For the last two blog posts I’ve been writing about the unforeseen challenges to food safety that both people and technology create. I’ve also been mentioning the ways in which digitalization can help prevent these problems. For this last post I’d like to tackle one further irritant: the endless records a food safety system generates.
I’ve already mentioned how jotting things down can be made easier by making it electronic. This time we’ll look at the specific way in which having all this data in an electronic form can make it also easier to deal with the data, lessen the burden regulatory compliance places on professional kitchens and enable turning HACCP data into insights and business improvements.
What do I Do with All This Food Safety Data?
This time, let’s start with a story.
Some time ago were talking with a customer’s representative, a head chef whose job it was to handle storage of his workplace’s HACCP monitoring records.
As is usual, the food safety system demanded keeping records of a wide variety of things, which generated a massive amount of paper over time. The problem had become where to store all the boxes containing the paper records, as there was no designated location at the kitchen for this.
After we had installed our automatic monitoring system in his workplace, the chef confessed that apart from the fact that his food safety management tasks were now quite a lot easier, for him the best thing about the whole thing was that now, finally, he might be able to fit in his apartment again. You see, he had been taking the older papers home for safekeeping. This had started to become problem as well, because he was now steadily running out of free space to store these in.
The food safety system generated a massive amount of paper over time.
This may not be a common problem or the most usual way of handling food safety record storage. But it demonstrates nicely the amount of paper that even one institutional kitchen may generate, not to mention the situation where a chain of restaurants sends their records to HQ for storage and analysis.
It’s also telling of the fact that while there is much data that is collected through these kinds of food safety systems, it’s debatable how much of it is ever put to any good use, or if it just sits in a box somewhere, providing no new insights or benefits for the business?
How can electronic food safety records help?
As demonstrated by the story, though, the age of the paper record is coming to an end – it may still be the most usual way of doing things, but only just. And even this is mainly because while it’s inefficient, it’s also the one thing that is familiar to most people and as such an easy option.
But even if it seems relatively easy, it can also create a lot more work than taking up a new digital method ever would. The problems with how to keep records stored somewhere where they can be accessed when needed, to keep them legible to everyone, and the difficulties in getting this data into a form that can be analyzed in any helpful fashion are all things that point to electronic records as the simpler and safer way for handling food safety data.
Do your paper records just sit in a box, gathering dust, providing no new insights or benefits for the business?
And by electronic records I don’t just mean that tasks should be noted down on excel sheets instead of paper ones. I mean going electronic right from the start and through the whole food safety system. It takes care of the whole concern with people being unable to decipher each other’s handwriting and stores the records automatically without having to deal with boxes of papers or having to copy records from paper to excel by hand. It also provides an easy place for analyzing the data.
As an additional bonus for chain restaurants and other multi-location catering and cooking services it’s also easy to monitor all food safety records from all premises through one central system. This also makes it possible to analyze their performance compared to each other, to copy best practices from one location to another and also to eliminate the unwanted ones when they are simple to identify.
But to give a little bit of advice to someone interested in procuring an electronic food safety management system, you should remember that such a system can only be of use if it can complement your individual food safety processes. We’ve been doing a lot of work on perfecting this for our own customers, as you can read on our customer stories page, and in this case, one size definitely does not fit all.
3 benefits of electronic food safety records
So electronic recordkeeping is coming up fast, and it’s easy to see why. It’s not only safe, but also easy, comprehensive, analyzable and auditable. But how does this benefit a business in practice?
1. It’s simple to do and saves timeWith electronic recordkeeping, all monitored data goes straight to a central system for storage and analysis, in best case completely automatically, but even the more complex method works with only a few button presses.
This saves time and trouble both for the employees doing the tasks as well as for the management who monitor task performance.
2. Easy to manage and guideWhen you are recording things with smart devices, it’s easy to provide guidance the other way as well, create workflows for monitoring tasks and set up alerts and corrective actions when needed. When the accumulated data can be easily analyzed, good practices will be easy to disseminate to all your kitchens.
All this gives the potential for much easier food safety risk management and prevention.
3. It takes the work out of reportingWith centralized data gathering and storage you don’t have to deal with your branch locations one at a time. This means being able to compile data for easy analysis, compare different kitchen’s performance to each other, and gain insights into what works and what doesn’t.
You can give the local food safety authority the right to view your food safety records directly in your system – so no more having to drag up the relevant data for inspections. Various levels of access can be given to other stakeholders as well, and specific reports can be created at the press of a button.
All this makes handling compliance reporting much easier and faster, and makes it easy to share KPI reports inhouse as well.
This post concludes my series of blogs on how to improve your food safety program management, prevent risks and make it easier for both the management and the workers to work together to achieve best possible results.