Quality Management: It’s More Than Just Compliance

When it comes to the topic of quality management, many people are quick to associate it with the ability to produce products within the confines of very particular specifications. This compliance-focused mindset makes sense in many cases, especially when discussing industries such as F&B that have close relations to consumer health and well-being. It’s important, though, to understand the benefits delivered by corporate quality strategies and technologies outside of compliance alone. For instance, by adopting enterprise quality management software (EQMS) functionalities that focus on optimizing end-to-end processes, many food processors are experiencing positive impacts to the bottom line through efficiencies and cost savings.

This post intends to highlight several ways EQMS functionalities and processes enable cost savings and process efficiencies across the value chain.

Benefits of Taking an EQMS-Based Approach to Quality

EQMS can be thought of as a hub for cross-functional communication and collaboration on quality issues originating from suppliers through service. It centralizes, streamlines, and standardizes quality process data and content from across the value chain, providing those responsible for making decisions with a holistic perspective that would otherwise be quite difficult to obtain.

Organizations using EQMS to manage quality are experiencing efficiencies and cost savings from the following:

Business Process Automation and Synchronization: EQMS automates traditionally manual and paper-based processes that are common across industries such as such as corrective and preventive action (CAPA), audit management, risk management, as well as those specific to food and beverage, including good manufacturing practices (GMP), hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP), recipe management, and labeling.

Following the CAPA example, the entire process can take place electronically, with routing, escalation, approvals, and resolutions all managed with one system. This process is not only more efficient, it enables global process efficiencies down the road, as corrective actions as well as preventive actions can be shared globally on the enterprise platform.

Interaction with Suppliers: The use of suppliers has been both a blessing and a curse for many food processors. In some cases, using the global supplier network improves operating margins, but it also warrants increased risk. EQMS can help to open up a line of communication to suppliers, often delivered through cloud-based technologies, that provides food processors with more visibility into upstream activities and data such as certificates of analysis. This line of communication can be used to prevent adverse events, protecting brand reputation and improving long-term profitability.

Closed-Loop Quality Processes: The closer to a customer a product issue is found, the more costly it is to an organization. By integrating traditionally standalone processes, EQMS delivers a closed-loop quality environment for sharing quality process data and content. Examples of closed-loop processes that are important for food and beverage processors include building customer complaints into the CAPA processes to identify issues more quickly and closer to their originating source.

Visibility into Key Performance Indicators: An initiative such as quality management requires a strong metrics program to monitor improvements and progress toward goals over time. By connecting and standardizing processes from across the value chain, data can be delivered to quality leaders in a way that’s easily consumable without requiring resource-intensive analyses. My colleague Mehul Shah recently wrote an article on this topic, highlighting the impact of EQMS functionalities on OEE performance. Organizations that leveraged EQMS considerably outperformed those that were not using the technology.

Many EQMS solutions today include strong business intelligence (BI) and analytics capabilities for doing just that. Such an approach can bring together enterprise data with quality data to help companies understand critical areas of importance for food and beverage processors, like product hold, customer complaints, or product quality issue by supplier, product type, manufacturing facility, and more.

Building on Compliance to Drive Business Value

For food processors, it’s likely that the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) will continue to impact and, in many respects, dictate quality management decisions in the coming years. One particular area of note concerns the use of next generation lot traceability methods. Companies will have to expand traceability and quality capabilities to ensure the safety of consumers.

Opportunistic companies may see such changes as a means to gain better control over end-to-end processes that deliver efficiencies and cost savings, not just the ability to manage compliance. With regulatory changes impending, it’s advisable that those responsible for quality management assess current technology capabilities to identify gaps in these end-to-end processes. In many cases, these gaps can be filled with EQMS.

Email: mike.roberts@lnsresearch.com

Twitter: @mp_roberts

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