Getting through the annual BRCGS audit can be a bit of an ordeal. Working towards compliance tends to be a bitty and inefficient process, soaking up time and resource. Thankfully, there are some practices that come together to form a structured approach to helping you succeed. Here we outline five key elements.
Using Excel spreadsheets and Access databases in a manual system is time consuming and laborious, so it’s well worth considering using a dedicated system. The key characteristic of a good solution is that it allows you to centralise your compliance information. Having everything stored in one place, including the evidence documentation is critical to saving time and promoting efficiency.
Whatever tool you choose, avoid the situation of using different methodologies. It is problematic when your internal audit system is completely distinct from other systems such as policies. This approach forces the need to check in two different places to answer a single question, as the answers may be stored in different places.
Whatever tool you choose, avoid the situation where you use one methodology for internal audits and keeping on top of things, and then have a different approach for policies stored somewhere completely different, without linking to specific clauses to which policies relate.
You cannot afford to just do the gap analysis and then forget about it. It is essential to keep on top of it through internal audits. What you put on the backburner now is likely to come back to singe you as the annual audit approaches.
A good tool is likely to allow you to implement a workflow. A software solution with embedded workflow features enables you to create action points and assign ownership to a team member and track how the owner is progressing. This lets you easily follow up on non-conformances you have identified, to make sure they are closed effectively.
Make sure everyone knows how they can contribute to the company doing well in the audit.
A good way of illustrating this is this story about President John F. Kennedy. Visiting NASA headquarters for the first time in 1961 he introduced himself to a janitor who was mopping the floor and asked him what he did at NASA. The janitor replied: “I’m helping put a man on the moon!”
This tale may have become embellished, but it makes the point. Sell a compliance vision to the rest of the business. Ultimately you are all helping the company become even more successful.
A tool dedicated to helping achieve compliance management should provide collaborative features, enabling leaders to assign tasks and stakeholders to take ownership, contributing to the organisation’s success. Read more on this in ‘How to put food safety culture at the centre of everything you do’ here.
At the end of the audit, challenge what you believe to be unfair non-conformances politely. Bring evidence to back your claim that they are unfair or unfounded; or where you think the auditor has misunderstood what you do.
A tool that is fit for purpose lets you link documents to the clauses you need to meet. These documents might be those that evidence you are meeting the standard. Equally, a good tool has an audit-trail, so you can demonstrate how consistently you have been working to achieve compliance. Such evidence could support any assertions that the non-conformances the auditor has given you are unfair or unfounded.
If you and your colleagues have prepared well and you consistently work at the required standard, then the odds are that you will do well.
One thing that can really instil confidence is using a system that supports the efficient achievement of compliance. Knowing that you have used a tool that has addressed all the applicable clauses in each section of Packaging Materials Issue 6 without any omissions can only boost the view that you are going to succeed.
BRC Gap Analysis is the only tool dedicated to the specific purpose of achieving packaging compliance. The system has been developed with assistance from and is recommended by professional BRCGS and food safety consultants.