Having a crisis management plan assures your company protects its consumers, your company’s reputation, and brand, and avoids or minimizes financial implications in event a crisis were to occur. Every minute counts and how you respond to a crisis is critical to the outcome. Possible issues to a professional crisis response are lack of time to prepare, over or under reaction, multiple stakeholders, potential conflicts of interest, and media attention. With time being of the essence when investigating a potential recall, having the right technology is key to gathering pertinent facts to aid with the decision making process of a recall or crisis. This article explains how a well designed IT system can support you. Part 2 provides insight for production requirements of your IT system.
The system should include a sampling and testing plan for materials as they are received into the warehouse. Hold control programs for products pending test results and product noncompliance should also be included in the system. No products ought to be released until all testing has been completed and verified to be compliant.
Companies that still ship product pending test results or that do not require testing prior to shipment can cause a major issue if the lab results indicate a problem and the product in question has been used upstream in the supply chain. Having a properly designed IT system will provide visibility to test results, pending tests, and controls for a good hold and release program.
In designing an IT system, the company must determine the scope of product involved with lot size or batches for finished products. It is beneficial to minimize the scope of product for each batch or lot by having a method to segregate and distinguish products in commerce. The system should account for incoming materials including packaging. An ability to cross-reference the supplier’s lot numbers in the system is a necessity. It should have capabilities to account for samples of research and development, sales, shelf life, retained production, rework, employee sales, donations, and the company store. The system should define the lot start and end point, most likely correlating with a cleaning cycle.
The system should include a sampling and testing plan for materials as they are received into the warehouse.
Time is not the only factor in the crisis management process; accuracy of the information provided is instrumental to making decisions as it relates to the safety of the products in commerce. The company must consider impact to its brand if it cannot provide a confident scope of implicated products for its customers in a short period of time. For instance, if a company believes the product in question is one code date or lot, but later finds it had rework used on other code dates or lots, it must then make a notification that it has expanded the recall. Having clear and concise messaging for the distribution channels and consumers is key to getting a resolution, terminating the recall and preventing it from becoming a crisis. This means less production interruptions and a better chance of maintaining consumer confidence in the company brand.
Knowing the company lot coding system is an important validation within your IT system. Many companies manufacture products over a 24 hour time period. Decisions need to be made to determine if the day or lot code changes at midnight or at the next shift. This means the company has to validate that all records and systems are in sync with the determined lot change period. Not doing this can create uncertainty of the lots in commerce if trying to resolve customer complaints or tracing products related to an alleged issue.
In my experience, I have encountered a supplier that reported having a single day code of recalled product. When reviewing the records, it was found that the lot in question had been produced after midnight and marked with a new day code. The company needed to report this added day code to its distribution chain as this code needed to be traced and recalled. It was then determined the suspect product had been used as rework in other products. The scope of the recall went from one single product with a single lot code to a large variety of products with multiple day codes affected within 24 hours. The delay in getting this recalled from the start of the process allowed more affected products to be consumed resulting with a greater food safety risk. Needless to say, many long days and nights were spent trying to reconcile the recalled items. The company brand reputation was affected but did recover. Recovery of brand reputation can take time and affect the viability of the business.
Article reproduced with permission from Food Quality & Safety:
Author: Paula Piontek
How are you using IT systems to improve your traceability and recall programmes?