Selecting a certification standard can seem like a difficult decision. If the wrong decision is made, it will affect your future plans and can add unwanted stress to your work life. You can remove the worry and headache with the right about of preparation and planning before selecting a certification scheme for your plant.
Do Your Research
Before diving in, take some time to research which certification option is better for you. The standard selected by your main customer may not always be the best option for you. Every facility has unique needs. Read each standard you are considering and ask colleagues and suppliers to share about their experiences. When you have questions, ask certification experts and don’t be afraid to contact the certification body and ask why they would be a good match for your company. Arm yourself with good information so that you’re prepared to make a selection.
Nobody likes to be out of budget due to resource needs. Evaluate how much the certification process will cost you. Some schemes’ initial audits are done in two stages which means you may need spend more than other schemes. In some cases you will need to do audits every six months if your audit result is low. Something else to consider is how fast you will need to react to identified deviations. Some standards require that certification audit deviations be fixed in less than a month, while others allow you to develop an action plan and implement it before the next audit in 12 months. This is relevant for your cash flow and budgeting capital projects.
You need time to know your standard; don’t make your selection in a hurry. Verify if the standard meets your company’s needs and culture. Even though all standards cover similar requirements, the amount of documentation required varies. Research each scheme’s webpage for information that may help you implement the standard. Some documents are free to access and include interpretation guidelines that will be of great help.
Some schemes keep their customers well informed of changes, market trends, and hot topics while others provide information in small amounts and as needed. Some schemes provide free webinars that help your team better understand key requirements like validation and verification or internal audits. White papers and documents to communicate how the standard will help you meet FSMA requirements may be available. Many schemes have documentation available in multiple languages which can help you train and prepare non-English speaking team members.
Being on the same page and mutual understanding is fundamental. What if your standard requires programs and specific activities that you do not agree with? Verify if the standard is flexible enough to allow you develop programs at your need or if you will need to conform to strict requirements. Standards allow you to develop programs based on perceived risk instead of implement programs that may not add value. Some allow more determinations based on risk than others. This approach has been seen by some organizations as a great openness to develop a custom system, while others consider this as a weakness due to the fact that a deficient risk assessment may lead to develop programs that may not meet the standard.
Have the Future in Mind
You need to select a scheme that is a great partner to your organization and one that you can help you grow. Company and market needs changes with time. Today’s focus might be food safety, but the future focus could be quality, sustainability, safety, environmental awareness, etc. Verify if your standard has the flexibility and tools to help you grow your system and company. Some standards are purely quality and food safety related, so what happens when your customer or market needs grow beyond such requirements?
A Perfect Match
Not all things will be easy and from time to time discussions may exist. Will the scheme you’ve selected be able to support you? You need to make sure help is available when needed. Most standards have international representation and access in different languages. This is critical to allow you to meet customer requirements and market needs, and comply with regulations without the added worry about whether your standard is adequate for that purpose.
Your certification body should be seen as a trusted expert available to help you answer questions and understand your needs. AIBI-CS is available to help you make the best decision.