Auditing is a critical piece of creating a safe food supply, but traditional auditing methods leave suppliers and processors open to higher risk as supply chains become more complex. Kari Hensien, RizePoint President, talks about how to augment or adapt auditing processes to create a safer, more effective program.
Q: Why would a company think about changing auditing methods if their current process is working well?
Kari Hensien: Simply put, you don’t know what you don’t know. Many companies believe they have a strong auditing program because they have not yet seen a problem. However, that doesn’t mean that an unsafe or noncompliant behavior hasn’t happened, it only means that it hasn’t surfaced.
Problems may arise that are more difficult to catch in an audit. Factories are tired from repeating the same audit for multiple clients, auditors are exhausted from long days and doing the same work twice, and this type of audit fatigue can lead to audits being rushed or errors being introduced in data entry.
Companies have gotten comfortable with more manual auditing processes – clipboards, spreadsheets, binders – as they’ve evolved over several decades. Any change to the status quo will cause some degree of discomfort, so there’s an understandable reluctance to make a change without a major catalyst.
In this case though, the catalyst may not have been within a company, but rather changes to the industry the company operates in. Regulations are stronger than ever, supply chains have become more complex, and suppliers and brands are asking more questions about where their food comes from and how it’s processed. Further, standards bodies have begun the process of requiring digital audit submission for better tracking and that trend is likely to continue.
These changes are happening because manual or traditional auditing creates blind spots in the quality, safety, and risk management program.
Data collected manually is difficult to aggregate, which makes spotting trends difficult and delays catching potential issues before they become problems.
Manual audits create audit fatigue because results can’t be shared across certifying bodies or inspectors, and suppliers must complete the same audit for each customer.
Corrective actions become time consuming and difficult to track without automation.
Q: What options are available to strengthen audit programs?
Hensien: Companies should not have to give up an auditing program they like to adopt new technology. In fact, having a strong process is an advantage when looking to improve the process already in place. This means bringing in technology will be additive rather than disruptive.
Companies that are looking to modernize their quality and risk auditing programs have a variety of options. Digital auditing solutions run the gamut from simple online forms to full enterprise platforms. Here are some of the features companies may find in modern auditing solutions.
Digital auditing forms. These are one step above the manual process. Auditors can input data directly into the form and skip the step of then having to transcribe results.
Comprehensive reporting. Holistic, timely reporting is a key advantage of moving away from manual audits, and more enterprise quality management platforms will include it. A centralized data warehouse of audit data makes it easy for companies to have visibility into whatever matters most.
Data integration. For companies monitoring large supply chains, complex business structures, and external quality indicators, integrating multiple data sources gives a comprehensive look at the factors that contribute to quality and safety. Data integrations bring in information from partners, third-party auditors, and more to get a full view of critical information.
Automated corrective actions. Mistakes are inevitable, but how they are handled can make or break a business. Having corrective actions, and their follow up, automated when something is out of compliance takes the guesswork out of whether it’s been handled effectively.
What matters most is that any company looking to improve their existing model take the time to identify what risks exist and how new technology can help mitigate those. For example, not every company needs to bring in data from external sources. But if a standards body they work with recently began requiring digital audit submissions, then digital forms are a logical choice to avoid any audit-fatigue related errors when transcribing data into the submission portal.
Finding the capabilities available to reveal the blind spots that existed in the manual auditing process reduces the friction and fatigue in auditing. Administrators are able to better see and understand all parts of quality and safety management, auditors can spend more time thoughtfully working with those being auditing, and suppliers and factories can share digital audit results with multiple customers rather than repeating the same audit many times.
Learn more about how audit fatigue affects the effectiveness of quality and safety management programs, and how to fight audit fatigue in this free whitepaper.