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Unforeseen Meaningful Impacts of Digitizing Food Safety Checklists

Imagine you’re one of the quality assurance personnel at your restaurant chain or food service establishment, and in response to a complaint or safety inspection violation, you need to look up the checklists within a certain date range for that store.

Now imagine you’re an organization with hundreds of stores across California, each of which completes multiple checklists every day and sends a weekly envelope stuffed with all of those paper checklists to corporate headquarters. That’s how it’s been done for years. You walk into the file room at corporate and are presented with a teetering mountain of file boxes of paperwork crammed so densely that you could get to the back boxes only by emptying out the room. Now you have to find a handful of checklists within that huge pile.

This is not a hypothetical situation. We’ve seen it with our own eyes.

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That’s part of the beauty of digitizing food safety checklists—it empties out the file room and spares workers from being edged out of their own offices by paperwork, while putting every piece of information within easy reach via computer or personal device. That hapless QA person need only pick up their tablet or log on to their computer to get the records they need.

But there’s still a problem: just digitizing your files isn’t enough.

Digitization has a thorny aspect: it creates a massive amount of data that could potentially still be as difficult to use as raw paper. For example, that organization might simply have scanned all of those forms into PDF files. It would empty out the file room but could make finding the right information nearly as difficult.

Large quantities of paper are very impractical when it comes to managing temperature logs and other important data about your food products. The amount of time and manual labor it would take to extract usable, actionable insight is prohibitive. Most brands have no choice but to remain purely reactive, pulling specific records in response to problems, rather than getting ahead of the curve. How can you make that data searchable, meaningful, and useful? The key is using a platform that offers the ability to adequately query that mountain of data for and present easy to decipher and usable information.

A digital solution grants you the power to drill into the data quickly and efficiently—but only as long as you use a platform that gives you that functionality. The good news? If you can do that, you suddenly have access to an amazing array of information, and you can get quick answers to questions that you didn’t even know had answers.

By using digital checklists to gather data pertaining to verification activities, and a properly configured platform to collate this information, you can pinpoint safety risks by:

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  • supplier
  • product
  • person
  • date

...and by almost any aspect of the data you can imagine. You can identify weaknesses in your HACCP system, protect your supply chain, and enhance the customer experience.

Technology for automating checklists can help your retail foodservice facility in achieving operational excellence and protecting brand standards. With the right digital automation software, you can access a number of additional benefits, such as:

  • Eliminating errors in data recording - "Pencil whipping”—falsification of food-inspection data—is a chronic issue in the restaurant industry, and it can interfere with your ability to conduct HACCP checks and identify hazards that can threaten your inventory. Digitally collecting this data helps prevent this problem. It also saves you the trouble of needing to transfer paper-based data into a digital solution.
  • Ensuring adherence to policies and procedures - Digital checklists can guide employees through inventory management tasks so that no important steps are skipped over.
  • Aiding legal compliance - Keeping data in an easy-to-access digital solution can ensure you can quickly supply data relating to your adherence to HACCP principles. This can forestall potential litigation and fines.
  • Speeding up workflows - Digitizing checklists makes the oversight of possible food safety hazards a much easier and faster process. Digital tools are much more efficient than pens and pencils, so employees can do more in less time.

To ensure continuous improvement in safety monitoring at your site, you must be able to record data accurately and store it in a way that allows for easy access and analysis. Digital technology can automate retail operations relating to these processes—providing you with the high-performance tools you need to compete in today’s foodservice industry.

ComplianceMate is the partner you need for automating processes with world-class digital checklist technology. Read more about our digital food safety solutions, or contact ComplianceMate with your questions today.