By Keith Phillips
Exemplar Global’s ongoing Food Safety Expo features a two-part panel discussion among industry leaders pursuing the digital transformation in solving the riddle of complexity in management system auditing and compliance activities. Titled “The Digital Journey: New Opportunities and Challenges for the Auditor,” the sessions aired live on consecutive days in mid-March. Both are available to registrants of the Food Safety Expo on-demand now until the end of the month.
Part One: The Journey So Far
The first part, which debuted live on March 15/16, was moderated by Mike Richman of Exemplar Global. The panelists included me as well as the following:
- Graeme Munro, head of the auditor team of the AVOCO grower group responsible for more than 60 percent of New Zealand’s avocado exports
- Philip Cryer, CEO of Telarc, who do more than half of the ISO certifications in New Zealand including more than 60 percent of the health and safety audits
One of their biggest areas of concern was the growing number of ever-changing schemes required by retailers, brand owners and regulators. This leads to cost and complexity that cannot be absorbed by consumers or certification systems without more advanced digital solutions.
“We have significantly reduced the complexity of multi-scheme auditing, and reduced time and cost,” said Munro during the session. “And a fantastic added value is that we are able to aggregate the data across all the schemes and use it as management information for continuous improvement.”
Cryer agreed. In fact, Telarc uses the same platform across ISO 9001 and other ISO standards.
“There is about a 40-percent duplication in those schemes,” Cryer confirmed. “An integrated system saves us a lot.”
Part Two: The Way Ahead
Part two, which I moderated, broadcast live on March 16/17. For this session, we were joined by the following panelists:
- Marco Roffia, chair of GLOBALG.A.P.s certification body committee (CBC) and the head of the GLOBALG.A.P.S team of auditors for Italy’s leading certification body, CCPB
- Anthony Auffray, CEO of Safe Food Zone; formerly director, global food safety and compliance at Amazon and director, global quality assurance for Starbucks
- Colin Christmas, managing director, EAGLE in 2019; he previously spent more than 20 years in the food industry working for Nestlé
- Andrew Baines, president and CEO of Exemplar Global; he also has more than 30 years of experience spanning the food industry, auditing, and conformity assessment
Food producers are increasingly having to spend time with different auditors for different schemes, for different countries’ retailers, and brand owners. Many of the questions being asked are the same and are repeated. Again, the digital journey is all about finding ways to resolve these complexities.
“This makes life very difficult for certification bodies” said Roffia. “Each scheme owner, such as GLOBALG.A.P., is building their own system and asking each compliance body to integrate with them. That becomes impossible for CBs, who typically are asked to audit more than 50 schemes. What is needed is one system that can handle all of the scheme owners’ requirements and reduces complexity and duplication.”
Auffray pointed out that we need to use the digital tools themselves to accelerate learning and experience of this new world. He suggested that we need to ‘Gamify’ audit training.
“We need to use the digital tools themselves in the learning process,” he stated. “Online, simulation, and role-playing software provide on-demand learning that can be scaled across communities. These learning systems also enable online mentoring, benchmarking, and a feedback loop for continuous improvement.”
In his segment of the presentation, Christmas (who is also co-convener of the International Accreditation Forum’s working group on food safety), focused on GFSI’s race to the top.
“Non-standardized approaches have a detrimental effect,” said Christmas, “[to] food safety, security, and supply in international trade.”
Baines offered a high-level approach to the situation.
“This is a time of significant change and not just a transition,” he said. “And to make sure we are ready for this, we need to not only retrain ourselves as auditors, but attract a new breed of tech-savvy professionals.”
In wrapping up, the session, Baines offered a further inspirational vision of the way ahead.
“This is not a one-step change. It will require both an incremental and radical shift. And auditors’ skills need to include the utilization of digital tools like cloud platforms, auto-translation, AI, remote, and real-time auditing. The future will also include online simulation and gaming for accelerated learning and the rapid accumulation of experience.”
Want to learn more?
To review these sessions and join the discussion, register for the Food Safety Expo here.
About the author
Keith Phillips is the CEO and president of Quantum Leap Beyond Spreadsheets (QLBS).