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Technology and Digital Transformation in Food Safety- Where to Start
Jill Hoffman, Director of Global Quality and Food Safety, McCormick & Co. Inc
Whether you’re using the term “Quality 4.0”, “Digital Transformation,” or “Quality of the Future,” to guide your path for technology enablement, the goal is similar. Using technology, data, and enabling digitalization have made its’ way into quality and food safety in recent years. Now quality leadership must think about how to support all of the possibilities and requests for bringing a digital transformation into the quality and food safety function. Now before you feel you need to run out and hire a handful of data scientists to your quality team, take a step back and look at the whole picture.
What Do You Want to Know?
Sometimes we can get mesmerized about the possibilities of what data and technology can do for us now or in the future. Ground yourself first, and don’t put all of your bets into something just because of the novelty. Ask yourself and your teams the simple question of, “What Do You Want to Know?” and then quickly follow it up with the secondary question of, “How Do We Use This Information to Support Our Goals?”. Also, ensure you have a plan on how to deploy the technology so that its’ value isn’t marginalized by not having a plan for deployment. A quick example of this can be illustrated through horizon scanning technology. There are many offerings on the market for horizon scanning tools that bring multiple points of data into a “one-stop-shop” for users to view trends or emerging risks.
"When selecting new technologies to deploy, be realistic about the resources needed to implement them into existing systems and processes, and determine what support is going to be needed within the quality function, but also consider the support needed from other functions such as IT"
The purchase of these types of tools is a great way to bring big data and insights into the quality and food safety function. But don’t just stop with the purchase. You will need to think about how you want to manage this ongoing stream of information and insights and how it will play into decision making or action into the quality function. You’ll need to identify resources that will monitor this tool and information and determine what will require action if a trend or emerging risk is identified. Does it trigger a notification to a supplier for potential action? Do you decide to test a raw material for an emerging concern? Horizon scanning tools are great at bringing large amounts of information to you, but your quality and food safety function needs to build out the process for making these insights actionable; otherwise, it is just a lot of information that won’t provide you the value that you’re paying for.
Workforce Enablement and Digital Transformation
The area of technology and digitalization opens up a whole new vocabulary and toolbox of possibilities to integrate into quality and food safety processes. In many cases, you’ll have varying levels of knowledge and understanding of what these technologies are, what they can offer now, and what they could do for you in the future. You may need to bring people along this journey by building competency and understanding as well as building up skillsets in your workforce to ensure successful integration.
Start Somewhere, Even if it’s Small
When selecting new technologies to deploy, be realistic about the resources needed to implement them into existing systems and processes, and determine what support is going to be needed within the quality function, but also consider the support needed from other functions such as IT.
Take inventory of where you already have implemented technologies or digitalization along the supply chain. You may already be collecting data that can be further analyzed to gain insights. Depending on the scale, you may need to pick one thing and move forward with a pilot, leveraging small wins and successes vs. undertaking a massive and broad-reaching technology that impacts multiple functions and requires significant change management initiatives. An example of starting very small may not require the purchase of anything “new,” perse. You may be able to leverage existing data that is already collected and utilize data analytics tools to help you see trends better or to be predictive of the data.
Building the Broader Strategy
To manage the digital and technology transformation into the quality and food safety function, you will need to build out your broader strategy. Your strategy will need to ensure it supports or drives existing company strategy to ensure you will gain the support and resources as you deploy. Consider all aspects of the function, including but not limited to supplier quality, factory quality, raw material quality, and laboratory functions. Your strategy will also need to include building out the governance and organizational support for your digital transformation.
These are some basic thoughts and considerations that will help with digital transformation in the quality and food safety space within your organization.
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