23rd December 2020
The phrases “Covid-19”, “pandemic” and “lockdown” have plagued 2020. But what has this meant for producing food and in particular, cheese? It’s meant that food suppliers, sellers and businesses have needed to amend how they work so that shelves can still be stocked for consumers.
At Futura we pride ourselves on the quality and technical expertise we provide that enable us to bring to market the best possible product for our customers. Auditing suppliers and checking standards of cheese production is something that we feel is imperative to get right, therefore setting the standards for our great quality products.
Before lockdown, members of our Technical management team frequently visited our partner dairies to assure that they were working to the highest standards, they also escorted third party auditors and customers. The visits carried out involved our Technical manager, an auditor and anyone else who needs to be present to complete an audit successfully. Before lockdown commenced we had a number of different types of audit that we completed with suppliers.
• Approval Audit: Depending on a number of risk factors these audits may be required before a new dairy is approved to supply Futura Foods and their customers and are very useful in assessing a sites capabilities and potential.
• Retailer / Customer Compliance Audits: Where we work in partnership with a retailer and a dairy we help the sites interpret and implement the customer standards to help ensure the clients expectations are met.
• Gap Analysis Audit: These audits tend to be carried out in advance of a major retailer or customer audit. They are designed to challenge a dairy’s quality management systems identifying any short falls in their standards and to implement corrective action plans ahead of a compliance audit.
• Supplier Improvement Audit: These tend to be targeted audits whether to help the dairy meet specific customer requirements or to improve quality standards or possibly to find a resolution to a specific problem.
• Customer Complaint Audit: Are instigated in the unlikely event of a major customer complaint or after a series of minor related quality issues and are designed to investigate the most probable causes and to agree preventative action plans minimize the chance of a reoccurrence.
• Maintenance Audit: This is an audit of existing Futura Foods suppliers and carried out every 2 to 3 years to ensure once approved the site is still meeting our requirements.
Before going ahead with any audit we have to agree the scope of the audit, the time frame and what the expectation and outcomes are. In order to conduct an audit, you must have an agenda and stick to it. However real life you might find something that takes you away from the agenda and it may need investigation. Any auditor will follow the structure but it is important to remain fluid.
Since Covid-19 auditing has needed to be virtual, where paperwork and processes are reviewed over a video call. This means some things cannot be reviewed in real time and lack an intuitive feel for the factory that get when visiting. You cannot get a good feel for the behaviour of staff in the factories and some things can be harder to investigate. These things can sometimes be key indicators if a system is in control.
Although there are some concerns with remote auditing, it is a means to an end. It has helped us still do business and get some of our products shelf or customer ready. Most of our key suppliers are highly accredited, so we are confident in them through this remote auditing process.
When things start to progress back to being able to do business as we used to, we expect there to be many a physical follow up audit to be done, to complete the auditing processes started virtually. And when we can get to the sites, we will be doing the full physical audits like we used to.