InfinityQS in the Food & Beverage Industry: #6 Reducing Risk

Members of the Food & Beverage industry: Welcome to this, the sixth entry in a blog series created just for you. We InfinityQS quality experts will continue to write about quality in your manufacturing space, about solutions to your problems, about the challenges you face in mastering your particular quality issues…and how we (and InfinityQS software products) are here to help.
 
Today I’ll be discussing reducing risk in your manufacturing operations. Recent headlines hammer home the fact that maintaining food safety levels is key to Food & Beverage manufacturers. As such, it’s clear that conducting sanitation and compliance checks are a must-do in the manufacturing environment. InfinityQS quality software products make compliance and sanitation checks easy by eliminating paper-based checks. But that’s just the beginning. There’s so much more we can do for you.
 
Using InfinityQS quality intelligence software, Food & Beverage manufacturers can reduce risk and ensure continuous quality improvement throughout their operations.
Food Safety

InfinityQS Quality Intelligence Systems: Reducing Risk in So Many Ways

So, there are the aforementioned automated compliance checks. Then there are other important things like security, data integrity, real-time notifications (for things like spec violations), timed data collections, compliance with regulations, accountability, reducing (and eliminating) defects; the list could go on and on, but that’s enough for our purposes here. And InfinityQS quality intelligence systems can help with all of them.
 

Checks

Oftentimes, when I think of reducing risks in manufacturing processes, I think of the system that is being used—it can be paper, or spreadsheets, or even another quality system… and the resulting how sure are you of the data that you're looking at? That’s kind of what I hang my hat on. Because in the end, when you tally up all that you do and look at the results, can you confidently look at your data and know they are telling you the real story?
 
Let's say you're a manager and, right after an event you are required to report on it. So, you go into your quality system and you start looking at results. One of the first “foundational” things I would think about in this situation is this: Were those numbers actually entered by the person whose name is next to them?
 
Let’s face it, doing checks on paper is fraught with error, screaming out for someone to fudge the numbers. What’s to stop someone from filling in those checks and putting your name down next to them? And I’m not talking about deceit here, or anything underhanded. It could be as innocuous as a worker going on break and asking a co-worker, “Can you fill in my checks for me?” In many cases, management is okay with this sort of thing. Maybe it’s just that the system in place requires you to pick your name from a list. Anyone can pick any name. Not good.
Food Manufacturing - Paper Checks 
It’s just so easy to step around something like that. Checks are important. They should be treated as such. They should be considered what they are: essential to reducing risk in your operations. But you can see that this type of situation is not very secure. It’s not very reliable.
 

Security

One obvious way around such fudging is with username and password logins. That way, when a manager sees an operator’s name next to a check, they know that “Operator A” performed that check. Period. No questions.
 
And security should go beyond just what’s required for checks. Passwords and logins are part of everyday modern life. They should be adhered to and enforced in your quality system. For instance, to save time, an organization might want to allow employees to have short, easy to remember (and enter) passwords—wouldn’t it be great to just walk up to the keyboard and strike “A” and be in the system? Sure, but that’s how problems start. So naturally, secure passwords should have minimum numbers, letters, and special characters. That’s the robustness that your quality system should offer for logging in. That’s where InfinityQS quality software systems live.
 
Never compromise on security to save a few seconds. The risk isn’t worth the meager reward.
 

Data Integrity

Data you can trust is invaluable. With a paper-based system, you can’t possibly trust the results, because you constantly run into things like this: the number entered is 23.7; or is it supposed to be 2.37? Which is it? One of those numbers is cause for concern, but you can’t be sure because it’s so easy to misplace something small like a decimal point.
 
Or let’s say 2.37 was the correct input and it’s just a terrible value. Your quality system (and InfinityQS systems are great at this) should tell you something is amiss. Your system should generate an event for a value that is clearly off, or out-of-spec. Every single time. And, if you configured notifications (automated alerts—see below), you know that the right people will be notified of this value. Ideally you’re using some of the statistical rules, so you end up catching issues before they really affect your production.
Food Manufacturing Data Integrity

Real-time Notifications

Going back to our “23.7 vs. 2.37” dilemma… that’s a great example of when a user needs a real-time notification. It was triggered by a value that fell outside of the specifications. This is a great risk reducer. It becomes the baseline, or standard operating procedure (SOP), for your operations. When a value that falls outside your range of acceptability is generated, you’re notified, your manager is notified, and people who fix such issues are notified.
 
