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Paperwork: Why is it so hard for the operators to fill out correctly?

Posted by Mr. Incognito, 26 January 2015 · 20,803 views

paperwork documentation Mr I.
So for 14 months, since I started at my position, I've had a very hard time getting our most important paperwork filled out correctly and completely. We discussed it over meetings, we changed documentation to make it easier, we talked with the operators many times about it and yet it never got better.

Documentation is something that is hard for quality professionals to talk about because it is something that is fundamentally important to food safety and all of the food safety standards. Without complete, accurate, and legible documentations saved as records we know that it can be very difficult to achieve and maintain a GFSI standard. Even admitting publicly that you have a documentation issue is something that food safety professionals are afraid to do. But we all know it's something that we think about on a daily basis if it's an issue at our facilities.

So back to my story. After just over a year of fighting with the employees and trying to get them to fill out the paperwork correctly I had finally had enough. At a meeting with the Manager and Superintendent at our facility I suggested a new course of action and they agreed that something new had to be done. My plan was to use threats and public shame.

At a meeting last month in December I brought up the subject of paperwork again and explained to them that their inability to properly fill out and verify the documents in question was unacceptable and that while we had talk about it at many training sessions and even after we revised the document to even have direct instructions they were still not being filled out right and it was going to end. I showed them the statistics on how often the paperwork was filled out correctly with some of the percentages in the lower 90's and that is when I sprung my plan into action.

I stated that no longer was this going to be how we did business. I explained to them that I was starting the year of documentation and that if they didn't fill something properly I was going to post their mistake all over the break room so they would see it on every wall while they were in there. Then I sat back and waited.

I review all of our cleaning weekly and CCP documents daily. Every single one of them go through me. I had saved our collective backsides before by noticing any mistake, acknowledging them on the bottom of the page and initialing them, and then bringing them to the food safety team for review and action. Near the end of December we had one of our CCP sheets missing a piece of information on one of the checks so I sprung into action. I wrote a notice about WHO performed the check, WHAT they did wrong, and HOW it would affect us. Then I made copies and posted them all over the break room.

By calling out the employee directly they had nothing to hide behind. Everyone could see the mistake they made. However I believe it also kicked in a self preservation instinct because so far, knock on wood, there have been no mistakes on CCP sheets since then.

Of course before you start a public shame campaign make sure you try the other things first. Retrain, ask questions on why things aren't being filled out properly, revise the form if there are issues with it, make sure your ducks are in a row, then if all else fails this could be another step.

I can't say this method will work for everyone but I know that there are others that are in the same boat as I have been in. This could be a method that will help someone else stop the paperwork nightmare.

Good luck!

Mr. I :doctor:

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It's a bit drastic Mr I, but whatever works for you.  I had similar issues, I think everyone does.  After much training it didn't really get any better, so I made a little audit team and there job was to audit only production records on the shop floor on a rota basis.  The audit would consist of the auditor observing the operator carrying out the checks and filling in the records.  NC's were logged.  We saw a dramatic reduction in problems as the HOD's and Supervisors started to take more ownership and began checking themselves and the operators responded.  It helped to train, identify and remove some confusions about the what and why of certain checks and it also helped to streamline and improve the checks and paperwork.  A big plus all round.




I'm pleased to see you created a blog and great first post. :clap:




Another great topic for a blog...now onto scribbling and using white out.

That does seem a bit extreme, I wish we could do that here, it may help, but I think for a facility like mine it may just lead to employees quitting or trying to file a lawsuit or something (What a bunch of babies!)


We've also tried revising forms, re-training, babysitting and hand-holding, but we still have issues. I've noticed different causes and they are both hard to swallow. 1)Huge turnover, lots of newbies -> lack of standardized training (tribal methods of learning)  2) Employee / Management Commitment. The ones that do know how to do them right just don't care, and likewise, don't care about the consequences. 


I've been fighting this since I took on my position as well. It's like "You have ONE piece of paper to fill out today, you think you could actually look at it before your scribble all over it or let it get soaked? Thhhhaaannkksss...."


