Transforming quality and food safety management

Quality managers have a tough job these days. There is more legislation to deal with than ever before, and too many businesses still view food safety and quality control as a cost centre. Rob Kooijmans, co-founder and co-owner of FoodRecall, explains why companies should instead view food safety and quality management as an indispensable asset. He argues that taking a more pro-active approach to food safety and quality will benefit the bottom line and attract new customers.



Your talk this year is on transformational quality and food safety management. What do you mean by ‘transformational’, and why is this needed?
“By transformational I mean to say quality and food safety management that adds value to a company. Most companies in the food industry still view quality and food safety as a cost centre. In my view this is wrong – providing the right focus and giving more priority to quality and food safety will result in better financial results for the company. Moreover, a more proactive stance towards quality and food safety will show that it is actually a profit centre and a very powerful client magnet. This is the transformation companies in the food industry need to make to ensure long-term success with their clients and in the market.”

Why do some companies still fail to adequately address the issue of quality management – is it always question of resources?
“This is indeed the perception. I think that a lot of companies in the food industry are still focused on cost reduction. In late 2018 we held a survey with 153 companies worldwide, and found that 53% of saw cost cutting as one of the major challenges in the area of quality and food safety. In essence this comes back to what I’ve said before: too many companies see quality and food safety just as a cost centre. It is this paradigm that creates the self-fulfilling prophecy of ever reducing costs. Another factor is that quality and food safety has matured into a true profession only in the last decade or so, and not all company owners and senior managers have fully incorporated this into their view on business. In essence, this is the second paradigm shift that needs to happen.”

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Has the job of the quality manager become more difficult in recent years?
“It most certainly has. In the late 90s, most companies had a grasp of the HACCP approach to managing food safety risks, in combination with some legislation pertaining to food safety. We are now in a much more regulated landscape. In the last 10-15 years, major legislative changes have taken place in a number of countries across the globe. We have also witnessed the growth of food safety certification schemes like BRC, FSSC 22000, IFS and other GFSI approved standards. Keeping track of all the international legal and regulatory aspects has become a fulltime job, and on top of this, the quality manager has to guide the company management in constantly upgrading the production environment against these standards as well. Recent advances in analytical capabilities also pose new challenges for the quality manager.”

What cost-effective measures can companies put in place to make the job of the quality manager more effective?
“Rather than focusing on yet more cost-cutting, we propose that companies start looking in more detail at the cost of non-quality. In most cases, the true cost of non-quality is much bigger than company owners or senior management expect. From our survey in 2018 we learnt that the average food manufacturing company wastes approximately 5% of the company turnover in terms of non-quality. Hence, the question should more be: “How can we best invest in quality and food safety to reclaim a substantial part of these losses?”. This will also change the paradigm from quality and food safety being a cost centre to it being a profit generator for the company.”

In turn, what benefits can the effective deployment of quality management principles bring to businesses?
“Offering insights into the true costs of non-quality will help quality managers to really drive the improvement agenda of the company. Where most companies base their improvement activities solely on how frequently issues occur, a better way would be to focus on the true failure costs of these issues. This way, the improvement agenda of the company will bring financial benefits. Reclaimed benefits can then be partially re-invested to reclaim even more benefits in a continuous improvement cycle, based on the insight in the cost of non-quality.”

From food safety and quality perspective, what are your predictions for the next 3-5 years?
“In the next 3 to 5 years, companies will be forced to display a much more proactive attitude towards quality and food safety. One of the underlying drivers will be the creation of a food safety culture or even better, a culture of excellence. Where for some companies this will be perceived as yet another compliance issue driven by GFSI certification schemes, for those companies that deeply understand the importance of quality and food safety, it will be a given and a natural progression of their continuous improvement journey in quality and food safety. The future will for sure require a much stronger focus on quality and food safety for all companies in the food industry.”

Be sure to catch Rob Kooijman’s Expert Information Sessions on transformational quality and food safety management on Tuesday 3 December, 11:15 – 11:45, at the Expo FoodTec Hub.