> 10 Tips to Impress Food Auditors - The Food Safety Company 10 Tips to Impress Food Auditors - The Food Safety Company
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    Tuesday, 15 November 2016

    10 Tips to Impress Food Auditors

    A bad result during an audit can cripple a food manufacturing business in an instant, and poorly-received customer visits can have a severe detrimental effect on your brand and any future business. That certainly started on a bleak tone, but because of the aforementioned facts it is vital to ensure that your site, your staff and your self are adequately prepared for such an occurrence.

    Img source: Food Engineering Mag
    In order to help you prepare for your next audit or customer visit, we have compiled 10 top tips, tried-and-tested by our customers in the industry, to help you give the best impression possible. Let’s crack on!


    1. Always Audit-Ready

    Img source: mainstreet.com
    Nobody likes surprises, at least not in this industry, and the best way to avoid them is of course to prepare in advance. You won’t always know when an auditor or customer is going to pop up, so we’re talking here about perpetual preparation.

    Each staff member should know their exact role during an inspection, able to act upon the arrival of the auditor without the need to wait for instruction. This will help your business to come across as a well-oiled machine. To ensure that all members of staff know this routine, practice regularly. Key areas to focus on include shift changes and any staff likely to be questioned, such as your CCP monitor. In many cases, someone will simply falter during questioning due to nerves rather than any actual wrong-doing. Practice should get them used to the routine and more comfortable in such circumstances. Have a set procedure in place for unannounced visits, as these can often catch key staff members off-guard.

    You can also help your staff in a number of decidedly more subtle ways. Visual representations of procedures, requirements and standards will further ingrain said knowledge into their minds, as will performing your own audits on key areas. In order for your staff to work at peak performance, it is also important that they feel comfortable speaking to their colleagues should they fail to follow proper procedure.


    2. Dedicated Space

    Img source: asean-agrifood.org
    During any auditor or customer visit it is important that they feel welcome, rather than being treated as a hindrance. One of the most effective ways to do this is to assign a dedicated room to be used for such visits, or better yet, have space within your facility to allow separate rooms for all customers at all times. Hold all relevant documentation within this room, ensuring it is always on hand during an inspection; the worst thing for an auditor is waiting for evidence to arrive. Evidence should be ordered according to your agenda, which we will discuss in more detail later on.

    The room should include space for visitors to change into any necessary safety clothing, ensuring all requirements and standards for required equipment are clearly signposted. The room should also be reasonably close to the production area, but no so close as to disturb operation, with easy access to toilet facilities and refreshments.


    3. Customer Champions

    Customer champions are dedicated, key members of staff charged with fully understanding and ensuring adherence to a customer’s specific requirements and codes of practice. These ‘champions’ should be placed within all areas of your facility, from production to technical departments and the rest. Their job is to actively promote the customer’s needs, working with other staff members to see that these needs are catered to; beyond that, they should be constantly searching for room for improvement.


    4. Set an Agenda

    Waiting leads to frustration, that’s pretty much a universal fact, so for obvious reasons it is hugely beneficial to create a detailed agenda, and to ensure that the visit runs smoothly according to said agenda. Even though some visits will be unannounced, you can still have a general agenda in place. This should include clauses to be covered during the visit, as well as the people or department responsible for them. In the case of announced audits and visits, send this agenda out in advance; get you visitors’ agreement or agree any changes they require.


    5. Find out Sizes and Dietary Needs Prior to Visit

    This point goes back to making your visitors feel welcome, but as certain items of safety clothing and other PPE are a requirement in many facilities, this is also somewhat crucial in terms of health and safety. You must ensure that you have all necessary PPE, such as ear defenders, safety glasses and face masks, available on-site. Keep a database of frequent customers’ or auditors’ boot and coat sizes; where possible, provide them with their own set for use on site.

    It is also important to understand the specific dietary needs of any visitors; include this in the standard health questionnaire you should be asking all visitors to complete.


    6. Don’t Rush the Factory Tour

    Img source: Food Safety Magazine
    Attempting to rush the visiting auditor through the factory tour is always going to raise a few red flags in their mind. It suggests that you’re hiding something, and this will only make the auditor more inclined to slow down and ask questions, probing further into your daily operations. On the other hand, if something cannot be located or verified on the shop floor at that time, don’t waste time or rush to get answers; instead, ask for this evidence to be brought to you later and continue with the tour.

    If you do see something obviously wrong or out-of-place, don’t attempt to ignore or hide the issue. Instead, address it head-on, in full view of the auditor if you must. This way, the auditor (who will have spotted the same issue, just so you know) will see how you deal with such issues as they arise. Ignoring the issue shows a lack of compliance and will be noted as a non-conformity.


    7. Double-Check All Documentation

    This point is fairly basic, but nonetheless important and worthy of note here. Once documentation is handed over, it cannot be taken back for revision of mistakes. Said mistakes may well result in a non-conformity, so make sure you double-check all documentation prior to handing it over. This relatively quick, simple step could save you a lot of hassle down the line.


    8. Keep an Active Database of Non-Conformities

    Following an audit, it is absolutely vital that all non-conformities and required changes are properly documented, and acted upon at the nearest available opportunity. Customers and auditors alike will expect any corrective action to have at the very least begun by the time of their next visit, if not sooner. Ensure that all non-conformities and required changed are also communicated clearly to staff; if your customer should return to find that not only have the corrections not been made, but that your staff aren’t even aware of them, it’s going to look far from professional and could cost you substantially.


    9. Treat Each Audit/Visit as a Learning Curve

    We’ve all seen an episode of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares in which an overly arrogant, or oftentimes purely oblivious, restaurant owner will do all they can to deny to abundantly clear claims being made by a man who is, like him or not, a leading professional within the industry. We sit there wide-mouthed, unable to believe that they could be so blind to their own faults, so don’t be that guy when the auditor rolls around. It can be all too easy to get frustrated by criticism and to dismiss what you’re being told as incorrect, when in fact if you just listened you may learn something beneficial.

    Just because you have always done something a certain way, that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved upon. Take recommendations into account and consider implementing any potentially beneficial propositions.


    10. First Impressions Count!

    As with any encounter, the first impression you make can often set the tone for the entire meeting and its eventual outcome. In order to present yourself as best as possible, ensure all areas of your site, both inside and out, are clean and tidy.

    Security measures are also important here; if you outsource your security requirements to a third-party, ensure that they are aware of procedures for dealing with visitors. Common and costly mistakes include simple things like forgetting to request identification, not getting the visitor to complete a health questionnaire, and failing to ensure all outside doors are locked when not in use. Falling into these common traps could mean that you’re starting the audit with a few non-conformities already under your belt.


    Sam Bonson

    Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.
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    Item Reviewed: 10 Tips to Impress Food Auditors Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Food Safety Co
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