Seen & Heard
Missing in standards
The articles on food safety in the March 2013 issue of QP cover a lot of ground—but omit a vital best-practice principle: one-to-one (OTO) flow paths.
In the food industry, a common sight is a group of associates on both sides of a conveyor, each grabbing a food item, doing the same small task (such as add or trim), and dropping the item back on the conveyor. In this process design, a quality issue stemming from a personal failing—such as carelessness, poor training, illness or unclean hands—is difficult to trace back to one in the group. Worse, this "gang" design of the process invites finger-pointing and reduces incentives to be careful, trained, healthy and sanitary.
This situation recommends reorganization into OTO responsibility chains, which is preventive as well as corrective. Extending our simple example, assume one six-person gang adds and trims, followed by six more in the next gang who inspect and pack. An OTO redesign would divide the 12 into, say, three four-person teams. In each, the first person adds and hands to the second person for trim, who passes to the third for inspection, who passes to the fourth for packing and stamping the team number on the carton. Now, there is clear trace-back. But more importantly, with no crowd to hide in, there's elevated motivation to avoid malfeasance.
OTO applies also in mechanized processes. For example, instead of any of three metal forming machines forwarding their outputs to any of three welders—making nine undesignated flow paths—an OTO design would have just three dedicated forming-to-welding flow paths. Trace-back and continuous improvement are much enhanced.
It is not the authors’ fault that none of the articles in the March issue has anything at all to say about designated OTO flow paths. Rather, it is a glaring omission in our standards systems as well as in quality management in general—and a travesty for food quality and safety.
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