This year my BIGGEST project is document management. Getting the docs solid for use (accurate info) and getting them to complete them correctly and timely. Part of this was really looking at our system and cutting the fat out, another part (the implementation phase) is going to be having to get people on board with this and give them no option of doing it wrong. While I haven't figured out how (and maybe public shaming could work to a degree) I need to make it happen, I hate to say that I am glad to see others struggling with this, but at least I know Im not going it alone.




Oh and BTW,  Well done Mr. I     ;)

I've found public shaming is great for hand washing.   No one wants to be that guy.  I don't know if they would feel as bad about not completing paperwork though.


Something I've had work is - going up to them, asking what day it is, saying "Oh, it can't be the 17th, the daily ____ form for the 17th isn't filed out, and I know you wouldn't start running without it" and then standing there while they fill it out.   Every day.  Then weekly.  Then monthly.  If you care, they will.  But that's a really hard thing to do in a large factory, or if you're the only QA and there's more than one shift.

I managed a screening laboratory that moved into GLP.  Imagine GMP on steroids, but more mellow than pharmaceutical regulations.


Science people are some of the worst when it comes to documentation and resistance to change.  It's a fight to pry the whiteout and colored markers out of their hands.  We did training over and over, made little cards to put up on their lab bench with the approved abbreviations, sent any incorrect paperwork back for them to correct and initial, and just nagged them at the fortnightly lab meetings.


Eventually, it changed.  They got tired of all the one lines and initial/dates they had to do, and it became less of a chore to do it right than to do it wrong.  I think that's the key, making it a pain to not comply, and making it easy and rewarding to comply.


Good luck, you've got a long road to travel.

Although not in the same setting as you, I've gotten a taste of this issue.  It's very frustrating and energy-consuming when dealing with all the paperwork and being responsible for getting all ducks in a row... when you're actually bunny chasing.  


As a software provider, I've had to manually go through client spreadsheets and organize them to import into our software.  I can't tell you how amazed I was by how inconsistent the data was entered.  One tech name was entered a million different ways: jd, janed, jdoe, jane, doe, etc.  Or test results for say coliform would say 0, neg, absent, p, present, -, +.  I mean, yes as long as you know what they mean, that used to be good enough.  But how on earth do you chart that?  There is no other way than fixing each field to make it consistent so the data can be analyzed.  I'm not even going to mention how much of the data was either incomplete or duplicated by accident (without noting). 


I experience it from a different angle.  Nevertheless, it is great to hear you've found a strategy.  Yes, it is a bit drastic, but everybody involved are adults.  They have gotten so many chances to correct their behavior.  I understand employees in that area are not very committed, however, asking for quality job is no shame.  

If you're employees are not completing the required paperwork, then write up and employee incident report for insubordination -- have them read it and sign it.  That could be a teachable moment.  If its not documented, it never happened.  They didn't document their SOPs means they didn't do it.  Document their insubordination -- otherwise excuses for not keeping their records will continue.

I was watch an FDA video.  In the background the manager has a poster on the wall.  The poster stated, 'If you didn't have time to do it right the first time, what makes you think that you have the time to do it a second time."

I suppose there is no way to edit a comment.  I meant that I was watching an FDA video a while back.  Another thing is terrible handwriting.  Sometimes, I don't if there are fours or nines.   I had to re-invent the quality checks to put an 'X' under the defect and put a check under other things that were done.  That is much better.  This way it actually charts the defects while in process.  My brain was like mush when I finished reviewing the paperwork.  Write-overs are horrible.  I send out a mass email to all supervisors and managers, and keep sending until it is completed.  It is  really like a form email.  


It took at least a year to get rid of pencils, white-out, and multi-colored pens.  They can either use black or blue.  I use red from time to time to circle any out of spec results.  I had one meeting after another.  Then finally, I just would go to the "documentation violators" personally and explain what is wrong, show them how to fix it, and then let them to the rest.  In addition, I would give them a chart of the wrong way and the right way, and make them sign for it.  I would make a copy for myself, give a copy to the supervisor, department manager, and turn the original to human resources.


I get paid to report those types of things.  I do audits on the paperwork as well as the procedure and how effectively the directions are followed.  I give them one week to correct.  I do follow-up as well.  If it is still not corrected, then the completed report goes to the Quality Manager and to the Plant Manager.


I hope this helps you.

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