Our sister company (co-owned by our owners) is staffed only by two owners and one production employee, and we're on track for an SQF audit in July. Looks like I'll be divided between both as a Quality Supervisor function, but that has yet to be determined as we upgrade their FS-QMS. So the amount of employees isn't necessarily a bad thing, as long as you document what each role is responsible for handling. A thoughts responding to your questions:
"...basic HACCP knowledge."
Whomever you designate as your SQF practitioner must have a HACCP certification. If that's what you meant, then you're good there.
Yes, I have taken HACCP courses and am currently doing a food safety cert. So that should help.
"...we have grade level loading instead of dock loading?"
Grade level as in forklift is on the same surface as the trailer and can't drive inside? Does that mean the truck enters your facility, or do you have to drive outside to load them? Some method of preventing contamination would be required there, kind of a pain too... (if it goes outside, do you stop loading when it rains/snows?)
The truck does not enter our facility, but we move the forklift out a few feet to get the load off the truck, and bring it back into the facility. We are looking to put an awning up above the bay door to account for the snow/rain.
"How should we deal with HACCP team requirements and trained designate etc?"
Deal with it by implementing one. This can be as simple as documenting who handles your HACCP currently. SQF is big on management commitment, so make sure you have a document that shows your HACCP Team is made up of various people (could be all 5 of you), and explain what is covered when you meet to review your HACCP.
"We have automated temperature loggers on all coolers/freezers with notification/alarm when out of spec. How can we "verify" these? Should they be checked daily?"
This gets a little bit above my realm of experience, but you should have a procedure to show that they are somehow monitored (especially if product is compromised by failure). In our sister business, we deal with sterilization in a large chamber with various probes to monitor the heat. Temps are recorded every minute, and everything happens automatically (machine heats up to required temp for required amount of time before shutdown). An alarm/alert will sound if there is a problem. But as a part of HACCP, someone still needs to review those logs and ensure things happened the way the are supposed to happen. It's something the owner already does, but we are creating a document so he can sign off and prove he does it. Which leads me to...
Sometimes I get worried that the paperwork is going to become a fulltime job, and take away from actual production and other responsibilities. It's not that I mind doing it, but that we are a family business and we all have every responsibility. I'm hoping that printing the data sheets once per day and verifying and checking should be good, and daily checking the temps visually and marking it on a sheet on the wall should suffice.
"Suggestions for best minimizing paperwork load?"
In the words of our SQF auditors (yes, two of them), "If it's not documented, it didn't happen." Period, end of story. In the pre-assessment we paid for, the consultant used the term "village knowledge", as in procedures or the way you do things that everyone simply knows and isn't really written down anywhere. Village knowledge is bad. Village knowledge can't be verified. Village knowledge might differ from one person to another, and everyone might be trained to a different standard (because you can't prove the standard they were trained to). As the auditors go through SQF Code, item by item, they'll ask you how you meet that requirement. Take pest control, where you have someone monitor whatever traps you have setup. He "knows" to go check the traps every Tuesday. Great, now where's the procedure? And where's the log to show what he discovered? Not really a way to minimize paperwork, you need whatever is needed to meet the requirement.
This makes sense. I like the "village knowledge" analogy. Being a smaller family business, this is what it was like about 5 or so years ago. We've been adapting and changing and evolving over the last few years.
Anyway, just some thoughts. I'm not an expert but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express at once point. haha