Editor’s Note: Ole Dosland has written the Practical QA Solutions column since the near beginnings of QA — Spring 2006. He wrote this "farewell column" with plans to retire after a November open heart surgery. Sorrowfully, he was not able to live out those plans; Ole passed away from complications after the surgery. Ole will be missed by the QA family and many in the food industry, but his legacy will live on in the many practical solutions he provided in print and in person.
In my first Practical QA Solutions column I stated: “A QA manager has a basic and personal responsibility to assure quality in a manner that will satisfy customers. The result of your actions will be a critical contributor to your company’s reputation.” Quality assurance and food safety initiatives were market-driven back then as compared to being more oversight-driven now. Following, in chronological order, are experiences showing a real-life pattern of this change during my nearly 50-year career. Beyond these personal experiences, any resemblance to places, organizations, events, and persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
- At a food plant I’ve been to, the production manager said: “You won’t believe this but...the QA manager asked me to shut down production to clean inside some processing equipment.” The production manager did not stop production and received a productivity bonus at the end of the month.
- At a food plant I’ve been to, the maintenance manager said: “You won’t believe this but...the QA manager asked to build a wall to separate part of the operation.” Wall funding was not approved.
- At a food plant I’ve been to, the plant manager said: “You won’t believe this but...the QA manager put essential product on hold for bacteria testing but we shipped it.” The Plant manager received a performance bonus at the end of the year.
- At a food corporate office I’ve been to, the president said: “You won’t believe this but...the consequence of estimated fatalities do not offset the expense of plant shutdown and product recall.”
- At a courtroom I’ve heard about, the judge said to a food company CEO: “You won’t believe this but...you and others in your company are guilty for food safety violations.” They were sentenced to prison.
- At another food corporate office I’ve been to, the vice president of operations said: “You won’t believe this but...we must improve the food safety and sanitation level of our food plants.” Over 30 food plants passed their annual third-party food safety audits.
- At a pest management company I’ve been to, the president said: “You won’t believe this but...we must improve the training of pest management service providers to the food industry.” National award-winning training programs were developed and later delivered with an online learning system.
- At a food plant I’ve been to, the owner said: “You won’t believe this but...we must prepare for our first food safety audit.” The owner changed the culture and passed subsequent third-party food safety audits with a less stressful approach.
- At a food plant I’ve been to, the CEO said: “You won’t believe this but...we will be building a sanitary designed plant to replace this old operation.” The company is now being recognized as an industry leader while encountering remarkable growth.
- At an engineering firm I’ve been to, the director of project development said: “You won’t believe this but...we want to provide our engineers a sanitary design of food plants workshop.” The firm is now a “go to” company for sanitary design and experiencing growth in food plant construction.
These experiences reflect an industry change of attitude. Quality assurance and food safety professionals are now viewed as a resource, not an inexorable inconvenience. However, a bigger change might be coming with quality assurance and food safety topics discussed during board of directors meetings with a quality assurance professional sitting on that board. What are some lessons learned during my career?
- Like a baseball home plate, one doesn’t modify a standard to make things easier.
- Like a basketball, one must bounce back, many times.
- Like a football, one doesn’t know the kind of bounce that is forthcoming.
- Like bowling, one must keep the ball moving on the right path.
- Like golf, win or lose, one must walk off the course with pride.
- Like soccer, one must play to the final whistle.
As I have now played to the final whistle, I am walking off this quality assurance and food safety course with pride. The information in these columns has come from experiences sharing practical solutions on a variety of subjects. I hope you found these columns an interesting read with some ideas ready to put into action. Two things that will not change is satisfying customers and protecting your company’s reputation. Thank you for reading Practical QA Solutions and thank you for the memories.