I recently listened to a great webinar by TraceGains, about BRC top non-conformances, and how to avoid them. The speaker gave really practical tips. He was clearly on the food manufacturers’ side to ‘get it right’, and avoid hold-ups and costs incurred by failing an audit.

Here are the 3 main points I got from it.

1. Work as a team

Day in day out, everyone needs to work as a team. If a certain supplier has not met the required standards, do purchasing know about this, so they don’t re-order from this supplier?

Is each department pulling the same rope in the same direction? That is, if quality are tasked with ensuring top-quality products, and purchasing are tasked with getting the best deals from suppliers …. is there a risk of purchasing getting poor quality supplies, hence meeting their target, but making it harder for quality?

It’s probably a culture issue. Does the company have a culture of ‘each team looks after their own’, or do we take collective responsibility for the company’s success, including working at the expected standard?

But it’s also a communication issue. Do individuals responsible for different aspects (e.g. operations, stock, quality) meet regularly, to make sure they are all on the same page? Good communication helps iron out problems early on, before they escalate and become very costly for the business, in terms of stoppages.

2. Get to the root causes

It’s good that, during regular internal audits, you fix what’s wrong. But do you analyze why it’s wrong in the first place? If you don’t, then the same issue will come up again and again.

Maybe there is a door that should be closed to avoid cross-contamination, but it is regularly found open. Do you investigate if it’s because the hinges are broken, or the temperature in the room is too high and people don’t want to work in the heat?

Identifying the root causes is crucial. Even more critical is addressing them in a way that ensures the breach does not happen again. In our example, you might need to fix the door hinges, or ensure there is adequate sickness cover in the maintenance team. It’s also helpful to analyse the root causes, to see if there is a pattern. Maybe a pattern of people not taking responsibility for their jobs, or of policies not being communicated effectively.

3. Don’t rely on ‘bits of paper’ to get you through the audit!

This is particularly crucial if you get unannounced audits, as you need to be ‘always prepared’. So, working 20 hour days the week of the audit won’t solve anything, as you won’t know when you are being audited! And in the stress of an important audit, the last thing you want to do is to be leafing through folders and opening an array of spreadsheets.

It’s paramount that you maintain good records as you go along. In a small business, shared drives and spreadsheets etc are helpful. As the business grows, accumulating more data, you will need to adapt your systems.

Use a data management solution to make sure that all relevant information is easily captured, stored, and accessed. So, on audit day, everything is available at the click of a button.

Remember that passing audits is not only about doing the right thing, but also about being able to evidence that you have done the right thing.

What can you do now?

There are my main points. Why don’t you listen to the webinar and let me know what struck you?

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