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Continuous Improvement

Development – To define detail, scope and purpose.

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Training participants will gain a basic understanding of Continuous Improvement and its applications within food safety and quality systems. Basic knowledge competency will be verified through successful completion of the accompanying Continuous Improvement assessment activity. Basic skill competency can be verified through the Continuous Improvement competency checklist available as a resource for this training activity.

Key Definitions For Continuous Improvement
- Continuous Improvement: To raise the performance of an organization through an ongoing process of identifying and improving missions, goals, objectives and action strategies through activities that may include but not be limited to: internal reviews, internal or external assessments, service user feedback, complaints and other service delivery issues.
- Key Performance Indicator or KPI: A quantitative or qualitative measure that enables the overall delivery of a service to be assessed against the goals or targets set by an entity in their strategic plan. A KPI is also commonly known as a KRA or Key Result Area.

Continuous Improvement Development
When considering the development, documentation and implementation of Continuous Improvement within food safety and quality management systems, the following information should be considered to ensure effective outcomes:

About Continuous Improvement
Continuous improvement is all about developing and maintaining systems through which the business can always improve. The term continuous improvement refers to an ongoing need to improve the effectiveness of a management system. The effectiveness of any food safety or food quality system can be continually improved through the use of communications, management reviews, internal audits, corrective actions, system updates, and verification and validation activities.

Continuous Improvement is more of a philosophy than a process or system. It requires everyone in the food business, from senior management through to operational team members to adopt a mindset of continuously looking for ways to improve processes and systems by making them efficient and effective. In most contemporary food businesses, continuous improvement usually takes the form of process improvement activities or projects. A process improvement activity or project is a planned and structured activity to improve a process so that one or more of its outcomes are replaced by a more efficient or effective outcome.

Continuous Improvement relies on the following attributes to ensure success in the intended scope and purpose of application:
- A commitment by all staff to continuous improvement of processes, products, courses and services;
- Input and involvement of all stakeholders in identifying and implementing quality Improvements;
- Systematic use of qualitative and quantitative feedback as the basis for identifying and prioritising improvement opportunities.

The benefits of continuous improvement include market leadership through managing and applying a commitment to continually improving business performance, ability to ensure customer requirements are met, and customer expectations are exceeded through flexibility and quick reaction to customer demand, consistency in the business approach to improving operational capabilities, increased participation from people through training in the tools and methods of continual improvement, the ability to measure continuous improvement through the establishment of goals and targets, and through the acknowledgement of improvement activities.

Continuous Improvement Steps
The logical sequenced steps commonly applied within a Continuous Improvement activity include:
- Identification and definition of the Continuous Improvement activity scope and purpose;
- Analysis of the current process or system;
- Identification of the major sources of process or system variances or inefficiencies;
- Developing solutions to the identified process or system variances or inefficiencies;
- Implementing the chosen solutions;
- Reviewing the outcomes of implementing the chosen solutions;
- Locking the successful implemented solutions into place;
- Activity summary and finalization;
- Ongoing reviews may also be applied as elements of standardised system review activities.

Additional Relevant Information 
The following information is provided from other foodindustrycompliance.com Training Activities as the content is relevant to Continuous Improvement:

About Management Review
The management team of any food business should take responsibility for the review of the implemented food safety and quality systems. The management review process should be undertaken at regular scheduled intervals at least annually, and should include systemic elements such as internal and external audits, previous management review meeting outcomes, customer focus, customer complaints, incidents, corrective actions, non-conformance, process performance, process deviation, HACCP system review, scientific or industry updates relevant to the scope of the business operation, resource requirements, allergens and commercial issues. The Management Review processes within leading food businesses are strongly linked to the Continuous Improvement Process.

As a component of the verification and continuous improvement requirements for a quality management system, the Senior Management of food businesses should complete a review of the food safety and quality management system, including activities such as internal audits, corrective actions, customer complaints, verification activities, policy objectives and risk management.

Management Review Meetings are designed to ensure that all quality related functions are reviewed at the highest possible level so that all levels of management affecting quality are made aware of changes, updates, revisions, verification activities and policies. This review should be undertaken at a schedule which reflects the risk level of the business. Management review activities should be conducted at least annually, but are commonly conducted either 3 monthly or 6 monthly, dependant on risk. Records of the reviews should be available; these commonly take the form of Management Review Meeting Minutes.

