By Andrew Baines
We are fast approaching the end of 2022 and what a year it has been! Like many others, I have found it difficult to believe how fast the year has passed us. We were no sooner started in January than here we find ourselves nearing the end of December. It is however timely for us to look at what has happened in this fast-moving year and ahead to what we might expect in 2023.
I think the main news for us at Exemplar Global, like many if not most, was the ability to travel again and meet in person with our friends and customers, our colleagues, and associates. Having spent two years (hard to believe that it was actually two whole years) confined to working from home and country, we were finally able to get out and about. What a difference it makes! I think we all made the best of Working from Home (WFH) and there is no doubt it has added dimensions to the work/life balance and possibilities (now you can work from another country, right? While on holiday, or permanently, right?) there is no doubt that being together in person adds something that even the best planned Zoom/Teams call rarely gets. For my part, I am thrilled to be able to get out and meet people again and in this lies some of the highlights of our year at Exemplar Global.
In May, we were able to join our friends and organizational family of ASQ and ASQE at the World Conference for Quality and Improvement (WCQI) in Anaheim, CA. It was so good to connect with friends and customers not seen, in some cases, for maybe three years. In November, we met with our Safe Quality Food Institute (SQFi) partners at their SQF Unites conference on Orlando, Fl. We were proud to sponsor the awards for SQF Auditor of the Year and SQF Practitioner of the Year.
In a similar vein, we were able to get together as a team in person in Sydney and in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and renew connections with some but also to meet others for the first time in person. You get quite used to seeing someone with a frame around them on screen that to see them with legs can be quite a surprise!
We were also very proud to attain accreditation by IAS (International Accreditation Service) to ISO 17024 for personnel certification. The scope of our accreditation is for the SQF Food Safety Auditor scheme that we administer with and for SQF, and our own Food Safety Management System (FSMS) auditor certification. We deliberately chose these two for our scope to help us prepare for working in another major initiative, the GFSI Race to the Top (RTTT) initiative whereby Professional Recognition Bodies will be approved to assess and recognize the competence of food safety auditors. Naturally, this is entirely in our sphere of interest.
And so, what has the last three years shown us and what can we take from that into 2023 and beyond? No doubt many things but for me, and for Exemplar Global in the coming months and years, I have three major take-aways.
First, technology is here to stay. Working from home and things like remote audits necessitated us using technology that before we were reluctant, even refusing, to use. But we had to use it and, surprise, surprise have found that we can manage remotely, we can meet online, we can audit from afar. The tools we learned to use, I am convinced, are only the start and now the genie is out of the bottle, it will stay out and technology will see us develop in the coming years more than we have in the past 20 years. Personally, I think we would be foolish to resist this and that we should embrace technology, not to replace auditors and audit but to supplement what is possible. It will allow us to gain confidence (which is what audit is about) in ways not before thought possible. Bring it on!
Second, our industry has a problem we must work together to solve. For a variety of reasons, auditors are leaving the profession faster than we can attract them. Some are retiring, some move on in their careers, some lose the passion. Whatever the reason, we must make this an attractive career for new generations. I believe that technology referred to earlier can be part of that attraction to generations who are so much more comfortable with it than some of us older auditors. We must encourage ongoing professional development at all stages of a career. The rate of change is so rapid that no-one can afford to be complacent. Again, I see this attracting those who want change and to continue to learn. There can be few better careers if that appeals.
Third, and despite all I noted in the first point, ultimately there is no replacement for meeting in person from time to time. That said, we probably do not need to meet as often, or for as long but as a food auditor myself, there is no technology replacement (yet?) for walking into a food manufacturer and smelling! You learn a lot from a sniff! It is harder to judge body language from a screen and networking at a conference is often as much about the social as it is about the lectures.
So, for us at Exemplar Global, you can expect us to continue to develop and use technology, we will continue to expand our products and services to attract new people with an interest and the skills for auditing and engineering. We will be extending the launch of our Group Certification program and our Recognized Corporate program to name but two (to find our more, contact us. We would love to talk to you about these and more). We will continue to encourage all in our community to invest in their professional development and we will look for new and varied ways for them to do that. We will use technology, like digital badges, rather than the now-discontinued hard ID badges. We will also continue to engage with our partners to find the best way we can serve this community. This is needed now at least as much, if not more, than it has been for the last 30-plus years.
We also intend to get out there and meet you. We will be at conferences like the WCQI in Philadelphia, and we will meet with our customers. We intend to hold several ‘roadshows’ where we can get to meet you as well.
As 2022 closes, with so much done and yet so much still to do, may I wish all of you, wherever you are, a safe and happy close to the year and good luck and prosperity for 2023. We look forward to going on the journey through ’23 with you. Get ready for another year of progress!
About the author
Andrew Baines is the President & CEO of Exemplar Global. Andrew has had a long-spanning career in auditing, including senior leadership positions in both technical and business development roles. As part of one role, Andrew served for about 10 years on the Board of Directors of Exemplar Global (when it was still RABQSA). In 2015, Andrew joined ASQ (American Society for Quality) as Managing Director of ASQ Global, ASQ’s operations outside USA. As Exemplar Global’s ‘sole member,’ Andrew continued to serve on the Board until accepting his current position.