The Inspectors Are Coming! Are You Ready?
Is there a frenzy in your production plant the day before the audit? Are you putting in un-paid overtime hours to get things ready for the audit, hoping everything is perfect so you will not lose points? After all that preparation, do you still feel like the auditor is on a witch-hunt? If you answer yes to any of these questions, you are not alone.
First, it’s human nature to leave things to the last minute, or at least until the urgency is imminent. Secondly, the typical day in a production environment is spent “fighting fires,” in other words, reacting to equipment failures, product quality or compliance issues, employee absenteeism, etc., which leaves little to no time for preparation preceding an audit. A last-minute effort is often a poor effort and a skilled auditor can often see through the façade, resulting in a list of deficiencies on the audit report, usually for items that could have been avoided.
As an auditor, who carried a heavy stick, able to press charges for non-compliance with governed legislation, I know how daunting my appearance at a facility could be. From the nervous smile to the clammy handshake and the rambling words of small talk, it is a sign that the client is uncomfortable with this process. Well, of course they are.
So, how do you avoid this anxiety? Stop imagining all the what-if scenarios, put on your best appearance, and welcome the auditor as an opportunity to display your strengths. A facility should be audit-ready every day. That means there is an inherent culture towards a systematic approach for procedures and practices that align with food safety. This is not a quick fix but it is definitely the most cost effective. Auditors recognize the difference between a recent incident and cumulative neglect.
Another approach is to prepare several weeks in advance of the scheduled inspection. Create a list of all the items and resources needed and diligently assign tasks and responsibilities for getting things ready, long in advance. Schedule weekly meetings to go over the completed items and verify that requirements are completed to the specified level of accuracy. In other words, double check. As for the probing auditor….well, I always welcomed this. It is a fresh pair of eyes that can point out hidden sources of problems and provide opportunities for greater improvement.
About the Author
Joan Martino is CEO of Quality Supply Chain, a company that provides simplified solutions to address regulatory compliance, supply chain initiatives and audit requirements for multiple industry sectors including food manufacturers, hospitality, retail, warehousing, packaging and equipment suppliers. She has also helped many leading US and Canadian companies integrate their systems with HACCP, GFSI and FSMA requirements.
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Categories: Regulatory Compliance