How to Launch a Bulletproof Preventive Control Plan
There are two reasons to maintain a food safety program in a processing facility: it makes for safer products (and if you do it right, better quality too) and…it is a legal requirement in most countries. Without a well-designed, bulletproof, preventive control plan, small problems can very quickly become Big Problems, especially in a new facility or during company expansion.
The truth is that food safety failures and inefficient processes are two things that no food business can afford. Icicle’s ERP system is the backbone of hundreds of facilities worldwide, breaking down your preventive control plans for food safety into intelligent, easy-to-follow steps that are integrated with every other aspect of operations, from quality, to maintenance, to inventory, to sales.
The Basics of Food Safety Programs
Over the last sixty years or so, countries around the world have worked to harmonize with the Global Food Safety Initiative standards, which are designed around the HACCP methodology to identify hazards associated with food production and the controls necessary to mitigate the risks those hazards pose. This approach has recently become more sophisticated, focusing on prevention instead of reacting to problems. Today, the global food supply chain is grounded in Preventive Control Plans (PCPs) — beyond HACCP — and they are more essential than ever.
Most food processors need a preventive control plan to operate. This pressure does not only come from mandatory government requirements governed by bodies like the Canadian CFIA and US FDA, but also from customers: retailers and distributors who need to ensure that your products are safe, consistent, and of the highest quality. It is these actors who are driving the demand for higher-level preventive control plans like the gold-standard SQF program, which puts an even greater focus on quality control.
With all these requirements — advanced traceability, close monitoring, and the best industry practices included — the challenge of managing them all is more than significant. It makes no sense to put all that work into a manual system that will only be a burden to maintain. When you are tracking as much data as food safety programs demand, why not make that data work for you? Integrating food safety, quality, operations, and business needs into one, unified system seems like a no brainer — and that is exactly what Icicle ERP is designed to do.
Icicle’s sophisticated automation technology means that all aspects of your operations are integrated with one another and work together to create seamless production flows and superior products. Let us walk you through the ways that Icicle works to deliver an unparalleled preventive control plan in ten steps.
1) Develop Standard SOPs, SSOPs, and Policy Documents
The first step in setting up a bulletproof, automated preventive control plan is to develop your Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPs), and other policy documents around food safety like communication policies for the products and processes you have planned.
Icicle makes this easy out of the gate by providing a series of best-practice templates, including industry-specific templates for food companies. You can customize your SOPs, SSOPs, and policy documents directly in Icicle so that the documentation you need to satisfy these requirements can be linked directly to your prerequisite program requirements. This allows all users to seamlessly access the necessary, up-to-date documentation from any secure internet-enabled device (with sufficient account permissions).
Icicle really held our hand like we had hoped they would, in terms of supplying templates and data and such. The training was also very ad-hoc as needed and the customer service along the way was invaluable.Terry Goulah, Vice President of Operations and Co-Founder of Free Yumm
These documents don’t just sit on the shelf, they become invaluable resources for your staff as they carry out their work. Any changes that are made to documentation can be easily communicated, an especially useful feature during an emergency event affecting global health.
2) Identify and Control Hazards
The next step in setting up a food safety program is to begin hazard identification. Preventive control plans that follow HACCP methodology require that you identify biological, chemical, and physical hazards at each stage of production, and more recent regulations now require the identification and control of radiological hazards too.
Icicle’s visual tools allow you to create dynamic, user-friendly models of your production processes so you can zoom in and out of any aspect of production. But there are typically hundreds if not thousands of hazards associated with ingredients, process steps, production steps, materials, and packaging. Icicle streamlines this labourious process with our smart suggestions algorithms, which automatically suggests the potential hazards typically associated with each ingredient, material, packaging item, process step, and production step.
Having Icicle made it really easy to incorporate new HACCP plans with the process flowcharts and the processes and all the hazard analysis — that was very quick and easy to input into the system.Dave Maguire, HACCP Coordinator at Hayter’s Farm
When new requirements are introduced, such as TACCP and VACCP, which were brought in to control the risks associated with bioterrorism and food fraud, you can easily incorporate new requirements for ingredients, materials, packaging, cross-contamination points, and even quality hazards into your preventive control plan. Changes are automatically propagated throughout the entire system.
Though it is not a part of the HACCP methodology, preventive maintenance is also critical to your preventive control plan to maintaining food safety in your facility. Icicle copies that methodology into maintenance management, so you can vet equipment for use in the food facility, set up cleaning schedules (SSOPs), monitor to ensure that they are followed with a multi-step process including digital inspections and automated task reminders.
