One of your retail clients is now insisting that your plant must have a Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) certification if you want to continue as one of their suppliers. Your first thought is, “Oh great! Another customer requirement that will waste time and money without adding any real value!”
However, you can’t afford to lose the business this client represents, so you begin to do a bit of research. After some hours on the internet, you narrow down the choices to two schemes that are benchmarked to GFSI and appear to be widely used by your competitors and companies that supply you with materials. Now you just need to make a final choice. After reviewing some additional information on both schemes, you determine that one of the schemes seems to fit your operation pretty well.
Your next step is to contact one of your suppliers currently certified to your chosen GFSI benchmarked scheme. You reach Trish, the supplier’s QA Manager, and explain what you want to discuss and she offers to help.
You ask questions centered on finding the quickest and easiest route to certification. You explain that you want to waste the fewest possible resources while still satisfying your customer. Trish answers a few preliminary questions, then she hesitates a moment and says, “I think you are approaching this all wrong. Let me tell you about my company’s experience with GFSI certification”.
Trish's company had originally approached GFSI certification as just another chore necessary to satisfy customers. As they became more involved in developing and implementing a GFSI system, members of the plant’s management team started to notice that many elements of the GFSI system were already included in existing programs. They also realized some additional benefits that could be harvested from this effort. For example, the GFSI system they were developing provided a great tool to effectively manage food safety and quality programs already in use. The requirement for management review of their programs provided a format to ensure that senior personnel remained current on program status. The requirements for verification and validation would provide these managers with evidence that programs had been implemented as designed and were achieving desired results. Data generated from many of the monitoring activities could be used to judge compliance to regulatory and customer criteria and could also be used as an aid in financial planning. Suddenly GFSI seemed like so much more than just another chore to check off a list.
Trish also explained that additional benefits surfaced as the GFSI system was fully implemented and modifications were made to improve some of the programs. Customer complaints were reduced, fewer nonconformances were raised by customer and regulatory auditors, and money was saved as a result of the company reducing scrap and rework costs.
The effort required to successfully prepare for GFSI certification forced Trish’s management team to take a critical look at existing food safety and quality programs, and even develop some new ones. “I now feel way more comfortable when I take a long weekend or go on vacation for a couple weeks,” Trish said. “I believe our programs are self-sustaining and our people are better trained better than ever. Line workers seem to be more invested in the success of our operations. They readily notice and report glitches that may have an impact on the quality or safety of the products we make. I think our internal culture is changing, and for the better”.
You leave the conversation feeling refreshed and ready to take on a new challenge, confident that you understand and can show your management team the value GFSI certification will add to your operations.
Did you know that GFSI certification can actually help you comply with FSMA? We know many of you are concerned about FSMA, so we have prepared a new 40-minute webinar that outlines the FSMA process and how it relates to GFSI. Our VP of Food Safety Services, Stephanie Lopez, breaks down everything you need to know today to be prepared for FSMA tomorrow. You can view it for free on our site! Just fill out the form and click submit.