15 Aug 2023

Achieving a good result in a food safety audit is one of the key objectives of any food factory Technical or Quality Manager if they are on their journey to third-party certification. The factory task demo is a key element, so it must go well to get a good result in the overall audit.

In this blog, Intertek's UK Food Technical Consultant Heather Hayward draws on her 20 years of food manufacturing experience to bring you her tips on how to make sure the all-important factory floor task demonstration goes well on audit day.

Imagine it's audit day and you are the Technical/Quality Manager

The auditor strides across the factory towards Line 6 Leader Jane.  You take a sharp intake of breath. Your day took a turn for the worse at 9am when the unannounced auditor walked into your site. Now they've picked Jane to demonstrate a metal detector test. Why Jane?!

You had a super qualified and confident QA Supervisor loitering in the area ready to do this task if needed - but the auditor walked past him and made a beeline for Jane. She's visibly shaking as the auditor approaches. It's not from the cold work environment, but from the huge pressure mounting on her. She needs to pull off a perfect demonstration, in front of a stranger (the auditor) under the watchful gaze of the Technical and Operations Management team who are all staring intently - watching her every move.

You all hold your breath. The busy production hall falls into silence as Jane takes centre stage. She looks like she's going to cry at any moment ….and if this doesn't go well its likely you'll be in tears too.

Stop.  It doesn't have to be like this!!!

In the food industry we owe it to our factory floor staff to stop putting them under this level of stress. We know that the auditor will ask for a critical task to be demonstrated. It's an integral part of any food safety audit.

Proactive preparation for this event is key to boost everyone's confidence and improve compliance.

Three Tips for Proactive Audit

Preparation:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

  1. Procedures: Are your test procedures clear, straight forward, and easy to understand? The use of photos and clear straight forward language is key.  Has the operator got access to a copy of the procedure (document controlled) within the area where they are undertaking the task so that they can refer to it? If English isn't their first language, then has the procedure been translated?

  2. Practice, practice, practice.  Within many organisations there is a secret weapon at your disposal in the form of a team of hardworking office-based individuals who may have only visited the factory floor on their first day as part of their induction and have been office bound ever since.

    I'm talking about your finance and sales teams! Key non-factory facing personnel. Utilise this resource.  With a small amount of documented training & coaching, an overview of the procedure and a clear checklist of questions, this team can go and ask the line operators to demonstrate the task to them and report back their findings.

    This then enables you to not only address any identified training gaps, but also demonstrate competence testing and helps to build the operator's confidence with speaking to non-factory personnel.

    I have found that most finance team members love to get involved – it gives them a half hour break from staring at a computer screen and helps develop their own knowledge and relationships with the factory.

And finally, during the food safety audit itself:

  1. Remove the audience.  As unnatural as it may feel, step away during the test. Stop staring. Allow the member of staff and auditor some space. Show your shop floor colleague, and the auditor, that you have every confidence in their abilities.  

After all the preparation work you and the team have put in, this is your time to smile and relax.

Listen to Heather discuss this topic further in her podcast:

We're Here to Help

Intertek's food experts can help you navigate your products through the wealth of risks, regulations, and potential uncertainties around the world. We provide you with the confidence and assurance you need to help develop and launch food products onto market, mitigate risks, and keep your business running and continually improving. Our comprehensive portfolio of Business Assurance solutions includes auditing, inspection, and supply chain assurance, traceability, workforce training, and regulatory expertise to help with labelling requirements and new product development.

To learn more about how we can support your business, visit: https://www.intertek.com/food/

Heather Hayward Intertek headshot

Heather Hayward
Food Technical Consultant, Intertek UK

With over 20 years food manufacturing experience, Heather draws on her knowledge to support our clients through various projects ranging from supporting smaller suppliers to meet retailers' food manufacturing requirements, updating a specification management system for restaurants and retail outlet allergen audits to gap analysis work, desktop traceability audits and support in generating risk assessments, policies and procedures.