Food manufacturing compliance and quality assurance are critical components of our civilization. They keep our workers and consumers safe and healthy. However, these regulations form a complex and intricate system. Food manufacturing companies must stay up to date on every aspect, including:
- Health and safety inspections
- Product safety
- Environmental impact
- Employee well-being
- Import/export controls
- Data protection
- Fair competition
Compliance requirements for food manufacturing companies are regulated by:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration oversees consumer safety in several industries in the United States, including food manufacturing. Their Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP) are the foundation of food safety assurance in our country. Every year they release multiple Guidance Documents with Regulatory Information. These documents outline the FDA’s current thinking on multiple topics.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration protects employee safety and health in the United States. They are responsible for creating and enforcing standards specific to each type of workplace. Employers must comply with OSHA requirements to make sure that their workplace has comprehensive health and safety training, proper hazard precautions, and complete documentation of injuries and illnesses.
The Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for protecting the natural environment. They are also charged with improving the health of humans by researching and creating standards regarding chemicals and pollutants in food, water, and animal feed. Noncompliance can result in fines, sanctions, and other legal proceedings.
Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points is a risk-prevention management system. When applied, this control process helps prevent, reduce, or eliminate food contaminants. HACCP certification is the gold standard around the world for biological, chemical, and physical hazard control.
5. International Standards
International regulations apply to any company that imports or exports products. As globalization increases, selling on the international market is more achievable than ever. However, every country has its own import/export laws that will affect international sellers.
Additionally, other countries may have quality assurance procedures that are more advanced than the United States. This compels many companies to strive for progress. The result is advanced systems that create safe and sustainable products.
Why is Quality & Compliance So Important
Quality and compliance regulations protect your business, employees, and customers. Non-compliance can result in fines, sanctions, and closures for your business. Not to mention injuries, illnesses, and even death for your employees or consumers.
In modern times, governmental bodies have started playing a more prominent role in the food manufacturing industry. Especially for those in international markets. If your company is unable to ensure compliance – or provide complete documentation – it can be held accountable.
Quality assurance and compliance must play a prominent role in every food manufacturing company’s training, day-to-day operations, and investment strategy.
Current Food Manufacturing Challenges (COVID-19 & More)
The food industry must keep up with complex regulation changes, environmental updates, and consumer trends. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic brought about a problematic combination of increased demand and increased regulation. This has made it very difficult for everybody in the food industry.
Luckily, the development and implementation of remote presence technology provides a cost-effective, eco-friendly solution to many of the current problems we face.
Here are three of the top challenges facing the food manufacturing industry in 2021:
1. Maintaining Health & Safety Standards
The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the FDA in unprecedented ways. In 2020 they postponed foreign and domestic facility inspections. While some of these inspections have gotten underway, it would take years for the FDA to catch up if they continued on-site inspections.
Food manufacturing is one industry that cannot shift to remote work. Food production, packaging, and distribution all happen on-site. These inspections are crucial to ensuring that the food on our plates is safe and the people making it are protected.
That’s why a shift towards remote inspections is inevitable. The FDA has already started performing remote evaluations on drug facilities and importer inspections due to COVID-19. Many other businesses and governmental organizations in Europe and Asia have implemented remote presence inspections.
Remote inspections are more efficient and cost-effective than onsite inspections. With 360° video technology, inspectors can view the facility, take measurements, and interact with hosts. Food manufacturing businesses should be prepared for this shift towards modernization.
2. Shifting to Sustainable Practices
Even if the COVID-19 pandemic gets resolved and life begins to go back to “normal,” the climate crisis will continue to affect the food and beverage industry for the foreseeable future. The EPA, other governmental bodies, and consumers will continue to put pressure on companies to use sustainable methods to create environment-friendly products.
Again, remote presence is an obvious step in the right direction. Internal communication, audits, and quality assurance tasks once required face-to-face communication. These flights, drives, and other travel requirements contributed to a large portion of a business’s carbon footprint. Shifting these tasks to virtual interactions eliminates the need for business travel.
3. Keeping Costs Down
Managing costs and expenses is a never-ending job in this shifting landscape. Companies need to constantly refine their operations and procedures to keep their prices competitive. Eliminating business travel is an easy and effective way to future-proof your business.
What is Remote Presence?
Remote presence is an immersive experience of a real place, in real-time. It allows you to fully engage with the people and environment you’re “visiting” from anywhere in the world.
There are three aspects that make up all remote presence systems:
- An immersive experience that allows the guest to look around and feel as if they are in the new space. This can be accomplished with 360° cameras and a VR or AR headset.
- Capturing a real place using visual, auditory, and other sensors. This interaction can be recorded and capture data to be reviewed and used for many purposes later.
- Real-time interaction between the hosts and the guest who is in a remote location.
Remote presence technology is NOT standard videoconferencing. Remote presence allows the guest to become fully immersed in their virtual environment in a way that video calls cannot. Interactions and conversations are more natural, guests can control their own viewpoint, and measurements can be performed in a 360° remote conference.
Remote presence technology is effective for:
- Remote walkthroughs, audits, and inspections
- Site-specific training
4 Ways Remote Presence Can Help Food Manufacturers
Food manufacturers can benefit from remote presence technology in a variety of ways, including:
1. Improving Health & Safety
- With capacity limits and social distancing regulations up in the air, many businesses are going remote. Shifting any tasks or meetings to remote presence will help keep everyone safe.
- Virtually any time a task can be performed remotely, instead of on-site, you are reducing risk. Less time traveling and fewer risk factors in your work environment improve worker safety.
- Business travel requires long hours on the road, away from your home and family. Reducing time away from home can improve your employees’ quality of life.
- Remote audits, walkthroughs, and inspections can easily be recorded and shared across departments. This makes it easier to review and analyze your processes and environments.
2. Reducing Costs & Increasing Productivity
According to MOTUS, the average business trip costs approximately $1,286 when you factor in airfare, meals, lodging, and transportation. Remote presence eliminates this cost entirely. The monetary benefits can be seen immediately, and an investment in remote technology will save you huge amounts in the long run.
The other resource that business travel eats up is time. Work hours spent in transit greatly reduce productivity. With remote presence, one person can spend half a day on the east coast and half a day on the west coast with absolutely zero commute time.
3. Preparing for the Future
Thousands of jobs have already turned remote. It seems inevitable that remote inspections will become the norm eventually. The manufacturers that adopt this technology early on will have a head start on training and hiring, as well as streamlining their operations.
4. Shift Towards Sustainability
As our natural resources continue to dwindle, businesses must shift their practices towards sustainability. Remote presence is one of the easiest ways to cut reduce your carbon footprint.
- Food manufacturing companies are facing higher demand with stricter regulations
- Health and safety, sustainability, and reducing costs are a top priority for all manufacturers
- COVID-19 has shown how difficult it can be to perform on-site tasks in times of increased regulation
- Remote presence can help food manufacturers improve health and safety, reduce costs, increase productivity, prepare for the future, and move towards sustainability