Consumer satisfaction is any brand's top priority. Safety and reliability are paramount for products intended for consumption. To ensure good experiences, brands should follow Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and food safety standards.
Many brands choose to work with a co-manufacturer or co-packer. This partnership saves the brand manufacturing equipment and infrastructure costs, helping them get to market faster. It also presents opportunities for brand owners to learn and network.
The best manufacturing facilities have policies, prerequisite programs, and HACCP plans, to ensure no manufacturing mistake happens on their end. In worst-case scenarios, the facility might cut corners without your agreement. As an owner, you should always research co-packers before signing a contract.
But, to err is human. In this blog, we will learn common reasons why manufacturing mistakes happen and how regular quality assurance reviews can prevent them from happening again.
What can go wrong when co-packing?
Manufacturing processes are validated to produce a high-quality product with less than a 5% error rate. Typically, they will require a brand to have Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and quality specifications before signing an agreement, or they may help you develop them. That way, the crew knows exactly what to do. Every facility occasionally needs to deviate from the standard process. But without documenting those decisions, there is room for quality drift.
Quality drift occurs when the errors start multiplying, and a greater percentage of products fail to meet specifications. It's not unusual for the brand or the facility to intentionally modify the plan, but any changes must be fully communicated to each other and signed off by both parties. Document control and process hand-off policies should guarantee this. Still, it is always worth confirming that both parties agree on how the co-packer should produce the product.
Quality drift can damage the brand's reputation and contribute to profit loss. A drop in sales, complaints, bad reviews, and even worse, product recalls may occur. If they do, brands should conduct a quality audit immediately to see if there is a relationship to production.
What does a quality audit entail?
A quality auditor's primary objective is to observe multiple production runs from start to finish. That way, they can compare results with different crews and environments, like relative temperature or humidity.
Quality audits include a thorough documentation review of all procedures and records. The auditor will compare them against the facility's records, procedures, and prerequisite programs like Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). This review confirms there isn't anything inherent that would cause production challenges.
Every case is slightly different. If the documentation and production review do not identify the problem, the auditor will identify areas for further investigation. Finally, the auditor will present all their findings and discuss what needs to be remedied to fix the issue.
When to schedule a quality audit
Large brands have performance checks every 90 days, while some regularly have a representative on-site to ensure everything is running smoothly. A sensible time frame for smaller-sized brands is every six to twelve months. Preventative measures are undoubtedly the best way to save money and keep consumers happy and safe.
If you don't have scheduled performance checks already in place, you might need a quality audit if you start getting complaints or sales decline. Or maybe you just want to make sure you're staying ahead. You've invested a lot of money and should feel confident everything is operating as it should. Finding a new partner is a hassle. It's much easier to know where things are going right - and where they might be going wrong - and that they can be fixed.
Schedule your quality audit today
Quality audits are tedious and require acute attention to detail. As a founder or manager, you have better things to do with your valuable time. Hiring an experienced auditor who knows what to look for saves time and headaches.
At MMR Specialty Foods, we have over ten years of experience auditing manufacturing processes in the food, beverage, and cannabis industry. We are certified in food safety and manufacturing standards and lead training courses. Book a no-cost consultation call to tell us about your operations to boost confidence and resilience.
We care about your time and your wallet. Not sure if you're ready for a quality audit? You should have standard operating procedures and quality specs. If you haven't reached this stage, contact us for a referral to one of our trusted partners.