To paraphrase an old axiom: If passing audits were easy, everybody would do it. Aside from showing regulatory compliance, audits can:
- Help companies improve their management structure and reassess operational priorities.
- Identify a clear path to achieving business objectives.
- Provide an inventory of any incidents and isolate problems that stand in the way of more efficient operations.
- Deliver supplier evaluations and valuable customer feedback.
Unfortunately, whether it’s for GFSI certification, the FDA, or a customer-mandate check – failing an audit can be costly. When a company passes an audit, executives celebrate the entire staff, while failure typically falls on the heads of the Food Safety and Quality Assurance (FSQA) team. However, those teams can stave off audit failures – and the consequent losses – by learning about and circumventing the most common mistakes.
1. Human error can sabotage audits
As the saying goes, to err is human. Admittedly, human error is inevitable, but the secret is to minimize possible mistakes as much as possible. Ensure all employees are well-trained and understand the rationale behind rules and regulations. When employees better grasp the “why” behind established processes, it’s easier to keep them top of mind in the future. Experts recommend that companies schedule routine internal audits and spot checks to guarantee that employees follow procedures and remain equipped for auditor questions.
2. Compliance vs. business as usual
Audits often pull FSQA teams in different directions – preparing for the audit while keeping the business running normally. Management must set the expectation for the entire company that compliance comes before anything else. The consequences of failure could cost the company more time and money than a simple production delay.
3. Audits can reveal HACCP failures
Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) help prevent foodborne diseases and keep consumers safe. HACCP documentation is critical for audits – documentation should be complete and well-organized. Skimping on HACCP documentation – or relying too heavily on paper forms – is an immediate red flag for auditors and can lead to a prolonged investigation and follow-up audits to verify compliance.
4. Lack of supplier control
The most explicit guidelines and strictest processes aren’t enough to keep organizations compliant if they aren’t in sync with their suppliers. Managing food fraud and contamination risk is more challenging than ever with today’s increasingly complex and often disconnected global supply chain. Manufacturers can tackle this issue with supplier scorecarding, which allows companies to scorecard suppliers – and share results – providing greater transparency into how suppliers perform against established business requirements.
5. Disorganization and static systems
There’s no avoiding it – prepping for an audit is tough. Companies must have their data organized, current, and easily accessible. Filing cabinets filled with paper documents and Excel spreadsheets aren’t enough anymore. Companies must ensure that all manufacturing facilities remain ready for any audit program with immediate access to critical documentation.
The best way to ace an audit is to be ready for them at any time and keeping accessible documentation up to date with automated digital document management processes. Our eBook, “The Food Safety Audit Handbook,” offers crucial guidance so companies can avoid failure and sail through certification. Download the eBook here.