3) Identify Cross-Contamination Points
In many jurisdictions, you will have to identify cross-contamination points and their related hazards in your preventive control plan. Controlling cross-contamination is especially important for controlling allergen cross-contamination, which is the leading cause of food recalls.
For a small number of food producers that deal exclusively with low-risk products in a dedicated facility, allergen control is not a significant issue. However, most food processors must track common allergens in their preventive control plan to mitigate the risk of cross-contamination, which can put consumers at serious risk. One way that many food processors deal with this risk is to put a general label warning on their products to protect themselves from legal liability, but that is a blunt instrument solution that limits the market in a time when consumer awareness of food allergens is growing.
The more pragmatic approach that food processors can embed in their preventive control plan design is to maintain effective segregation of allergens from non-allergenic products to avoid risks of cross-contamination, which can lead to increased market share.
Once cross-contamination sites have been identified, Icicle users can define appropriate procedures, which are approved and validated by electronic inspections — and benefit from a suite of allergen-control features that dramatically minimize the risk of recalls. This presents a significant market advantage since regulatory requirements are easily integrated with your staff’s daily activities.
4) Set Up Corrective Actions
Once the procedures associated with your preventive control plan have been defined in Icicle, you can set up scheduled tasks and, if any mistakes are made or unexpected circumstances arise (incidents), specific workflows are automatically triggered (e.g. corrective actions, retraining, etc.), tracked, and logged for your audit trail.
Often with simple incidents, like a nonconformity, that can be remedied fairly easily, a corrective action task can be assigned directly from an inspection. More serious issues, like deviations (when a critical control limit has been exceeded) require more comprehensive action. As part of your preventive control plan, you will need to initiate corrective actions, undertake root cause analyses, identify preventive measures, flag documents for review, etc. Product may be rendered unsuitable for sale. Icicle will manage all of these steps for you, but our primary goal is to reduce the risk of deviations through automated monitoring and warning systems that notify you of problems before they become serious.
I used to have to send around Word forms for corrective actions around to everybody, but it was hard to get people to complete them. With the task assigning feature, everything is streamlined – no more scanning and sending documents.Sheryl Grider, QA Manager at Natural Grocers
Since Icicle’s approach to corrective actions is so dynamic, actionable, and future-oriented, you will be ready to handle any challenge. The proof is in your insurance policy, which can cost you less with Icicle.
5) Train Workers and Maintain Records
Once all these features are set up, you need to make sure that your staff knows what to do to follow through with your preventive control plan. With Icicle, you can schedule worker training, approve training, and keep track of which procedures workers have been trained in. Task reminders are automatically issued for upcoming training while tasks resulting from training can be tracked and verified. You can also flag employees for retraining if incidents arise.
Training was actually nice and straightforward because I can assign each person their own areas (production runs, quality checks, cleaning). I’m able to limit the scope so I didn’t have to do overwhelming training. They took to it really well.Felix Irnich, COO at DaVinci Gelato
Since all of this work was completed in Icicle, there is a ready-made audit trail for you to present to the auditor at any time – no preparation needed. You will also be able to present your most current preventive control plans in a few clicks.
6) Implement Traceability Program (and Inventory Control)
Some food processing facilities use the same lot code for many production runs because it is much simpler than manually tracking everything. But that means that if an incident occurs, the product produced over many production runs must be recalled, which is expensive and hurts your reputation.
Beyond strengthening your preventive control plan, Icicle provides enhanced traceability with granular control, complete with lot codes and automatic best-before dates so you can track each item back to its source and throughout its lifecycle within the establishment. Icicle pulls this information from your usual operational activities, meaning that the automation technology of Icicle is doing most of the work for you. As products,ingredients, materials, packaging, and parts travel through your facility, workers capture a fine level of granular information using GS1 barcodes so your staff can keep the production flow going smoothly with integrated scanners.
You can track everything in your facility while benefiting from smart features like inventory management and purchasing suggestions. All this data is visible in user-friendly dashboards so you can keep an eye on things, even from home. If a recall does occur, this level of resolution means that you can conduct automatic mass balance calculations in under two minutes that can tell you which items and precursor products were affected by a recall. Instead of catastrophic events, recalls — including recalls caused by your suppliers or other businesses using the facility — affect only targeted, precise numbers of products.
Having a uniform and consistent traceability program is vital, and Icicle makes everything easy. It’s idiot-proof. Checks that used to require hours now take minutes per day.Chris Foster, Food Safety and Quality Coordinator at Ontario Pride Eggs
7) Conduct Bioterrorism and Food Fraud Assessments
The next step towards the development of your preventive control plan is to set up bioterrorism and food fraud assessments for suppliers, ingredients, materials, packaging, and employees.
