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The Benefit of Continuous Improvement Audits

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Hear Jeremy discuss this subject with Mike Stones, Group Editor at Food Manufacture


This blog is the first in a series written by Jeremy Praud, Head of UK & Europe

With GCSE and A level exams looming in a couple of months, it is easy to think back to that time (perhaps more years ago than we’d like to admit), that we took exams ourselves.  I remember that as the deadline approached, the mind was able to focus on the task ahead, and get down to revision, and making sure I had done the necessary work.  There’s something about a test that drives action.

Those days may be behind us, but auditing (the analogue of exams in the workplace) are a hugely useful way of ensuring activity takes place rather than constantly being put off in favour of other priorities.

This is why historically Quality Audits have been so effective across the UK food industry.  Standards have been driven ever upwards, so much so its hard to believe what it was like 50 years ago…  In hoping to supply a retailer with their standard Bordeaux, one young entrepreneur took the de facto product for analysis to find out where it came from, and discovered it was simply not from Bordeaux. In fact, it wasn’t even wine – rather a mix of industrial alcohol, food colourings and glycerol!

Whilst last year’s horsemeat scandal reminds us of the need for constant vigilance, the wholescale abuses of the past simply aren’t viable any longer – and make no doubt about it, it’s external audit that has achieved that goal.

But what next as the margins to be gained from Quality Audits are ever diminishing?  

Manufacturers aren’t merely interested in good quality. Cost and on time delivery are just as important.  So an audit that is going to help manufacturers drive efficiency and reduce waste has the potential to give a competitive audit to both those companies, and ultimately any retailer sourcing from those companies.

No doubt that is why Marks & Spencer’s, who pioneered the Quality Audits, have introduced a Lean Audit into their Plan A.  With 300 companies being asked to achieve silver status by 2017, any company wanting to supply M&S in the future needs to be on their game. For everyone else, they can be sure that where M&S lead, the other retailers will follow, which means that Lean Audits in the food industry are going to be the shape of things to come.

In my next blog I’ll be looking at whether ‘Lean Audits’ are actually what is needed in FMCG. Stay tuned…

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