and put more $$$ in the owners pockets.  I would like to think that this is helping but I think only time will tell.  Entrenched culture is always an uphill battle if it needs improvement, lol   :o


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#7 Guitardr85

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Posted 10 February 2017 - 05:16 PM

I just wanted to give an update to everyone...Over the past several weeks I have been focusing on delivering improvement opportunities to management based on dollars and cents costs/savings as well as highlighting in a very constructive way the additional safety risks that are inherent in some of the identified IO's we are looking at.  For the most part, I think this is being welcomed (though I am starting to get the whole "Quality should just go write a procedure" vibe and comments. I really understand this as the company has never really had a strong quality department or positive quality culture before in their long history, so I am prepared for the uphill battle, but I am optimistic it is a battle that can be won.  

 

I'd be interested in hearing other people's struggles with encountering negative quality cultures and cultures/companies entrenched in long histories of less than optimal/efficient/safe practices!!!

 

I'm always up for learning experiences  :ejut:


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#8 swmalone

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Posted 27 February 2017 - 11:16 PM

I think at some point in our careers most of us will run into something similar.  I work with small companies to help prepare them for various quality and food safety certification.  I am sometimes surprised at how little they know about food safety, but yet they are still putting food into the marketplace.  I try to train the whole team as programs are developed and implemented, but sometimes it is like pulling teeth.  My hat is off to you for sticking with it.


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#9 Guitardr85

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Posted 08 March 2017 - 04:27 PM

SWMalone, I had to laugh at your "pulling teeth" comment.  I honestly think that sometimes, THAT might actually be easier than enforcing a new policy!  :sleazy:


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#10 Big Wally

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Posted 08 March 2017 - 06:02 PM

Edition 8 might get you some additional "buy in" from management as it will be a required monthly meeting. Great opportunity to present ideas to improve the program at these meetings.


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#11 Guitardr85

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Posted 11 March 2017 - 06:01 PM

Wally,

 

I know!  Im pretty excited about that too!  Prior to me being here there never was a traditional or scheduled managers meeting.  I have been a little sneaky and have started turning weekly SQF progress meetings into weekly managers meetings...So far I don't think anyone has noticed so...shhh!!!  :gleam:


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#12 EssentialFA

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Posted 15 March 2017 - 04:48 PM

Are we still sharing experiences about less than idea quality culture? I have been in my position as a QA manager for over a year now at my company. We are small and I work in the production facility where all management/Operations/shipping is done in another facility. For over a year now I have been trying to make the other facility understand the importance of traceability in shipping orders to customers.

We have huge gaps there because orders are not recorded with the right lot numbers or quantity... our Inventories are never correct (i.e. our system tells us we should have 1000 units on the shelf and we physically only have 200. the 800 units of difference have gone to someone and there is no way to tell who).

Personnel who seems responsible for these repeated mistakes has changed a number of time, telling me it is not just a issue of who was doing it, and I have no support from Upper Management. I can't be physically present at the other facility, and no matter how I try to explain that traceability and accurate records are not an option, I am going nowhere.

 

As someone brought up before, I feel like the only time they will start reacting is when we have an expensive and extended record, that is if the FDA does not shut us down since we don't have any way of accurately tracking our products. I point out that at my facility we also have a shipping department and all records are clear and accurate. Once products leaves our plant to get to the other one god knows what happens.

 

We have done training but nothing sticks because no one else over there seems to care and there are never any "sanctions/reprimands" against employees for not doing their jobs right.

 

I honestly feel like this is a hopeless situation...


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#13 Guitardr85

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 04:13 PM

Essential...Has anyone, past or present, ever tried performing a traceability exercise to demonstrate how hard it might be to track where things go within a specified period of time?  That can sometimes be eye opening for senior management to experience first hand how little we sometimes know about where are product is (and a terrifying thought if ever in a recall scenario!)


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#14 Ryan M.

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 06:14 PM

Essential...Has anyone, past or present, ever tried performing a traceability exercise to demonstrate how hard it might be to track where things go within a specified period of time?  That can sometimes be eye opening for senior management to experience first hand how little we sometimes know about where are product is (and a terrifying thought if ever in a recall scenario!)

