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Does a site need a Technical Manager?


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#1 QCYFH

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Posted 29 April 2021 - 07:40 AM

Hi all. Does a site need a Technical Manager? The technical manager at our site has handed his notice in, and I fear he is not going to be replaced. He is (majorly) the head accountant and HR (daft i know) so I am sure they will get an accountant in to replace him, I'm also sure they will pass HR on to an existing staff member. I am QC, however I do actually do all the tech manager work, all the auditing, all the site management in terms of technical and quality, lead all audits, customer meetings etc. I find that I have minimal input from the technical manager and communication is minimal, BUT it is reassuring to have his knowledge / experience on the rare chance I have a question. So, will they have to employ a tech manager? or is the director and then myself as QC sufficient? 



#2 pHruit

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Posted 29 April 2021 - 08:38 AM

It's a difficult question to answer, as the nature of what a "Technical Manager" is will vary between businesses, and I can think of plenty of food businesses (including some fairly large ones) where no employees have this as their job title.

The key element is more about responsibility/knowledge/authority, IMO - i.e. who is responsible for the relevant food safety systems, practices etc, do they have the requisite knowledge to perform the role, and do they have the authority to make decisions and changes when required.

 

I terms of the "reassuring to have his knowledge" element, this is a natural part of being a human that does not have a politician-sized ego, IMO ;)

I've been a technical manager for quite a lot of years now, but recognising that there are plenty of things I don't know is key to being good at my job. Assuming you know everything, or that you'll always make the right decision every time, is a recipe for problems, based on a good number of examples I can think of but can't explain for contractual reasons. I'd argue that one of the important skills as a more senior technical person is recognising the deficiencies in one's own knowledge, and knowing where to look to do something about this.

 

Having the confidence to make decisions without the backup of a trusted mentor is certainly one of the more nerve-racking parts of progressing in your career, but it's something that can really only come with doing it. Just know that you won't always make the right call - no-one gets it right every time ;)

As a QC you should also always be aware that it is similarly ok to push a decision up the management chain, if you genuinely feel that you don't have full confidence/authority/knowledge to make it.

 

So, will they have to employ a tech manager? or is the director and then myself as QC sufficient? 

 

The answer to this question is a definitive "maybe".
If they aren't going to employ a technical manager (or someone in that type of role - whether they call them a QA Manager, QC Manage etc) then you'll want to make sure that responsibilities are clearly defined, that you're given the authority to do what's expected of you (for example, a robust debate with a production manager is sometimes easier if you're on equal footing with them in the management structure), and that you have the support to progress towards that role, if that's what you want and are expected to do.

By implication it seems that unless the Tech Director is going to become far more hands-on, you will necessarily be taking on more of what the tech manager was doing. Are they going to help with your professional development towards this? Are they going to pay you more for dealing with the increased responsibility and work load?



#3 QCYFH

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Posted 29 April 2021 - 09:22 AM

Thanks for this pHruit.  

 

Covid-19 actually gave me a real boost as i was kind of left to my own devices as all senior management worked from home, so i really learned a lot independently and gained confidence in myself and my decision making. I am confident i can do my role successfully without his input, but like i said it is reassuring. 

 

I wonder then, when it comes to plans and procedures etc., i get them signed off by the tech manager, now what would happen? The Director is trying to be less involved in these things and then that would leave me independently creating plans, schedules, assessments which is usually frowned upon. 

 

The director has a little QC background but other than that i will be the only one site with this knowledge, i will also then be the only qualified internal auditor. 

 

They certainly won't pay me enough to cover both areas! 



#4 pHruit

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Posted 29 April 2021 - 09:59 AM

I wonder then, when it comes to plans and procedures etc., i get them signed off by the tech manager, now what would happen? The Director is trying to be less involved in these things and then that would leave me independently creating plans, schedules, assessments which is usually frowned upon. 

 

The director has a little QC background but other than that i will be the only one site with this knowledge, i will also then be the only qualified internal auditor.

 

This is the inherent challenge with being a smaller business that wants to do things well. "Best practice" separation of auditor/topic, sign-off of new procedures by someone above the author etc can be nigh-on impossible as a solo technical person.

Creating these parts of systems in isolation isn't too terrible in the circumstances, but ideally your director would need to at least review them, provide feedback etc before they authorised them.

Auditing is more difficult, as whilst you can get people from other departments trained up (accounts people often have good attention to detail, and general familiarity with the concept of procedures ;) ) they will usually still lack relevant knowledge of the areas they're auditing, unless you and your employer spend more time/money training on HACCP etc. It might be more practical to bring in a consultant a few times a year, to do a day's focussed auditing for you on larger chunks of your internal audit schedule at a time - for example, rather than doing audits spread evenly through the year, have them in for a full day each quarter. (Assuming your risk assessment behind your audit schedule will support this...)

 

It does sound like your company may be leaving a somewhat awkward gap though, compared to the current setup, and I fear that this may leave you in a difficult position at times.
In this situation I'd look to get a meeting with your director, to talk through your concerns and explain the potential impacts this could have on the business. If they're a bit disconnected from the current technical side of things then they may have just seen the cost saving of not filling a vacancy, and not have fully realised that this could have a significant impact on e.g. BRC retention, and thus consequently on customer retention ;) (Also explain that you're not physically able to do all of the ex-TM's job and your own job, but keep in mind that customer retention = money, and IMEX this is often the strongest motivator for non-technical senior management...)



#5 TimG

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Posted 29 April 2021 - 01:18 PM

Good morning FoodSafety,

pH covered the possible responsibility gaps pretty well. Only thing I can chime in on is that I can't think of a standard that requires the Technical Manager job title. I've worked with SQF, AIB, SFSF, NSF water grades, USP excipients; none have required a 'Technical Manager' job title. Most do require responsibilities to be clearly defined, so you will have to make sure that gap gets filled for any quality/food safety responsibilities. Most standards stay away from specific job titles though, even the PCQI and SQF Practitioner don't have to hold that job title.






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