Evaluating Technology in the New Era of Smarter Food Safety

Ask the expert   November 27, 2019

In the New Era of Smarter Food Safety, how should businesses begin thinking about technology adoption?

As you’re likely aware, the FDA recently announced the beginning of the New Era of Smarter Food Safety, which will be people-led, tech-enabled, and FSMA based.  This edict is empowering organizations with temperature-sensitive supply chains to think differently about how they manage business processes. It has become common that we have our tech-enabled homes, and it comes as no surprise that these revolutionary technologies are being widely accepted and implemented within the food industry.

When considering the implementation and adoption of new technology within your organization, it is critical to first consider the reasoning behind doing it in the first place and why it is important.  For instance, what is the business purpose for implementing a temperature monitoring program?  Perhaps the answer is a regulatory requirement, a need for enhanced visibility, cost savings, or a multitude of other factors. It is critical to understand your reasons before embarking on such an endeavor. 

Once you consider the challenges that you are trying to solve, it is important to think about how you resolve the perennial risks to a project, including time resources for implementation, and financial resources.  How much time will it take to implement the program to the level that your organization would consider it a success?  Do you have the right people on your team, and do they have the necessary time available in their schedules to dedicate to the implementation?  How does this program align with your company’s vision and other priorities within the organization?  It is critical to consider the challenges that will derail a program and resolve to mitigate them before embarking on such an initiative.

With the many options that are available for organizations, and with each team having competing needs for a limited pool of funds, it is critical to building a solid case for your needs. Developing a simple set of questions can help provide a team the firepower to make a compelling case for their requirements. It is important to ask yourself, ‘’Why is this technology important to our organization, and how is it better than what we currently have? What will the implementation of the technology help us achieve that we are currently unable to? What happens if we do not implement it?’’  When considering these questions early on, you will be able to make a better case in the earliest part of the decision-making process.

Considering how new technology will work at the enterprise level is necessary. No longer is it acceptable to implement systems or programs that provide a single team or department information. Rather, multiple organizations must have access to data so that others throughout the organization can use it to their benefit. As an example, implementing a track-and-trace platform should provide business-critical information to the food safety and quality departments, but are your logistics teams using this information to ensure that deliveries are made on time? Are your purchasing departments utilizing this information to ensure that they are getting the quantities that are being requested? Simply put, when considering technology adoption, it is vital that we are focused on the holistic value that it brings to the organization.

How can companies measure the success of their technology programs?

As is often said, ‘’A tree is measured by its fruit.’’ The same can be said about the success of a technology program. In what ways has technology-enabled your teams and organizations to achieve your goals? How has the system improved processes while reducing stress? Have you found that technology has made your life easier, or is it more difficult—not only completing the task but utilizing the system to do it? All of these must be considered when determining the success of your programs.

How are you using data in a transformational way? How are you thinking about routine information and utilizing it to transform your business processes? Have you considered how others within your organization might use this information? An organization that we work with recently noted that they are going to begin utilizing the data that comes from real-time monitoring to understand the complex supply chain once it leaves their forwarding warehouse. With these insights, they would like to propose logistical improvements to their customers, while improving the quality of their products. This will now be possible through the implementation of their technology program. 

Has your organization implemented Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for your suppliers and vendors? Have you done the same for your technology providers? How are they stacking up against your expectations for them? Are they providing you with the resources needed to meet your program objectives and are they delivering these results in a timely manner? Are they treating you and your business as a key account for their business, in that they are exceeding your expectations? It is vital that you consider these questions when determining the viability and success of a partner relationship and that they are actively assisting you in meeting your goals and priorities.

How often has your organization implemented a program and ended up dissatisfied once complete?  Did you ask for one thing and were delivered something different that didn’t meet your needs or enable you to achieve your business goals? Often, the reasoning for these failures is due to organizations failing to properly define their end goals upfront, and sharing these goals clearly and concisely with their technology provider.

One way that we have seen success is by working directly with organizations and whiteboarding the desired end results with the customer. This might include sharing of data with stakeholders in the supply chain, such as logistics providers and suppliers, or integrating the system with a track-and-trace system for recall purposes. Clearly defining these requests and ensuring that the technology can achieve their goals, in addition to mutually agreeing with what success looks like, will help to ensure that all expectations are met. That might include establishing clearly defined and digestible milestones that will lead to the end goal desired.

A significant question worth asking your technology provider is how the program or system will be supported following a rollout. What happens if a glitch is found within the program, and how are new versions pushed to users?  How responsive is their customer support team? How will the system be supported when a complementary technology is needed and integration is required?  It should be your first priority that your expectations are their expectations.

About Jeremy Schneider, Business Development Director, Food Safety and Quality Assurance

Jeremy has more than 15 years of experience in the food quality, safety, and regulatory sector. His experience spans managing food safety and quality systems within several fast-casual restaurant chains as well as food manufacturing, including Chipotle, Boston Markets, and Rocky Mountain Foods. During his career, he has addressed some of the most challenging and critical risks faced today by major consumer food brands.

Got a question or interested in learning more? Email Jeremy at jeremy@controlant.com

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