Every hour you’re checking the fill weight, or the taste, or the odor, or the appearance, or some other detail. And the more time that passes, the more subpar product is created. Catching issues before it means an entire shift’s work is destined for the scrap-heap is worth the effort.
 
Further, this product won’t go out the door to your customers and may trigger additional inspections, etc. Risk minimized.
 
When you consistently respond to deviations in this manner, your processes become honed—think of a well-oiled machine—and issues become less and less frequent. That’s continuous improvement. And that’s a goal to strive for.
Food & Beverage Manufacturing

Timed Data Collections

Another risk reducer is timed data collections. As the example above emphasizes, taking those measurements—making that timed data collection—on a regular schedule is critical. It’s a great way to avoid a big problem.
 
Robust quality intelligence software, like Enact® and ProFicient™ here at InfinityQS, ensures that you keep timed data collections well in hand. Were any data collections late? Missed completely? What shift? What operator? This is information you need to know.
 
Let's say you're supposed to do a check every hour for your entire shift. Let's just say you're supposed to do them around the top of the hour. 7:00 AM, the check was good. 8:00 AM, the check was good. 9:00 AM, the check was good. Did they really do those checks at exactly “seven zero zero” and “eight zero zero” and “nine zero zero?” Probably not. And that may or may not be a big deal to them. In some places, for many Food & Beverage manufacturers, it is. Precision is essential. 
 

Compliance

In general, good quality software helps you understand if you're doing everything you say you're doing, when you say you’re doing it. And some of those things are regulated—for instance, when you are required to prove that you're checking for metal in your food products, or switch the line for adding peanuts, or other big tasks like these, which can make or break a business.
 
You have to trust your processes and trust your people. And, of course, we endorse trusting your people, but there can also be legitimate reasons that things don't happen. Right? Maybe the person was supposed to take their check, but there was a problem on another line that they had to go tend to. What if they were tending to that issue for 2 or 3 hours? Is performing 2 or 3 “catch up checks” after the fact as important as having those 2 or 3 hourly checks on time? It isn’t.
 
Having software that enforces accountability means that the check occurs, and if it doesn’t it is recorded as such. Risks are thereby reduced; management knows what’s going on.
 
They may learn that at certain times there is a need for more staff. (Otherwise, why would someone need to leave their area of responsibility to put out a fire somewhere else when they have a check coming up? Right?) Or maybe they learn of a need for increased machine maintenance, operator training, etc.
 
The point is that good software can help you understand how things are working on your lines, where you need improvements, where you need help, and where things are working well—which you can turn into best practices elsewhere in your operations. Not only is good quality software a risk mitigation tool, it’s just good business.
Food Manufacturing Quality Checks

Reducing (and Eliminating) Defects

A great way to reduce, or eliminate, defects in your production is by utilizing event workflows. Our software has event workflows built in. This functionality enables operators, quality engineers, supervisors, and others to respond consistently and effectively to process- and product-related events.
 
In a nutshell, event workflows capture valuable contextual information that can be used by anyone in your organization to better manage or prevent similar events in the future. What action was taken after the problem occurred? What was the root cause of the problem? In short, event workflows are intended to give guidance and reduce confusion.
 
When there are data or timing violations (which often lead to defects) in your production, rules are in place that help your organization react in a timely, consistent manner, thus reducing mitigation time (and, ultimately, risk).
 
[For more on event workflows, and how they’re used in our quality software system Enact, please see my blog from earlier this year: Enact Workflow: for Compliance, Clarity, and Consistency.]
 

In Closing

Robust, proven quality software systems, like Enact and ProFicient from InfinityQS, can help you reduce risk in so many ways at your production facilities. We’ve covered a lot of ground in this blog, so let’s review some of the ways we’re reducing risk:
  • Are we confident we know who is collecting data? We are.
  • Do we know if users have robust passwords? We do.
  • Do we know the values received are accurate? We do.
  • Are we getting real-time notifications when there are issues? We are.
  • Are required checks being performed in a timely manner? They are.
  • Do we have the ability to understand causes and actions to help reduce defects? We do.
 
These questions should be asked of any quality system (including paper) to know where you stand. There are risks in everything we do, and we have to accept that there are tradeoffs with risk and the system(s) we use to mitigate it. What’s your current risk level and are you comfortable with it?
 
Take advantage of the technology at your fingertips today: contact one of our account managers (1.800.772.7978 or via our website) for more information.
 
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.
 
You can also read a previous entry in this series:
Eric Weisbrod
By Eric Weisbrod
Vice President, Product Management
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