Every company in the food and beverage industry knows the importance of maintaining stringent safety, quality and food traceability standards. However, not every company has the tools and processes in place to meet the high standards they set for themselves.
There are a few globally recognized certification systems that validate an organization’s commitment to producing safe, consistent and high-quality foods. Two of the most widely sought after certifications are Safe Quality Food (SQF) and Brand Recognition through Compliance of Global Standards (BRCGS), formerly the British Retail Consortium (BRC) Food Standard.
In this article, we will briefly explain the SQF and BRCGS certifications, as well as explore how the right computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) can help take the hassle out of meeting whatever compliance regulations your organization must follow.
Understanding SQF and BRCGS certifications
SQF certification is a comprehensive food safety and quality management system that emphasizes risk analysis, prevention and continuous improvement. The SQF program is a Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) standard based on Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) food safety guidelines.
Brand Recognition through Compliance of Global Standards (BRCGS) is another internationally recognized food safety certification system that was initially developed by the British Retail Consortium (BRC). Although there are differences between the two, BRCGS is basically the European counterpart of SQF, meaning it is intended to verify that strict food safety, product quality and operational standards are met by organizations throughout the food and beverage supply chain.
A huge number of organizations across the industry seek out either SQF or BRCGS certification, including companies such as:
- Food and ingredient manufacturers
- Animal feed and pet food manufacturers
- Food packaging manufacturers
- Agricultural packinghouses
- Farming facilities
- Consumer product packagers (utensils, napkins, etc.)
- Storage, distribution, transportation and logistics facilities
Though the specific requirements vary to obtain either SQF or BRCGS certification, an organization must undergo at least one audit that addresses a wide range of food safety, quality management and record-keeping issues.
Although achieving and maintaining either SQF or BRCGS certification might not always be required by law, doing so demonstrates a strong commitment to maintaining the highest levels of food safety, which can help bolster consumer confidence in your organization’s products and open doors to new market opportunities.
Tips for passing an SQF or BRCGS audit:
- Familiarize Yourself with the Code: Begin by thoroughly understanding the requirements outlined in the SQF, BRCGS, or other certification program your organization is seeking. Each certification code provides detailed guidelines and criteria for food safety management systems. Take the time to comprehend each requirement, as well as any implications it might have on downstream operations.
- Implement an Effective Food Safety Management System (FSMS): Establishing a strong FSMS is critical to acquiring either SQF or BRCGS certification, so be sure to develop and document food safety procedures, hazard analyses, risk assessments, and control measures. Ensure that your FSMS aligns with the best practices outlined by your specific certification. Additionally, designating one specific person to spearhead any certification efforts is always a good idea.
- Invest in Employee Training: Educate your employees (including management) about the importance of food safety and their roles in maintaining it. Provide comprehensive training programs that cover topics such as personal hygiene, allergen control, sanitation procedures, and proper handling of food. Regularly reinforce training to ensure ongoing compliance.
- Maintain Complete and Accurate Documentation: Effective documentation is crucial for SQF or BRCGS certification. Keep accurate records of all processes, procedures, and previous audits. Implement a document control system to manage accessibility and traceability of all documents, assets, and products. It cannot be overstated how much maintaining comprehensive and up-to-date records will help streamline and simplify the audit process.
- Conduct Regular Internal Audits: Internal audits are essential to assess your organization's compliance with food safety certification requirements. Regularly review your processes, procedures, and documentation to identify any gaps or non-conformities. Address these issues promptly and implement corrective actions to improve your processes.
- Implement Continuous Improvements: Embrace a culture of continuous improvement to enhance your food safety practices. Regularly review and update your FSMS to incorporate emerging industry trends, technological advancements, and regulatory changes. Also encourage feedback from employees, customers, and auditors to identify potential areas for improvement.
Food traceability and Its role in food safety compliance
One critical aspect of both SQF and BRCGS certification is food traceability, which refers to the ability to track the movement of products or ingredients throughout the supply chain. Food traceability enables companies to identify the source of raw materials, monitor production processes and quickly and efficiently manage recalls should any safety or quality issues arise.
An effective CMMS will provide a centralized platform for all relevant documentation right at your fingertips. While a CMMS does not typically maintain food traceability documentation, when integrated with an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software or Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES), it can link asset information to downtime events, informing machine downtime associated with a food safety breach.
The benefits of leveraging a CMMS
Real-time inventory management: A CMMS enables accurate and real-time tracking of assets and parts. By scanning barcodes and utilizing QR codes, companies can capture essential data points. This information facilitates effective inventory management.
Real-time equipment management: A CMMS allows food and beverage companies to easily track and manage their equipment, ensuring all assets undergo regular inspections and maintenance, as well as sanitation signoffs. By recording essential information such as equipment performance, maintenance schedules and service histories, a CMMS helps a maintenance team ensure that equipment is always functioning properly and meets the necessary safety and quality standards.
Streamlined production processes: CMMS software also allows companies to efficiently and effectively monitor and control production processes. By integrating with production equipment and systems, such as programmable logic controller (PLC) and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, a CMMS can automatically capture data on temperature, pressure and other critical parameters. This data ensures that the production equipment remains within specified operational limits, mitigating the risk of safety or quality issues.
Documentation and compliance: Food safety certifications like SQF and BRCGS require thorough documentation of all processes, procedures and records. And a CMMS provides a centralized repository for managing these documents, ensuring both their accuracy and accessibility. With the right electronic signature capabilities, a CMMS system also streamlines the review and approval process for documentation, making it easier to maintain specific compliance requirements.
Data analytics and continuous improvement: CMMS software generates a wealth of data that can be analyzed to identify trends, patterns and areas ripe for improvement. By leveraging this data, companies can proactively identify potential risks, implement preventive measures and continuously enhance their food safety and quality management systems.
SQF and BRCGS certifications show that your food or beverage company is strongly committed to ensuring the highest standards of food safety and quality. Achieving and maintaining food safety compliance requires robust traceability, effective processes and comprehensive documentation. Fortunately, by implementing a CMMS, your company can significantly enhance its food safety protocols and documented procedures, streamline production processes and effectively meet any regulatory requirements you are faced with.
A CMMS provides your organization with all the valuable data it needs to not only meet food safety standards, but also strive for continuous improvement, ultimately helping you build a trusted brand that outshines the competition.
With nearly 20 years of personal and corporate account management experience, Candice Potter thrives on cultivating long-term relationships with clients and serving as a trusted partner to develop strategic plans that provide solutions and achieve goals. With over 20+ years in strategic accounts she is passionate about helping clients on their digital transformation journey.
Erin Sidwell is key account manager at Fluke Reliability and specializes in the food and beverage sector. She has over 20 years of experience advising food and beverage clients. Erin has a wealth of knowledge on maintenance and reliability in food and beverage as well a more broadly across the industrial sector. She is passionate about delivering results and delivering solutions that solve maintenance issues for businesses.