Any given company can head to the Internet and read a plethora of articles about how to create a food quality culture. The Food Safety Moderation Act (FSMA) has laid the groundwork in sterile detail about what the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires from a fundamental standpoint. Tier one quality systems like Safe Quality Food (SQF) provide an organization a checklist of tasks which, if followed, will protect the company and consumers from physical adulteration and defend production procedures or processes. Validation and verification track and trace activities create a log, which in the event of an outbreak can be traced back to a specific action. But the question remains. What elements create a true quality culture?
Dairy farms and beverage companies understand that the number one contributor to production issues is the humans doing the tasks. A task can be an impersonal checked box on a clipboard, but a practical understanding of what the work represents is the key to changing a culture. Employees who have a list of tasks are prone to have an increased tendency to error, but when tasks are coupled with a genuine belief in the safety and the protection of consumers, the employees become advocates. In a short time, employee advocates become empowered front-line defenders of the company and public.
Investing in the development of the newly minted employee advocates is the road to excellence for a food producer or manufacturer. Farm and food processing employees see disconnects that may be oblivious to upper management. They are the eyes and ears of the production process on a granular level and have insights that may save the company from a recall in the future. A task driven employee will take a sample from silo via an un-sanitized petcock. An empowered employee advocate will recommend installing an aseptic access point to avoid possibly contaminating the product.
When you empower and train your staff to make quality-related decisions based on macro-level thinking and understanding, you can genuinely say that you have a quality culture where everyone wins.