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Food Safety: The production versus quality dilemma

June 5, 2003
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Management needs to create a working environment where each group not only understands the role of the other, but also where they need to work together.



FOOD PLANT MANagers and operations directors need to create an atmosphere of cooperation and trust among the individual operating groups within the organization. This includes production, quality, shipping, customer service and any other operating groups. It is important that management makes sure that the quality and production staff is working in harmony. Why? Your products are why you are in business.

It is the responsibility of the quality staff to assure that a company’s products are manufactured within quality and safety standards. Sometimes the roles of each group seem to be at odds. One must produce enough to meet orders. Yet if the other does not approve the product for release, production can be “dinged” for not doing their job.

Harmonization

Management needs to create a working environment where each of these groups not only understands the role of the other, but also where they need to work together for the success of the company. Unfortunately, this does not happen in all cases, and companies end up with the production and quality groups in an adversarial relationship.

One of my past directors had the idea that his staff would function more efficiently if he created disharmony. He thought that by forcing arguments, problems would be solved more effectively. Bad idea! For example, the production manager once stated in a staff meeting that the production group was evaluated by the amount of product that was turned out, whereas the quality staff was evaluated on the amount of product placed on hold. It never dawned on the individual that placing product on hold was counterproductive, expensive and that the company goal was not only to produce, but also to produce to within established specifications.

Playing on the same team

How does management create an environment of coop- eration between the production and quality groups? The answer is education and teamwork. Management must get the message to the production and quality staff that they are on the same team. One of the ways this can be done is role reversal. Have the quality staff work production and the production people work in quality. This is being done by done by a number of US companies. It will give employees from each group a greater appreciation of the issues that must be addressed during day to day operations.

The quality staff also needs to demonstrate that there are ways to assure quality that also enhances production operations. They need to put their efforts into building quality into the production operation, or in other words, making a greater commitment to process control.

One advantage of process control is that the system provides an excellent means for getting the production staff involved in quality monitoring. If the equipment operator or a line worker can do the monitoring, it frees up quality staff to troubleshoot or look for ways to further optimize operations. Of course, the production staff doing the monitoring must be shown not only how to do the monitoring and keep records, but how to act if quality begins to drift.

Making an adjustment to the line to bring a parameter back into specification or stopping the line if a major problem occurs is a much more cost effective way to assure finished product quality than to set aside finished product.

Remember at each point in the process the value of the product increases. Integrating the quality and production operations will save money, increase efficiencies, improve understanding between operating groups and help assure overall quality and safety. Having the production and quality staff in each other’s faces hurts your business. Working together makes good business sense.

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