Five Steps You Can Take Today to Get More Out of Your Quality Assurance Team
February 17, 2021
The business is growing but your quality assurance resources are limited. How do you keep up with the ever-increasing volume and variety of produce you are receiving when you don’t have the budget to hire more inspectors or don’t have the time to train novice inspectors? By honing your tools and process, you can do more with less.
Give your quality inspectors the tools they need to be efficient and effective.
Do each of your quality inspectors have all the tools they need to do their jobs efficiently? Do they have a specification book at their fingertips, or is it buried in the bottom drawer? Are your specs visually intensive with a library full of pictures so that they can quickly reference category-specific examples of what is acceptable and not acceptable per defect? Do they each have the measuring equipment and tools that they need near their work area or inspection carts, or do they spend time running around looking for that shared refractometer or camera?
When quality falls below specification, do they have the proper digital tools to quickly document the rejection and alert all stakeholders, or are they working on an aging PC that takes 10 minutes to start up? Is writing up a rejection or minor issues more difficult than it should be? If it’s cumbersome, might your inspectors be prone to skipping the write up – especially on a Friday afternoon – and accepting the product?
Give each of your quality inspectors the tools they need to efficiently do their jobs. It will pay off in spades, especially given the cost of labor and the cost of bringing in a delivery that should have been rejected.
Focus on potential problem areas.
Dive into the data. Aggregate your past inspection data and analyze it. Look for trends – especially with different commodities – over the course of the year. Are there commodities with higher-than-normal rejection rates at certain times of the year? For example, if you know that California citrus is prone to issues through early November, while sweet potatoes are in the prime of the season and typically sail through without issues, then deliberately focus more of your inspectors’ time on the citrus. You may require twice the normal sampling rate with citrus, but you’ll gain that time back with quick cursory inspections of sweet potato deliveries. By flagging deliveries with known problem areas, your quality inspectors can perform faster product assessments and be more likely to catch existing issues instead of wasting time on products with a low likelihood of issues.
Standardize and improve your inspection process.
Put on your critical thinking cap and carve out the time to evaluate your inspection processes every quarter. Are your different distribution centers producing similar acceptance and rejection metrics? If not, inspect your inspection process. Is it clear and streamlined? Have all of your inspectors at all of your distribution centers been fully trained and calibrated with each other? Do they understand the process? If yes, are your inspectors following it, and how do you know if they’re not? The old adage holds true – “what gets tracked gets done”. Track whether inspectors are following your process and provide additional training for those who are not. This will lead to consistent output from your inspectors and across your distribution centers.
Keep your inspectors on the floor inspecting.
The strength and highest value of your quality inspectors is to keep their trained eyes on incoming produce and to evaluate it against your specifications. Keep inspectors on the floor inspecting rather than at a desk writing reports and emails, downloading pictures, and doing computer work. Eliminate the need for inspectors to leave the floor by providing them with a mobile device that they can use to complete their work while staying on the floor inspecting product.
Help your suppliers help you.
Give your suppliers the information they need to make improvements. This will enable you to ask more of them. Are your buyers sharing historical inspection data and scorecards with your suppliers during business reviews? Better yet, are they sharing it at a frequent cadence so your suppliers can course correct? Provide your suppliers with the data they need to continuously improve the quality of their deliveries. By improving the quality of the produce arriving on your receiving docks, you’ll lighten the burden on your inspectors.
If these steps seem daunting, iFoodDS can help. Contact sales@iFoodDS.com or call 206.219.3703 to learn how our quality management solution can help you get the most from your quality assurance resources.