 

Yes, but it depends on the process.  Most processes are "batch type" with lots for each batch so your default traceability exercise is by batch.  The time period is irrelevant in these scenarios.

 

However, if you have a truly continuous process where lot coding may be over several days of production with lots and sub-lots then yes it can be eye opening.  It is only as effective your documentation/records.


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#15 Guitardr85

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 06:27 PM

Ryan, this is very true!  When sanitation events are taken into account, the scope of implicated products regardless of lots or batches can be truly jaw dropping (e.g. multiple lots/batches run between effective cleaning events).  

 

Essential, in order to clarify a little bit, what types of products do you make and what is your industry (manufacturing, agglomerate, contract packager, etc.)?  Do you have any other quality personnel/resources at your disposal or are you the only member of the department?  

 

Have you met with any of your direct managers/senior management to express your interest in developing a more robust quality program?  I had to take this route and it was more productive that I had originally thought it would be.  I let them know how passionate I was about food safety and, while also providing some food safety facts and information that they simply were not aware of, this genuinely generated interest and buy in at a higher level than previously existed (still not perfect by any means, but it was a start).  


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#16 Charles.C

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 06:53 PM

Yes, but it depends on the process.  Most processes are "batch type" with lots for each batch so your default traceability exercise is by batch.  The time period is irrelevant in these scenarios.

 

However, if you have a truly continuous process where lot coding may be over several days of production with lots and sub-lots then yes it can be eye opening.  It is only as effective your documentation/records.

 

Rather OT

 

The classic case is silos continually being topped up. A variety of predictive formulae/asumptions exist to predict lot separations but the use of "clean breaks" appears to be the practical end result.


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#17 KAA

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 07:19 PM

Interesting topic.  Recently a friend told me a story about his work at a spice company.  A customer called to complain about the metal in the spices.  The employee knew there was a magnet so there should be no issues.  The guy went out to the line and asked how the magnet was going, the guy said they stoped using it for what ever reason.  So, he called the customer back and said the issue was the magnet was not used on that batch and he apologized.  Then, the plant manager found out, because the customer called him, and the plant manager yelled at the guy because "that should never be done" (the truth telling part).  So, he tried to get people on board to recognize the need, but ultimately ended up leaving.  It was such a steep climb to get people to change.  It has to start at the top and in this case, it was never going to happen.  It all changed when the place was acquired... so that's how that went.  Best of luck.


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#18 EssentialFA

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 07:53 PM

Thank you everyone for the input.

to answer all the questions:

- we manufacture retail food products, all quite "low risk". We are a small company so everything is done in fairly small batches/lot, with lot numbers and sub lots running on small quantities only.

 

- i have run traceabiltiy exercises as part of our yearly "mock recall" and each time it was a disaster: for instance, for one product for which we had manufactured 1000 units of a given lot, we would have records for 2400 units of this lot sold, because they (shipping in receiving in our other facility) made mistakes in receiving the product from us and confirming orders going out to customers.

In other instances, it would be the opposite: for 1000 units produced, we could trace 200, and the rest was just written off inventory because it was not physically present and we have no idea where it went (probable send out and recorded under another lot number).

 

I have explained at length the importance of keeping exact records, event brought up data on the cost of a recall, but I don't think I am getting through to anyone.

I can't train the shipping department myself because I do not know how to do what they do. And the shipping department in the facility where I am at is doing their job just fine, and even with efforts in training the guys at the other facilities, we still have huge issues in coherence of numbers, which at this point I am blaming on a lack of effort and attention to detail.

 

I offered to work with supervisors over there in developing procedures so I can make sure they (the procedures) cover the QA aspect of traceability (and not just an accounting aspect of quantities ordered and billed), but I am getting a lot of pushback from the supervisors (who are very new to the company and have not worked with food before)

I think they see me as meddling in their departments, when all I really want is to have a solid Traceability procedure in order to respect the law...


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