Communication’s impact on risk, revisited
A happy new year to you all and thanks for your interest in the Food Packaging Safety Forum. Last time, we discussed risk evaluation in order to understand and rate risks to safety and quality. While discussing risk in general, it is important to consider that there are many potential risks within your business. Those risks include risks to your business, employees, supply chain, customer satisfaction and so forth. These risks all need to be understood by the broader organization, but it is important to understand that these are not food safety risks. Simply put, food safety risks are hazards, which are capable of causing harm to humans. From the HACCP process, they are bucketed into three categories of causation: physical, chemical and biological. As an example, the risk from cross contamination of goods during handling and manufacturing is the nightmare that keeps quality managers up at night. While the potential hazards from cross-contamination are always a high priority item for every company, not all cross contamination events represent risk to human safety. This is one reason why facilities are best positioned when risk assessment and HACCP processes are taught and assisted by expert professionals and overseen by those who understand the concepts and objectives, receive ongoing training and engage in practice exercises to verify understanding, application and compliance.
This introduction brings me to the subject of this month’s Forum, which I believe is appropriate to the season. What are the two basic objectives that we focus on in the holiday season? From my perspective, those two are logistics and communication. As we begin to put the holiday “personal master plan” in place, we initially think about the logistics of how we are going to accomplish our objectives involving friends, family, gifts, parties, travel, finances and so on. Without effective communication, though, the degree of difficulty ramps up on all other activities.
As I evaluate the discussions that I have had with clients, prospects and others who seek support from EHA and our industry, a theme that keeps elevating in importance is use of effective and value-added communication. That concept is so basic that values and benefits of effective communication get lost, assumed and taken for granted.
As the holiday season flies by and you settle back into your routines in January, think about how you can facilitate, improve or utilize communication to improve safety by reducing risk.
Examples of subjects to consider for enhanced communication include:
- Detailed component (raw material, finished product) Specifications
- Defined Objectives Expectations
- Analysis and Evaluation Methods
- Risks shared between vendor and customer
Based on my recent experiences assessing root causes and risks, I have found these subjects to be consistently
under-appreciated in terms of their importance. Reasons abound for errors and omissions within these subjects: lack of time, resources and funds, protection of intellectual property, confidentiality, and lack of understanding the relationship of risk (by continuing to under-communicate) to reward (that is, risk avoidance through enhanced internal and external communication).
Specific examples for consideration include:
- Collaborative discussions (primary) with internal functions (procurement, quality and operations) regarding missing and erroneous specification detail followed by (secondary) discussions with vendors and suppliers on effective methods for mutual improvement and enhancement.
- Evaluation of internal specification content (representing written expectations, objectives and communication) vs. best practices and interests.
- Joint client-vendor discussions between involved functions (Research, Development, Quality, procurement etc.) re: the “customer process” and objectives as impacted by supplier capability and supply chain.
These limited suggestions are intended to stimulate your passion to (re) evaluate your communications and determine how improvements might reduce your overall risks through understanding, awareness and urgency. Once an organization engages in risk assessment, a logical related and value-added step is to consider if said risk can be mitigated through improved, enhanced and more detailed or frequent communication and, if so, how to most effectively do that.
I am looking forward to connecting with you throughout 2015.