It’s no surprise that food and beverage companies, in order to protect consumers and their brands’ relationships with them, require assurances that the contract manufacturers with whom they work follow strict safety and quality standards. That is where the Safe Quality Food Institute (SQFI), a division of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), comes in.

The organization sets those standards for food safety and quality and institutes a safe quality food (SQF) certification requirement level for work in the food and beverage industry. “And a big part of their requirement is that companies use a statistical process control (SPC) methodology and tools in their manufacturing processes,” or so says a new white paper on the subject from InfinityQS, titled “Win More Business With SQF Certification: How SPC Solutions Support SQF Certification.”

The white paper details SQF certification, including what it is, why it is needed, the different certification levels, how you get certified, and “the nuts and bolts of SPC.”

Originally designed to bring, “rigor and credibility to the food industry,” the SQF certification program, one of 11 certifying bodies recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), boasts a guaranteed food safety monitoring system that protects both consumers and food brands. It is now required by a great number of the world’s largest food and beverage suppliers, as well as their supply chain, as it provides stringent standards for safety and quality.

According to the white paper, with companies being verified and validated at each level of the supply chain, the program benefits everyone. Namely, consumers are assured that they’re purchasing safe and quality products. For food and beverage brands, they can protect their profits from costly recalls that damage brand image by working with trusted contract manufacturers. For such suppliers, they can win more business and build profitable relationships with major purveyors.

Certification under the program is provided on three levels. Level One, dubbed the Fundamentals Program, is for small- and medium-sized food suppliers looking to start or build on a food safety management program, and lays the foundation for future compliance with GFSI benchmark standards.

The second level, called the Food Safety Program, meets GFSI benchmarked standards and is recognized around the globe. It calls for the implementation of a preventive food safety system known as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and, “ensures that thorough scientific analysis of microbiological, physical, and chemical hazards is applied to each step of the food supply chain.”

The third level, the Food Safety and Quality Program, “goes above and beyond.”

It was created, “to monitor and control threats related to food quality,” and its participants include many large-scale producers, manufacturers, food packaging facilities, and distributors.

The white paper offers step-by-step instructions for completing all eight steps to certification, which include studying the SQF code and registering with the SQF Assessment Database, as well as a pre-assessment and an official audit. The greatest challenge of the program is accountability, meaning, “every aspect of a food and beverage manufacturing company’s operation should satisfy the benchmarked standards put forth by the GFSI. Pulling this off at scale requires a robust and highly customizable software solution—one that enables companies to manage large data sets that can be easily accessed and verified in the event of an audit. Further, the solution must afford cost-effective implementation while signaling a clear return on investment from the start.”

Enter statistical process control (SPC). As the white paper states, “all suppliers collect data, but many struggle to make good use of the large data sets they’ve captured. An SPC software solution helps suppliers mine insights that enable them to reduce risk, improve consistency, and lower operating costs.”

Just a few of the benefits provided by the use of SPC by food and beverage companies include:

  • Reduced data collection time by 14.4% and reporting time by 17.1%
  • Reduced weekly scrap by 12.7% and warranty claims by 14.1%
  • Reduced overtime by 14.1% and rework by 14.3%

One of the most compelling statements from the white paper, for those that are not mega-conglomerates of food and beverage products, is “many of the world’s largest purveyors of food and beverage products require the highest level of SQF certification, which itself requires SPC. Thus, an SPC solution grants mid- to large-sized suppliers an opportunity to compete on a national or global scale, increasing their market reach.”

However, many of those well-recognized, worldwide companies provide the success stories for the use of SPC, particularly the use of InfinityQS SPC solutions.

According to the white paper, “prior to SPC, Nestlé Waters’ quality operators had to halt production to gather necessary data. Nestlé Waters needed a system that would allow them to easily monitor, review, and trend real-time data. Now, with InfinityQS, Nestlé Waters has real-time visibility into production processes across 26 factories.”

Also consider the story of Snak King, a contract manufacturer of snack products. Due to product inconsistency, “Snak King was subject to frequent quality holds and process aborts, resulting in high waste costs. Snak King needed an SPC system that would provide actionable data with ease of use. With InfinityQS, Snak King receives a wide range of data, including customer complaint tracking, incoming receiving tracking, and quality inspections tracking. This has resulted in a 30 percent improvement in customer complaints and a $1 million reduction of product waste.” As a holder of SQF Level 3 certification, Snak King is able to be more competitive and win more contracts.

As the white paper concludes, “food and beverage recall events can be the nail in the coffin for many suppliers, emphasizing the need for a food safety management program that meets global standards. When implemented alongside a quality SPC software solution, SQF certified companies at every level of the supply chain are empowered to prevent recall events from impacting their bottom lines. This return on investment is realized in months rather than years. SPC solutions cut costs, streamline production, and enable safe and quality product consistency that global food purveyors and consumers can trust.”