Food QMS: Quality, Safety, and Compliance All in One Place

Tiffany M. Donica
Continuous Improvement Coach

Quality management system (QMS) software has been in existence for a broad range of industries for a number of years. However, until recently, the food and beverage industry has sorely lacked a modern-day solution to help manage food safety and quality assurance (FSQA) programs. Now, food QMS software exists to address the specific challenges of the food and beverage industry.

What is a Food QMS?

Food quality and safety are intertwined yet independently complex functions. Both require the implementation of standards that guide companies to target efficiency and effectiveness. A quality management system is a formalized program that helps a company move closer to the quality target. Quality management systems utilize International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards and total quality management (TQM) to create processes that generate consistent, safe, and uniform products. 

Food QMS (FQMS) prompts companies to move from the reactivity produced by inspections to proactivity. QMS software collects data and delivers notifications in real-time that motivate immediate attention to correct any deviation or variation from industry standards. Waiting to fix processes after they’ve become non-compliant is costly in terms of both time and money. Companies may schedule regular inspections, but this approach will never be as responsive and agile as implementing FQMS solutions that encourage continuous improvement.

What are the components of QMS?

Quality management systems are an essential part of delivering a quality product to your customers. When companies implement a QMS, customers are more likely to trust and stay loyal to a product and organization, ensuring repeat business because of the consistency that can be accomplished. We all know the feeling when we get food from one of our favorite restaurants with anticipation. We take our first bite and find to our disappointment, that is just doesn’t taste like it usually does. This can be avoided by implementing clear visibility and control over your process. On top of that, financially, QMS solutions benefit a company by causing them to meet or exceed industry regulations, prevent waste, increase efficiency, and even avoid potential fines. 

When determining the QMS approach, a company must weigh various factors to arrive at the cost of quality. While integrating new software and methods does come at a price, the advantages can produce a clear net benefit by:

  • Actively involving all employees to take a fresh, proactive stance

  • Lowering costs over time as efficiency improves

  • Flagging processes that create waste

  • Highlighting training opportunities.

ISO 9001:2015 is the most commonly-used set of standards in developing a viable QMS and allows companies to create systems tailored to fit their manufacturing processes. The four critical components of FQMS are:

  1. Supplier requirements—does your system list all the necessary qualification steps and ways to assess risk?

  2. Inspections of incoming materials—are you verifying ingredients and materials, and are you recording and tracking the data accurately?

  3. Supplier scorecards—are you tracking supplier performance regularly or randomly? Are they consistently meeting expectations?

  4. Nonconformance—can your current system track non-conforming products within your organization by date, supplier, or other custom filters?

With so much data and high customer expectations, not tracking these key indicators is far too risky. Tracking it all on paper only without a digital component takes hours of the time that busy  QA teams simply don’t have. 

What is the purpose of QMS?

Software systems with an intuitive, comprehensive dashboard and multiple ways to generate data-reliant reports make quality and compliance a tangible and trackable part of a plant’s process. Food QMS solutions differ from traditional management software because they are agile enough to adapt to each food and beverage company’s unique processes. For instance, their features might include:

  • The ability to retrieve data in real-time from many different sources, including analytic equipment such as scales, PLCs, and thermometers

  • Time- and date-stamped data collection for audit preparedness

  • Instant verification against a multitude of program requirements, including safety protocols, customer quality requirements, regulatory (FDA FSMA, USDA), and GFSI

  • Supplier management tools, such as vendor portals and notifications

  • Analytics to help companies track Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and provide a holistic or concentrated view of food safety quality and tasks

Benefits of Cloud-Based QMS

Many companies have embraced proactive FQMS approaches in addition to inspections to drive consistency but are attempting to do so on paper. While a paper-based QMS is certainly possible, it limits the company’s reaction time to data interpretation. Managers are also more likely to struggle with some statistical aspects, and misinterpretation and error can occur. However, connectivity can be an issue for many companies. 

One example of how SafetyChain was able to help a company implement a reliable QMS program is Albertson’s transition to cloud-based QMS. Setting and adhering to clear, actionable goals was key to making the transition successful. Whether large or small, more and more companies find that a flexible, cloud-based system is vital to implementing a QMS with company-wide buy-in that will reliably produce results. SafetyChain’s FQMS program performs in spotty WiFi situations or even offline and stores records in the cloud that are easily accessible.

Which Outcomes Can Food QMS Software Help You Achieve?

Food QMS tools allow you to save in many ways:

  • Reducing the costs associated with a paper-based system

  • Receiving instant notifications of out-of-spec materials will help you reduce waste

  • FSQA teams can benefit from having these innovative solutions at their disposal, making their roles less challenging

  • Helping your company better optimize its time and labor resources

  • Improving the efficacy of your FSQA programs.

Software like SafetyChain’s QMS can reduce the risks of recalls, which Food Safety Magazine calls “the biggest threat to profitability.”

Achieve Better Performance with QMS

According to a study by SafetyChain and The Acheson Group, 40% of study participants were dissatisfied with their company’s means of tracking operational performance. QMS software doesn’t just give you the ability to track performance; it also can help you improve it. By increasing visibility, food QMS software gives you the actionable data you need to make informed decisions that align with your company strategy and goals.