If you’re a manager in the food sector, you’ll know all about HACCP. You will also know how much time and effort goes into food safety management. That’s why a growing number of operators are moving to digital HACCP.
This blog will look at how digital HACCP works and the five benefits of giving technology a greater role in food safety management across the retail, catering and hospitality sectors.
What is digital HACCP?
HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point. It’s a framework for identifying and dealing with food safety hazards. In the UK, HACCP has been mandatory for all food businesses since 2006.
HACCP aims to minimise the risk of food-related illness by addressing three main types of food hazards: microbiological, chemical and physical.
In the UK, an estimated 2.4 million cases of food-related illness happen every year. In the US, 48 million people every year suffer from foodborne illness, according to estimates.
Managers need to consider the five main elements of HACCP:
- Assessing overall food safety risks across the business
- Identifying key operational areas that need attention to minimise risk
- Instigating actions when something goes wrong
- Ensuring correct procedures are followed
- Compiling reports for evidence and audit purposes
These combined obligations place a heavy burden on managers and their teams, particularly when they are spread across multiple locations.
It’s hard to maintain visibility over frontline procedures. There’s often a lack of real-time interaction and information exchange. Managers may need to travel excessive distances to visit sites in person and perform routine checks.
None of this is made any easier by outdated reporting mechanisms. Paper checklists and disjointed spreadsheets have been used in the food industry for decades but no longer meet the needs of workers or managers in such a fast-paced industry.
Checklists are vulnerable to spoilage, information gaps, delays, falsification and errors. They conceal insight, leading to what we at Checkit describe as ‘dark operations’ – the absolute enemy of proactive risk management. Checklists also take up too much time and block productivity. It’s not unusual for staff to fill in forms by hand and scan them into a computer at the end of a shift. And any manager who has tried to pull these separate records into a holistic view for a food safety audit or to look for trends will know how many frustrating hours are lost.
The best digital HACCP solutions replace archaic paperwork with a combination of automated monitoring and digital assistants in an end-to-end workflow management platform to strengthen safety at all levels.
- Automated monitoring takes over repetitive daily tasks such as fridge, freezer and hot-hold temperature checks by introducing wireless sensors that provide continuous 24/7 readings and immediate alerts when food storage conditions stray beyond agreed limits.
- Digital assistants prompt, guide and capture the daily activity of food preparation, production and service teams. Delivered directly into the hands of staff via a mobile device, the digital assistant ensures the right person takes the proper steps at the right time.
While some digital HACCP systems simply convert checklists into a digital format, leading solutions like Checkit enable complete interactive workflows, including both scheduled and unscheduled tasks. The platform is configurable to standard safety protocols and company-specific procedures. It also provides a rich flow of data via business intelligence dashboards for real-time analysis and insight.
What are the benefits of digital HACCP?
One catering compliance manager told us: “We've been heavily paper-based in the way we have managed compliance. That meant we had to be there on the ground to see what was going on in most cases. We didn’t have that oversight centrally. We might find out there was a food temperature incident three months ago, but there was no indication that was going to happen. The introduction of digital HACCP is now one of our top strategic priorities. It enables us to look at both positive and negative indicators. It also enables us to focus on reporting by exception, rather than relying on a constant cycle of physical checks.”
1. Digital HACCP strengthens compliance
The financial, legal and reputational consequences of a single food safety failure can be devastating for businesses. One of the problems with pen-and-paper checks is that they are difficult to verify. As a manager, you have no proof of when checks were carried out or by whom. Digitising HACCP checks means a time-stamped, tamper-proof record of who carried out the check and when it was done, helping to reassure managers that the highest standards are being met. In the Checkit platform, QR code scanning links activity to a specific location. This instils confidence among customers and regulatory authorities. New starters and temporary staff receive clear, on-the-spot guidance, which can be augmented with diagrams, images and videos.
2. Digital HACCP boosts productivity
As the range and frequency of checks increase, the amount of time spent taking readings manually and then entering them into computers grows exponentially. While this is necessary, it is time that could otherwise be used for food production or serving customers, impacting productivity. When staff shortages are biting across the food sector, efforts to save staff hours assume even greater importance. The same is true of managers, who are often left with the task of reviewing reams of paperwork, again adding to their workloads. Digitising HACCP frees time across the board and creates a better colleague experience. One of the UK's largest leisure groups saves around 20,000 hours of staff time by digitising compliance checks.
3. Digital HACCP provides an early warning
Digital HACCP provides a vital early warning of potential problems – before they turn into significant issues. For example, suppose a staff member manually takes fridge temperature readings at the beginning and end of the shift. In that case, there is no guarantee that the temperature remained within the correct parameters for most of the shift. Real-time monitoring can show when temperatures are moving up (or down) towards dangerous levels, alerting staff and enabling corrective action to be taken before quality or compliance is affected. Digital HACCP also helps keep equipment safe by enabling predictive maintenance. Similarly, food safety data streaming back to managers from digital assistants can highlight issues at specific sites so that training and support can be targeted. As part of an intelligent operations platform, digital assistants also enable processes and guidance to be reviewed, updated and rolled out to all staff rapidly as part of a continuous improvement programme.
4. Digital HACCP gives managers real-time capabilities
Food businesses that are large and highly distributed are hard to manage. In the past, you had to be on the ground to see what was happening. Digital HACCP, combining sensors and digital assistants, collates live data in real-time and delivers actionable insights to a business intelligence dashboard. This provides managers with a complete picture of what is going on, allowing them to monitor activities and take corrective action without needing to visit a site.
5. Digital HACCP delivers easy access to records
Paper-based records pile up quickly, requiring plenty of space for storage. They can also easily be lost, damaged or be illegible when you come to review them. Digital HACCP removes all of these issues. Data for specific shifts and production lines can be accessed at the touch of a button, giving greater control and making it easy to demonstrate compliance to customers and regulators. Good record-keeping is crucial to any successful HACCP system. By switching to digital, food businesses can ensure improved HACCP compliance, increased productivity and greater control across all their operations.
- Find out how this hospitality group saved 20,000 hours per year by digitising compliance checks
- Request a demo to find out how Checkit supports digital HACCP
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash