I have been doing some research, asking food manufacturers: What is the biggest compliance challenge that you face? Maintaining good manufacturing practice (GMP) was the dubious winner.
I dug further, and reasons for GMP being so challenging fell into 2 groups:
Therefore, there are 2 issues, which are possibly related:
Unfortunately, with margins being as low as they are, plus environmental uncertainties, challenges with finding good labour, and heaps of other difficulties … securing a good culture in food manufacturing can feel like an impossible task. I’m not trying to argue that it’s easily done. But there are ways to improve GMP.
‘Management’ refers to anyone in a supervisory or leadership position. That is, from shift supervisors to boardroom level. Have an honest think: If I list the 3 top priorities for the business, is GMP one of them? If not, then it’s nigh on impossible to have a workforce for whom GMP is a priority.
I understand that retaining big customers, wining new business, and maintaining compliance for SALSA, BRC, etc is crucial. But actually, GMP underpins all this. That’s how management needs to perceive it. Poor GMP is a quick way to lose business and fail audits.
Once people in management are convinced of this … and most surely are already! … then point 2 becomes achievable.
Simply telling staff to attend to certain things is not sufficient. The maxim ‘actions speak louder than words’ springs to mind. If management mainly ask questions about how quickly things are getting done, then they are communicating: “Doing things quickly is what’s the priority here.”
Ask how people have done things. It’s an effective and non-accusatory way of emphasising that the ‘how’ is very important. Whenever possible, model such good practice. If there are staff meetings or newsletters, emphasize good practice in GMP. You could highlight a great example you noticed recently. This encourages staff, as what you are saying is: “This is important for me, so I look out for this. And this is what I have noticed, which is great, you can do it.”
This links to point 2 above, in terms of demonstrating that you think GMP is a piece of good news. Also highlight what the business has done well: Did you retain a key contract? Did you win a great new contract? Did a visitor make positive comments?
These are not necessarily GMP success stories. But, when talking about them, be sure to emphasize how GMP contributed to these stories. Hence you are showing that GMP is part and parcel of what you do, and your success … not an annoying pain people have to put up with.
Resources are a challenge in food manufacturing. But there are many technology options to automate resource-intensive processes. Internet of Things has made significant breakthroughs with connecting machines to software, and so helps with decision-making. There are often grants for this. New machinery can help, and again, there may be grants or finance options. Software is an easy way of automating time-consuming processes, while increasing efficiency and reliability. Again, there are many grants for bespoke solutions; and off-the-shelf solutions tend to permit monthly payments. These are ways to help free up staff time, so they can attend better to GMP.
What these 4 points shows is that technology could free up people’s time to attend to GMP, but a workplace culture that encourages GMP is key. We talk more about workplace culture here. Developing such a culture is not costly, and is very much within reach.