A Focus on Quality – CAQ Software and Food Safety
The food industry serves as a prime example for showcasing the need for consistent quality, as consumers need to be convinced of purchasing a product over and over again. Consumers look for products that provide good value for money, are high-grade, and safe: nowhere else does the quality of a product serve as such a crystal-clear decision criterion as in the foodstuffs business. It therefore comes as no surprise that our everyday food is also probably one of the most strictly controlled products in circulation. The British Retail Consortium, GMP, FDA, ISO 22000, and the IFS Food Standard (IFS) are only a few of the international rules and regulations that apply in the foodstuffs industry. Our modular quality management software solutions provide the perfect toolset with which to put a food safety mindset into practice and improve, document, and uphold the quality of products and thus comply with said rules and regulations.
The IFS Food Standard
Currently still in version 6.1, IFS Food is a standard for the auditing of companies that process food or companies that pack loose food products. IFS Food is applied everywhere where the product is "processed or handled", or if there is a danger of product contamination during primary packaging. Currently virtually all food producers that supply retailers and wholesalers with products are included in the scope of IFS. IFS Food along with IFS Logistics and IFS PACsecure are standards recognized by the GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative).
A Fully Digitalized Solution
IFS requires that a vast variety of quality measures are put into place, managed, and documented. Maintaining these measures, however, is difficult with pen and paper alone. This is where the CAQ.Net® software solutions come into play, as they offer a whole host of functions in order to improve, document, and uphold the quality of products and thus directly assist IFS-compliance. The following areas provide a small overview of the correlations between IFS and the individual CAQ.Net® modules and highlight the advantages achieved by switching from a paper-based system to a fully digitalized CAQ.Net® solution.
The HACCP Decision Tree
"Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points" (HACCP) is a risk analysis approach that is designed to prevent dangers within the context of food production, packaging, and handling that may lead to consumer illness or injury. HACCP is, amongst other, an integral part of the ISO 22000 standard and chapter 2.2.1 "HACCP-System" of IFS Food. The so-called Critical Control Points are key elements of HACCP. They are points along the production or handling chain that are of particular importance, as this is where food safety risks can be prevented, terminated, or lowered to an acceptable level. A HACCP “Decision Tree” is used in order to identify said CCPs. This type of risk analysis shows whether a point in a process is a CCP, whether an Operational Prerequisite Program (oPRP) should be applied there, or whether the point in the process indicates that the procedure or product needs to be altered. The Risk.Net risk management module in CAQ.Net® contains an ISO 22000 compliant HACCP decision tree in order to identify the aforementioned points. The user is thereby interactively guided through the 5 key questions that make up the question tree and need to be addressed for each product or product group, and every process-step where risks are identified.
Chapter 4.4 "Purchasing" requires that companies shall control their purchasing processes to ensure that all externally sourced materials and services, which have an impact on food safety and quality, conform to requirements. There shall furthermore be a procedure for approval and monitoring of suppliers (internal and external), outsourced production, or part of it. Said approval and monitoring procedure shall contain clear assessment criteria such as: audits, certificates of analysis, supplier reliability, and complaints, as well as required performance standards.
The seamless interconnection of the various CAQ.Net® modules facilitates comprehensive supplier management. In order to execute an expressive supplier management, it is necessary that one has direct access to all available data and can evaluate said data simultaneously. The clear advantages of the SRM.Net supplier management module lie in the fact that all data gathered that is relevant to the relationship between company and supplier – such as supplier self-evaluations, audits, complaints, CAPAs, risk-analyses or incoming goods inspections – can be analysed in one go and be used to achieve crystal clear supplier evaluations.
Amongst other aspects, IFS chapter 2 "Quality and Food Safety Management System" requires that the system for food safety and quality management shall be documented and implemented and a documented procedure shall exist for the control of documents and their amendments. Successfully fulfilling these requirements without running a streamlined document management system is simply unthinkable today, as the traceability, approval, and monitoring of documents are increasingly important factors – especially when dealing with audits or certifications. In the past, documents were generally distributed, archived, and confirmed in paper form. In the QBD.Net document management module, we have "live" electronic documents that offer unprecedented opportunities regarding revision management, electronic confirmation, and change tracking.
Chapter 5.8 "Management of Complaints from Authorities and Customers” requires that a system shall be in place for the management of product complaints and that complaints shall be analysed with a view to implementing preventive actions which avoid the recurrence of the non-conformity.
In addition, chapter 5.9 "Management of Incidents, Product Withdrawal, and Product Recall" states that a documented procedure shall be defined for management of incidents and of potential emergency situations that impact food safety, legality and quality. This is where the REM.Net service management module comes into play. The software provides support throughout the every-day complaint-workflow. For this purpose, 8D reports, Ishikawa diagrams, the 5-Why method, and many other functions are available during and after the processing of complaints in the company.
The List Goes On
The list of correlations between IFS and the individual CAQ.Net® modules goes on and on. IFS chapter 5.4 "Calibration, Adjustment and Checking of Measuring and Monitoring Devices" is managed via the gauge management module, chapter 5.6 "Product Analysis", and 4.14 "Receipt of Goods and Storage" via the quality inspection / LIMS module. There are also suitable CAQ.Net® solutions available for managing chapter 4.16 "Maintenance and Repair" or 1.2 "Corporate Structure" in shape of the maintenance management and process management modules respectively.
IFS 7: Ready for the Future
Companies in the foodstuffs industry today must grasp the advantages provided by digitalisation and software in order to keep up with the quality expectations of their customers, stay ahead of their competition, and adhere to ever-increasing quality assurance regulations. The CAQ.Net® quality management software solutions were developed with precisely these goals in mind and support companies around the globe to increase, monitor, and document the quality and safety of their products and thereby assist them on their journey toward quality excellence. This is also true in regard to the IFS revision, which has been postponed but is still pending. It is evident that many of the requirements and adjustments already contained in the draft, for example, regarding root cause analysis for corrective actions, traceability, action plans for risk minimization, or additional HACCP hazard analyses, will most likely require a more in-depth digitization of company processes and an increase in company-wide transparency of responsibilities and procedures.
Food Safety Culture
In the spirit of digital communication and collaboration, version 7 will ultimately call for the introduction of a food safety culture that should positively influence food safety attitudes and behaviours throughout the organization. In order to ensure that this food safety culture is not only taken note of by all employees, but is also lived by them, CAQ.Net® has web applications, which enable a continuously networked, decentralized, and paperless access to relevant company knowledge. In this way all relevant employees are directly involved and kept up to date so that they can effectively contribute to the implementation of a company-wide food safety culture.