Document Control Software Plays a Critical Role in Food and Beverage Production and Safety

Document Control Software for Food and Beverage Production

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Document Control software in food and beverage production and safety streamlines processes, helping your organization to meet regulatory guidelines, improve quality, and increase efficiency and productivity.

It is imperative for food and beverage manufacturers to attain and uphold regulatory compliance, maintain quality standards, manage recalls, standardize processes, facilitate collaboration, and enhance security. These objectives necessitate the creation, management, and control of various document types. The following are among the top 10 categories of documentation that every food manufacturer must maintain:

  1. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs): These documents outline step-by-step instructions for specific tasks or processes, such as cleaning and sanitation procedures, equipment operation, quality control checks, and food safety protocols.
  2. Work Instructions: Work instructions provide detailed guidance on how to perform specific tasks within the manufacturing process. They may include assembly instructions, recipe formulations, batch records, labeling instructions, or packaging guidelines.
  3. Specifications: Specifications define the requirements and characteristics of raw materials, ingredients, packaging materials, finished products, and labeling. They ensure consistency, quality, and compliance with regulatory standards and customer expectations.
  4. Food Safety Plans: Food safety plans, such as Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans, detail the identification, assessment, and control of potential hazards in the manufacturing process and outline preventive measures, monitoring procedures, corrective actions, and verification processes to ensure food safety.
  5. Certifications and Compliance Documentation: Documentation related to certifications, such as ISO 9001 (Quality Management System) or certifications specific to the food industry like Safe Quality Food (SQF), or Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) standards. These documents demonstrate compliance with industry best practices and regulatory requirements.
  6. Supplier Documentation: Documents related to supplier evaluations, approvals, and audits. These include supplier qualification questionnaires, certificates of analysis (COA), allergen statements, supplier agreements, and other records to ensure the reliability and safety of incoming raw materials.
  7. Change Control Records: Change control records document any changes made to processes, ingredients, formulations, or equipment within the manufacturing environment. These records capture the details of the change, reasons for the change, impact assessment, approval signatures, and implementation plans.
  8. Training Materials: Training materials, including training manuals, presentations, and videos that facilitate employee training and ensure consistent understanding and execution of processes.
  9. Audit and Inspection Reports: Documentation of internal and external audits, inspections, and assessments to track compliance, identify areas for improvement, and demonstrate regulatory adherence.
  10. Incident and Recall Management: Documents related to incident reports, product complaints, non-conformances, corrective actions, and product recall procedures to manage and track any quality or safety issues.

Document Control in Food and Beverage Manufacturing

Document Control Software allows food and beverage manufacturers to store all important documents in a centralized repository, helping to reduce the likelihood of losing or misplacing critical documents. You can set up automated methods for organizing documents that properly name and date files (including supporting documents) as well as add meta descriptors to help with search and retrieval. You can also set retention dates and notifications to determine when a document is due for review or has become obsolete. This is especially important for food and safety, because obsolete or outdated documents may jeopardize food quality and safety if staff continue to use documents with invalid information.

Document Creation and Versioning

Creating new documents for food production and safety can be challenging, especially when documents are created in teams and require review and approval from others. With document control software, a document can be created and stored in a central location, allowing authorized users to access and edit documents via a check-in and check-out system, ensuring that multiple drafts of the same document do not exist in various locations. Document versioning establishes a complete document history showing how a document has changed over time and providing the ability to retrieve prior versions or revisions.

Process Automation

Food production and safety requires that processes be documented, and tracked. When performed manually, this can take a great amount of effort and is prone to human error and confusion. A document control system with automated workflow enforces consistency and accountability. Workflow rules can be assigned to trigger when certain events take place. For example, when a new food manufacturing procedure is ready for approval, a workflow can automatically notify others to review and approve the procedure. Upon approval, the new procedure can then be automatically filed and published with notifications automatically sent out to the appropriate staff to acknowledge they have read and understand.

Digital Signatures

Digital signatures are integral to document control systems, especially for compliance with FDA 21 CFR Part 11. Digital signatures are used to maintain the authenticity of electronic records. Authorized users apply unique digital signatures to documents, ensuring their integrity and preventing unauthorized modifications. These signatures also establish the identity of the signer, ensuring they cannot later deny their involvement or the legitimacy of their signature. Digital signatures enhance the accountability and legal validity of electronic records.

Document Logging and Audits

Tracking and documenting food production processes is important for food safety and compliance. Food production businesses are very familiar with inspections and audits and know that readiness is key. When documents are stored and managed within a document control system, actions are logged, and everything is digitally traceable. How documents have changed over time, who changed them, how processes were conducted, and who was notified can all be accessed with a few clicks, making life easier for you and the auditor.

Examples of documentation in food quality and safety programs

Undoubtedly, documentation plays a vital role in ensuring compliance and preserving product integrity. Various types of documentation are essential for effective management and control. Below are a few examples among a comprehensive range of documentation categories that are crucial for maintaining the highest standards in the food industry.

  • Facility Procedures: Processes and procedures for facility operation, maintenance, sanitation, and environmental monitoring.
  • Finished Good Specifications: Quality requirements for the final product, including appearance, taste, texture, and nutrition.
  • Formulation Processing Procedures: Steps for creating a product, including ingredient preparation, mixing, and packaging.
  • FSQS Forms: Records for quality control processes, such as product testing, supplier quality, and customer complaints.
  • FSQS Policies: Company’s commitment to quality and compliance, outlining objectives, responsibilities, and procedures.
  • FSQS Procedures: Steps to ensure product quality standards, including testing, control, and corrective actions.
  • HACCP Plans: System for identifying and controlling production hazards, outlining critical control points and necessary measures.
  • HACCP Supporting Documentation: Additional information supporting the HACCP plan, including hazard analysis and verification procedures.
  • Labels and Artwork: Visual representations of product packaging, including name, ingredients, nutrition, and warnings.
  • Nutrition Facts (Nutrifacts): Information on product’s nutritional content, such as calories, fat, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Packaging Area Specifications: Requirements for the packaging area, including sanitation, equipment, and environmental monitoring.
  • Packaging Forms: Records for the packaging process, including lot numbers, materials used, and quality checks.
  • Packaging Material Specifications: Quality requirements for packaging materials, including type, strength, and durability.
  • Packaging Procedures: Steps for packaging, including preparation, filling, sealing, and labeling.
  • Processing Area Specifications: Requirements for the processing area, including sanitation, equipment, and environmental monitoring.
  • Processing Procedures: Steps involved in the production process, including ingredient preparation, mixing, and processing.
  • Raw Material Specifications: Quality requirements for raw materials, including type, purity, and safety.

Document Control Software mitigates risk and improves efficiency

Regulations such as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and ISO 22000 have been created to ensure the health and safety of food production in the United States and around the globe. The processes for meeting these guidelines can be complex and challenging, especially if you do not have a comprehensive document control strategy in place. Manual methods of document control, including paper-based methods, can put your organization at risk… whether from problems that result from failing to meet regulatory requirements, or from lack of efficiency resulting in the inability to stay competitive.

As a food production business grows, the amount of documentation and procedural systems required to ensure quality and safety increases. Developing a solid document control strategy with the right methods and tools up front is ideal. Document control software helps by creating a foundation for document organization and file management, as well as integrating workflows, such as document approvals and auto filing, to ensure processes are automated and streamlined.

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