 The goals of the Management Review activities should meet the following requirements:
- To establish that the food safety and quality system is achieving the expected results, continuing to conform to the standard, and functioning in accordance with the established Operating Procedures;
- To expose irregularities or defects in the food safety and quality system, identify weaknesses and make recommendations for continual improvement;
- To review the effectiveness of previous corrective actions including those related to subcontractor and supplier performance;
- To review the adequacy and suitability of the food safety and quality system for current and future operations;
- To review any complaints received, identify the cause and recommend corrective action if required including customer feedback;
- To review the finding of internal or external audits and identify any areas of recurring problems;
- To review the reports of non-conformities and evaluate trend information;
- To review training requirements;
- Analyse all agenda items for trends and make appropriate improvements.

The content of such Management Review meeting minutes should contain an accurate account of the management review, including where applicable:
- Apologies for absence;
- Minutes of previous Management Review meeting;
- Review of corrective and preventative actions from the previous Management Review meeting;
- Review of general actions from previous Management Review meeting;
- Changes to the food safety and quality systems including certification requirements;
- Review outcomes of internal and external audits, customer feedback, operational performance and the status of preventive and corrective action;
- Review of the effectiveness of the system improvements of the food business in relation to customer requirements;
- Proposed food safety and quality systems updates, improvements or amendments;
- Scheduled internal and external audit schedules;
- Subcontractor and approved supplier performance;
- Staff training status and requirements;
- Review of infrastructure and work environment;
- Specific elements such as identity preservation and allergen management;
- Any other business;
- Date and time of the next Management Review meeting.

About Management Commitment
An understanding of and commitment to the food safety program by senior management is paramount for any food safety and quality program to work effectively. Without management commitment, product safety and quality, and indeed the success of the business operation could be in jeopardy. Demonstrated commitment from management also flows down to other levels within the organisation, creating insight for everyone working with the product and processes. When this flow is effective, the ultimate safety and quality of the finished product is improved, often along with productivity and profit. The Management Commitment processes within leading food businesses are strongly linked to the Continuous Improvement Process.

About Internal Auditing
When considering the development, documentation and implementation of Internal Auditing within food safety and quality management systems, the following information should be considered to ensure effective outcomes:

Internal audits are scheduled, conducted and recorded to ensure a food business has the stimulus to maintain their food safety and quality programs. Internal audits should be scheduled to include all elements of the food safety and quality systems, and should be conducted by competent internal auditors at a frequency relevant to the risk of the processes and products involved. Outcomes of the internal auditing process should be communicated to senior management, and should include a formalised corrective action process for any identified non-conformance issues. The Internal Auditing processes within leading food businesses are strongly linked to the Continuous Improvement Process.

Customer Focus and Customer Complaint Management Data and Information
The data and information collected though Customer Focus and Customer Complaint Management activities can provide a wealth of information for any business. In the best case scenario, positive customer feedback can be used as a form of validation that the business' systems are well formatted and managed. Though important, positive feedback should never be used as a substitution for continuous improvement. Negative customer feedback can be used a mechanism to identify and correct system failures, which are related to the customer feedback. This is obviously not ideal, as it requires negative feedback to be initiated, but nevertheless, it should be considered whenever negative customer feedback is received.

Customer focus data and information can be sourced from:
- Customer feedback and complaints;
- Customer surveys;
- Customer dedicated assistance mechanisms such as toll free phone numbers, customer based Internet sites and complimentary technical assistance from appropriately skilled representatives;
- Food industry sector information;
- Internal and external auditing processes.

About Quality Management Systems
Quality Management systems are much more than a mechanism to meet customer expectations; they are a component of what is now considered Best Practice for any food business. ISO is the international organization responsible for formatting, reviewing and maintaining industry quality standards, including some related to food safety and quality. The organisation is usually referred to simply as ISO It is a common misconception that ISO is an acronym for International Standards Organisation. ISO originates from the Greek word isos, meaning equal. The organisation’s English name is International Organization for standardization, while the French name is Organisation internationale de normalisation. These initials would result in different acronyms in different languages. IOS in English and French OIN. The founders of the organisation therefore chose ISO as the universal short form of its name, which in itself reflects the aim of the organisation; to equalize or standardise across cultures. The Quality Management Systems processes within leading food businesses are strongly linked to the Continuous Improvement Process.

Quality Management Systems are based on the following principles, which are the foundation of the ISO Quality standards:
- Customer Focus;
- Leadership;
- Involvement of People;
- Process Approach;
- Systemic Approach to Management;
- Continual Improvement;
- Factual Approach to Decision Making;
- Mutually Beneficial Supplier Relationships.

If your food business supplies foodstuffs manufactured to a customer’s specifications, it is important to consider any specific Continuous Improvement Development requirements in relation to their items.

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