Bioterrorism and food fraud have become bigger issues in recent years with the introduction of TACCP and VACCP requirements. Icicle makes this process easy by providing templates for threat and vulnerability assessments, which help you assess the risk levels for threats (i.e. bioterrorism, where there may be intent to cause harm) and vulnerabilities (i.e. food fraud, cases when someone adulterated products for economic gain). This ensures that your preventive control plan covers all the bases.
If an ingredient (for example) has been assessed as high-risk (e.g. honey), that shipment can be held in QA Hold until it has passed quality assurance tests, ensuring that you and your customers are getting what you paid for.
8) Validate Vendors (Supplier Certification)
We have already hinted at the importance of supplier certification (also vendor certification): if you are making great products, all your hard work can be undermined by a sub-par supplier. That is why supplier management is an important aspect to quality control and your preventive control plans, as well as a regulatory requirement for most food processors.
Icicle users can choose to prevent orders from being placed with unvetted suppliers. Upload the necessary documentation to certify a supplier and Icicle will then help you keep track of those certifications and make sure that they are kept up to date. Any changes made to those certifications are automatically propagated throughout the system. You can even send out automatic reminders en masse, so nothing important ever expires unexpectedly.
Icicle’s supplier management features are a dream for quality assurance staff, who typically spend hours upon hours wrapped up in time-consuming paperwork that prevents them from doing the most important parts of their job, preventing problems from occurring on the shop floor. Once suppliers are entered into Icicle, maintaining the rest is quick and easy — especially around audit time.
9) Set Up Visitor Control
Visitor access control is a crucial way to maintain security and records for food businesses. You can easily complete this requirement by setting up digital visitor access control directly in Icicle, where visitors can input their information and generate a name tag with relevant information automatically. Icicle also remembers who has been to the facility, so returning visitors can auto-complete the form.
We were easily able to adapt this system for detailed health screening as well, allowing Icicle users to implement detailed screening for all employees. How does it work? Icicle completes a statistical analysis to assess risk and, if anyone fails a screening test, alerts and notifications are automatically sent to the responsible individuals.
10) Collect Data
At this point, we have covered the regulatory bases for your preventive control plan. But Icicle never stops at the requirements alone. Like we’ve said already — you are putting a lot of work into your food production processes, so why waste it all? That information is valuable to your business, and with the right tools, it can be even more valuable.
That’s why Icicle also integrates with automated sensors to collect data with minimal risk of human error and maximum efficiency. You can set up monitoring on all temperature and chemical concentration elements like coolers, wash water, chemical baths, and more. In other words: when you use Icicle, you can have separate systems speak to each other. If a threshold is exceeded, the sensor picks it up and sends that information to Icicle, which triggers corrective actions immediately. This technology can even be extended to laboratory management, where positive or negative lab tests can trigger corrective actions in Icicle automatically.
So on the one hand, integrated data collection in Icicle means that some crucial safety and quality tasks are fully automated, eliminating the risk of human error. On the other, the data collected in Icicle provides incredible, granular insights into your production facility and processes.
Having all that visibility and data really gives us more confidence in the way we operate and the understanding of where incidents or faults occur as well.Chris Lerohl, CEO of Honest Dumplings
Icicle’s easy-to-use dashboards for production, QA, sales, and more allow you to view snapshots of your business from your device, dig deep to optimize production and fix problems, and trend data to help you plan better for the future. Icicle will even take all this information and provide helpful purchasing suggestions, price lists, and other optimization features based on Icicle’s intelligent algorithms.
The Next Step: Ace Your Inspections and Audits with Icicle ERP
When your food safety program is set up in Icicle, you and your entire staff work with it constantly, just through everyday activities. When an inspection or audit comes around, everything is already ready — and the laborious preparation process is reduced from months to minutes. Need to show a HACCP plan? No problem, Icicle will automatically generate one in seconds. Need to conduct a mock recall? No problem, what used to take hours can be done in seconds too.
We’ve got nothing but wonderful compliments about our food safety system from auditors because everything is organized, all the documentation is there, the HACCP logs are there — it’s just one click and they can see everything.Dave Maguire, HACCP Coordinator at Hayter’s Farm
The first time the auditor came, I remember that the process seemed a lot easier. The information was readily available and it made it so much smoother and easier to provide that stuff right away, without having to look it up.Simon Lam, Director of Operations at the Chai Company
Icicle was built as a perfect match for the food industry’s dynamic and complex landscape, and for growing food businesses. With unparalleled software design, expert templates, and exceptional customer service, Icicle is all you need to set up a fully compliant and truly bulletproof food safety program and deliver superior products to more markets, worldwide.