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Using Scored Audits to Benchmark Performance and Risk in a COVID-19 World

Food safety, quality and compliance audits are a major way to implement the ‘Check’ part in the Plan, Do, Check, Act continuous improvement loop. Often resulting in corrective, or preventive actions, or CAPA’s as they are often known. Audits capture a lot of useful information that is wasted because it is never used again. If only there was a way to use audits to not only maintain compliance standards but also to reward performance through useful information? Scored audits in conjunction with an integrated reporting and trending tool, can easily offer a solution to both compliance monitoring and performance scoring. Allow me to explain.

When carried out as part of a structured programme, audits are an essential tool to ensure that procedures are being followed and complied with. However, audits in isolation, i.e. without a robust CAPA system, can be a waste of time and result in a ‘tick box’ culture in which no real improvement is driven from these activities. Add to this that most of the information captured during an audit is never used again and it is probable that many auditors, and their businesses, are not getting true value from their activities on behalf of the company.

How do you Audit?

Audits can take many different shapes and sizes. They may be observational in nature where the auditor is simply walking around and picking up on issues that they see, or they may checklist orientated, where a certain scope of questions and checks is carried out. These days audits may also have a video or photo-based approach, or they may be remote, or desk based when reviewing records and documents.

Many audits result in an excel, word or PDF audit report and may have a few non-compliances, NC’s or NCR’s which have been identified. This approach focuses on the few NCR’s which have been found but ignores all the other information captured during the audit. As it takes time, resource and planning to carry out the audit and also to implement the corrective and preventive actions it makes sense to maximise the value extracted from all information, not just the NCR’s. The challenge therefore is how do we turn the information gathered during an audit into an asset of the business? This is where the use of scored auditing can help.

How should you Audit?

A checklist style audit, where each question has a score associated with it, is not only a good way to make the audit result more standardised and quantitative, it also an excellent way to ensure that KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) can be implemented. The data from this approach over time can be very useful.

Taking a scored audit approach to the design of the audit and its questions then becomes about performance management, rather than just compliance. In a scored audit the performance of the audit scope items is evaluated at all levels from the complete audit down to the individual question answers to the checklist questions. When captured in a digital format and where there is a suitable reporting tool this is very useful over time.

For example, we may be able to create a pie chart showing the number of NCRs raised in a particular audit scope item to give us a benchmark of not only the non-compliance, but the positive performance observed. For example, let’s say that there were 3 NCR’s raised in the past six months for a lack of operative knowledge of company food safety procedures, whereas in the previous six months there was only 1. This may be a useful indicator, but it may not reveal the entire picture. What if the audit scope item (question) was evaluated 40 times in the most recent period and 100 times in the previous period. Where this is the case we are ‘comparing apples and oranges’ and our data is not measuring in a benchmarked way. This may result in a focus in the wrong areas of the business with the resultant mis directed resources and costs.

Measuring Risk

Scored audits can also be used as a measure of risk by building a question list that has weighted scores based on the answers selected. This can be useful when evaluating everything from an employee’s knowledge of quality procedures through to remote, self-assessed supplier audits. Remote audits are becoming more common and are highly likely to be here to stay as companies adapt to the ‘new normal’ enforced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Data from risk-based audits can then be used to benchmark supplier performance and provide insight into suppliers that need more attention and focus.

With many food factories having problems with COVID-19 outbreaks affecting their operations and closing production down, risk-based employee and safety compliance procedures need some attention. Here, the employer has a duty of care to employees and employees also have a duty of care to the employer. This is a difficult problem to solve, but a regular risk based scored audit could help if it were implemented correctly.

For example, employees need to declare if they have had symptoms or if they were in a crowded place with more than 6 people each day before starting their shift. This could easily be done on their phone by answering a few quick questions to assess the risk the employee poses to their colleagues and employer. It is an activity that can be completed in less than a minute or two and could be used to remind the employee of their duty of care. As the situation changes the questions asked could also be changed to ensure that compliance is being managed effectively. An employee may think twice about breaking the rules outside of work if they were on record about their activities.

Food Safety Culture

Then we have the issue of ‘catching people doing something wrong’ rather than ‘catching people doing something right’. If we can highlight how well people and systems are performing then, culturally, people start to think differently and are encouraged to do better. It is basic human psychology and I believe this works.

I am not saying that scored audits is a silver bullet, but they can be a very useful tool and Primority can help you implement this. Why not join us in our upcoming webinar to see real examples of the above.



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