June 13, 2010
Are your products tied up in expensive delays at the Canada/U.S. border? Are you paying costly employee accident benefits? Are you facing an employee morale problem? Is production quality affecting your sales?
For businesses with stringent requirements in terms of export, safety or quality, there are standards and programs that target these specific areas.
Quality Management System (QMS)
QMSs are broad standards that cover everything an organization does to manage its processes and activities. Implementing a QMS offers benefits for any industry and to any business, large or small, whether it manufactures products or offers services. The best known among the QMSs are the international ISO standards:
Advantages and costs of specialized standards
The marketplace is increasingly competitive, and customers and clients have more choices than ever. Specialized standards can be national or worldwide and can apply to specific industries or to certain processes across all industries. They can make your business more competitive by helping you in a wide variety of areas. For starters, they can reduce costs, increase productivity, ensure consumer confidence and open up new markets. They also allow a business to detect problems faster, meet or exceed customer demands, improve relations with suppliers, increase employee participation, and keep up with their industry's best practices.
The expenses involved with developing and registering a specialized standard depend on the size and complexity of your business and on your internal structure. In general, you can budget for costs in 3 areas: the development and implementation of the system, training and registration.
Health and safety: OHSAS 18000
This international standard can be used by organizations of all sizes, regardless of the nature of their activities or location, to identify safety hazards and control work-related risks. Carrying out OHSAS 18000 also often triggers more general, positive changes within your business, such as fewer accidents and medical claims, fewer employees absent from work, increased production and improved worker retention and satisfaction. Insurance costs also often decline.
If you are interested in reviewing the health and safety of your workplace, you might want to employ training or consulting professionals who can help develop your OHSAS plan and see you through the audit process. OHSAS also sells a sample occupational health and safety manual that includes procedures, forms and policies. If you're interesting in implementing OHSAS, this manual is a good first step.
Canada/U.S. border compliance
When you export to the U.S., not delivering your product on time can result in lost sales and opportunities. This is especially true if you work in a time-pressed industry. After the events of September 11, 2001, Canada and the U.S. put in place stricter border security, which has created slowdowns for exporters.
Border compliance programs instituted by the Canadian and U.S. governments aim to speed up the flow of goods at the border while also protecting against possible terrorist activity. Known by such monikers as Customs Self-Assessment (CSA), Free and Secure Trade (FAST), Partners in Protection (PIP) and Trade Partnership against Terrorism (C-TPAT), these programs can help make exporting more efficient for your business.
They require you to create export declarations ahead of time using web-based computer programs. These systems can determine and produce the correct export documentation for your business. Some compliance programs, like FAST, also require that you use bar code technology to package your merchandise, which is then simply scanned at the border.
Costs and benefits of being certified
There are three main advantages to border compliance. The most important is improved delivery speed, because your goods go through special dedicated lanes at border crossings and have fewer border inspections. These programs also reduce your customs-related costs and improve your company's credibility. While the specific costs vary greatly depending on the program, they can include planning, application, auditing, the purchase of hardware and software as well as staff training.
How to participate
For all programs, companies must supply information on business activities and the security of their operations and suppliers, and sign an agreement with government authorities. For some programs, companies must also invest in computer systems and bar code or transponder technology.
Food and beverage
In the food and beverage industry, each country has its own regulations to protect consumer health and the environment. But there are also internationally recognized standards, and by using them you can avoid having to develop and maintain multiple standards for different markets.
HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) is a system that helps guarantee the safety of your products by controlling your raw materials, processes, plant environment and employees. Because HACCP is recognized worldwide by industry and by governments, adopting this system makes good business sense. It allows you to meet customers' food safety expectations, lower your risk of a product recall, make your company export-ready, give your company a competitive edge and lower your current operating expenses.
There are 7 basic principles used in developing HACCP plans:
- Analyzing hazards
- Identifying critical points where these hazards can be controlled
- Establishing the critical safety limits for these controls
- Developing procedures for monitoring
- Planning corrective actions
- Establishing verification procedures
- Setting up record-keeping and documentation
If you are interested in developing a HACCP system, your company may wish to bring in a professional advisor or hire a coordinator to develop, implement and maintain the system. It can take several months or even years to get a HACCP plan up and running. You may need to train employees, take on additional duties or reinforce proper food-handling procedures. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency offers generic HACCP plans that provide a starting point to help you develop a plan for your company. BDC also offers consulting services, training programs and financing to help you implement your HACCP system.
FSEP (Food Safety Enhancement Program) is the Canadian government's approach to ensuring food safety. Because it is based on the world-recognized HACCP system, FSEP is intended to allow businesses to break into or develop international markets.
Under FSEP, you must carry out 6 prerequisite programs, similar to the Good Manufacturing Practices which many processors are already familiar with. The prerequisites will form the basis of your HACCP plan because they address the procedures and conditions that you need to control in a food establishment, including:
- Transportation and storage
- Sanitation and pest control
After the prerequisites and the HACCP program are in place, if you wish to become recognized, your business must contact CFIA. Certification generally includes meetings and reviews of the company's documentation, along with audits.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency offers various tools to guide you through the prerequisite programs and the HACCP process. These tools include FSEP implementation manuals, a hazard database reference, electronic templates and forms, and generic examples of prerequisite programs and HACCP plans.
ISO 22000 could eventually enable all food-related organizations to comply with a single standard that does not vary by country or by food product. It incorporates HACCP's food-risk prevention requirements with more general administrative requirements. It can easily be combined with other management system standards, such as ISO 9000 or ISO 14000, because their structures are similar.
ISO 22000 is designed to be flexible and can be tailored to any segment of the food chain. If your business wants to convert to this standard from other systems, you will need to address various areas such as communication and management processes. If your business has already implemented a HACCP system or another ISO management system, the process is simpler.