InfinityQS in the Food & Beverage Industry: #2 Changeover Checklists

Members of the Food & Beverage industry: this is the second entry in a blog series created just for you. We quality experts, here at InfinityQS, will continue over the next few weeks to write about quality in your manufacturing space, about solutions to all your problems, about the challenges you face in mastering your particular quality issues…and how we are here to help.
 
There are always stories in the news about contaminants and allergens, and these things often creep in when a line is being transitioned from one state to another. Many clients call this changeover, and it can have several different meanings. The line may be changing from idle to running, from running one product to another, from running one type of product to another, etc. Changeovers can be tricky…and they can cost your company a lot when they don’t go right. We need a hypothetical situation around which to center our discussion. Let’s go with potato chips to begin with…
Food and Beverage Manufacturing

Push All Your Chips into the Middle of the Table

So, you’re changing over your production line; you're going from one product, say regular potato chips, to making a sour cream and onion version. Maybe you’re changing the oil that you’re using. Or maybe you’re going from potato chips to corn chips. Or, and here’s the kicker, about which I’ve been reading so much, you’re going from something that has an allergen in it to something that doesn't (or vice versa).
 
This is really important for Food & Beverage manufacturers because that's where you can get into trouble—with cross-contamination of things like allergens. And particularly with today’s heightened sensitivity to allergens, right? (According to Health Day, 4% of Americans suffer from food allergies.) Like nuts or eggs or shellfish. It’s a brave, or should I say scary, new world. According to Baking Business, the top reason for food manufacturing recalls is putting the wrong product in a package or an incorrect label on a package.
 
The impact on the manufacturing line is this: to what level do you need to prepare your line for this change? Let’s continue on with the chip analogy.
 

There are Times When You Just Don’t Need to Sweat It

So, in the example that I started with, let's just say you’re making sea salt potato chips. And you’re putting them in giant party-sized bags. For the upcoming run, you need to put them in family-sized bags. Right, so just a different bag size. So, the only real changeover need is to swap out the roll of packaging, right? So, you’re no longer using the party-sized bags and you’re using the family-sized bags. You ask yourself something like: “Did I check the setting on my filler to move from 16 oz of chips to 12 oz?” Something like that.
 
And other than that, not a big deal, right? No sweat. Everything before that is the same. You’re using the same potatoes. Frying them the same way. Putting the same seasoning on. And so, it's really just at the end packaging. So, from a changeover perspective, that is a pretty minimal impact.
 

…And Times When You Do

Contrast that with the following: you’re making trail mix with peanuts and cashews and raisins and little chocolate pieces. You need to switch production to make a peanut-free version. So, it still has the cashews, raisins, and chocolate pieces, but the new run doesn't have peanuts. You want to be able to put “Peanut-Free” on the label.
 
Well in order to do that, you need a few things on your changeover checklist:
  1. Make sure you have the right package set up and ready to go.
  2. Be very careful that there is not a single peanut on the production line.
  3. Scrub and sterilize the line to make sure there is no peanut dust. Anything to do with those peanuts on there needs to be taken care of.
  4. All of the other things that are needed for any run: safety guards in place, correct recipe loaded, maintenance tools cleared off the line, first product checks and adjustments, etc.
 
A checklist is the only way to manage a changeover. And there’s just no sense in relying on a paper checklist that can be fudged. Software, to the rescue!
Food & Beverage Manufacturing

Checklist Heaven

So, what’s so great about a checklist? In our experience, everything.
 
First of all, it’s important for me to say that I am astounded at how many Food & Beverage manufacturers and restaurants do their checklists with paper and pencil. They’re easy to create, flexible to use, a bear to store/retrieve, and easy to “pencil whip” – that’s a recipe (no pun intended) for disaster. Absurd. As my colleague Doug Fair, InfinityQS COO, discusses in his Mastering Quality learning blog series, data can easily be transposed or misread or illegible (or lost), and storing and maintaining an entire system of paper can be very costly.   
 
Furthermore, if you’re in this industry to any extent—whether it’s serving hot food to a hungry public or manufacturing tasty treats in a factory—you are most likely doing some form of statistical process control (SPC) to help with quality assurance and look for process improvements.
 
You’re already doing multiple checks—sanitation, HACCP (Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points), metal detectors, and more—and various forms of data collection with an SPC tool of some sort. Why would you not do everything in one tool? You can cross off multiple applications and all the servers and databases you need to perform all your various checks and collections by using a single SPC source: InfinityQS software.
 

Our Take on Checklists

Clean this, fix that, change this, change that, turn this knob, flip that switch, and then clean this also. Changeover checklists can be endless sometimes…you can see why it’s easy to forget an item. InfinityQS quality solutions ProFicient™ and Enact® take the guesswork out of checklists.
 
And it goes beyond just creating the checklist, there’s making sure you’re performing the correct checks at the correct time. When you set up a system that understands your expectations of what should be done (and when), then you can focus on dealing with the exceptions. That’s the biggest payback for using a quality solution for your checklists – you know they’re being done because you get notified when they aren’t and can look at all of your results (if needed for reviews or audits) from a centralized system.
 
The whole point of checklists is to ensure safety and/or sanitation, right? So why leave that to human error?
 
InfinityQS checklists can ensure that everything is done before the switch is flipped to turn the trail mix with peanuts line into a trail mix with no peanuts line.
ProFicient Checklist  Enact Checklist
Changeover checklists from ProFicient (left) and Enact (right)

Closing

Well, those are my thoughts on changeover checklist issues and solutions. I thought since I’ve been reading news stories that could have likely been prevented by them, I might as well discuss them. They can be tricky…and they can cost your company a lot when they don’t go right. Don’t let that happen to you; employ an InfinityQS quality solution to take the chance that something might be forgotten out of the equation.
 
So, Food & Beverage industry members: please return to this blog section of the InfinityQS website to see the next entry in this series designed just for you.
 
Next up: Doug Fair, InfinityQS COO, discusses Fill Line (please check back next week).
 
Or, read a previous entry:
Eric Weisbrod
By Eric Weisbrod
Vice President, Product Management
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