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How Smithfield Foods Streamlined Its Food Safety Program Through Sample6 CONTROL
Mike Koeris

By: Mike Koeris on May 31st, 2017

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How Smithfield Foods Streamlined Its Food Safety Program Through Sample6 CONTROL

FSMA  |  Food Safety  |  Listeria Prevention and Control

Smithfield Foods is a leading consumer packaged meats company, as well as the world’s largest pork processor and hog producer. When the company first began working with Sample6, one of its three divisions included 12 plant facilities manufacturing ready-to-eat (RTE) products that required environmental listeria monitoring. With approximately 1,600 weekly testing samples being tracked by two corporate food safety directors, management of the program had become a complex, labor-intensive and time-consuming one.

The company was in need of a solution to help track testing samples, results, remediation and corrective actions more efficiently and seamlessly. By implementing Sample6’s CONTROL software, Smithfield has been able to streamline these food safety elements and reap the benefits of amplified accuracy, communication and collaboration. Here is their story.

The Challenges

Smithfield had been testing for environmental listeria in its plants for decades. This was a very well-established, high-profile and critical environmental monitoring program for the plants and food safety management. With such a strong focus on ensuring the safest products for consumers, Smithfield’s program implementation involved managing data between multiple departments across 12 facilities, from the plant QA professionals and corporate safety directors to the company’s Vice President of Food Safety.

The testing lab for those 12 locations was seeing several thousand sample submittals each month and utilizing manual spreadsheets to track the data. To help the team streamline the submittal and reporting process, automate their strong environmental testing program and restructure any remaining inefficiencies, Smithfield needed a dynamic technology solution. With less reliance on hands-on manipulation of the data, the team could track, submit, communicate, summarize and report on food safety components with minimal time, effort, expense and room for error.     

Ultimately, the team was seeking a way to take their program to the next level. It was at this point that Gene Bartholomew, Corporate Director of Food Safety, attended a Sample6 event and learned about the CONTROL food safety software.

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The Solution

“I think we’ve all realized -- whether it’s HACCP, whether it’s SSOPs, whether it’s environmental monitoring -- it’s getting more complicated every year. Keeping track of paperwork is becoming more difficult every year,” Gene explains. He saw several advantages to the CONTROL food safety software that would help his company face these challenges head on, including:

  • Ease of identifying sites, noting them in writing and standardizing/automating the process across plants so that all employees remain on the same page
  • Automatic notifications of positive test results, as well as the ability to see data history
  • Reporting of results in a dashboard application, which helps corporate professionals (who can’t be at all the plants all the time) track results and maintain visibility into what’s going on in each plant
  • Facilitation of corrective action tracking when there’s an environmental positive that needs to be remediated
  • Seamless integration of sample submittal and reporting of results between the corporate lab and the plants
  • Auto-labeling feature to strengthen the accuracy and efficiency of sample labeling

As the software was rolled out, Sample6 provided helpful support. The Sample6 team collaborated with the corporate staff and the plants to review various scenarios and ensure the software could be adopted. To save the plants from expending too much time trying to learn everything all at once, a series of short, remote meetings was conducted. Once each plant had an understanding of the application, that team received on-site training and rollout for a smooth transition.

The Results

Sample6’s CONTROL software is designed to automate environmental monitoring programs to furnish the following benefits:

  • A supercharged EMP that adheres to FSMA regulations
  • Harmonized EMP processes across a multi-plant operation
  • Simplified preparation for food safety audits
  • Facilitated tracking to reduce manual errors and increase productivity
  • Ability to visualize plant facilities and see active tests in the entire floor plan
  • Deep transparency through organized documentation and reporting
  • A proactive risk management solution to protect the brand

Since adopting the CONTROL software, Smithfield has seen its environmental monitoring program reach new heights in terms of accuracy, communication, visibility and efficiency. The sample submittal process is linked to the collection process directly in the application, streamlining each step in the chain of program events. Manual, time-intensive tasks have been automated and optimized, with heightened capabilities such as:

  • The ability to search individual sample or submittal IDs, locate them quickly and make any necessary changes.
  • Standardized naming conventions in the remediation process via universal test point IDs.
  • Advantage of quickly performing an audit against the data in the application
  • Fast, easy access to testing data and the responses to remediations (to validate that a follow-up negative was for a specific test point)
  • Simple archival of documentation for future audit or reporting needs

Dustin Ebbing, Senior Microbiologist & LIMS Administrator at Smithfield, expects the collaboration benefits to bring an even greater level of insight to the company’s food safety efforts. “We might be able to run these reports and say, ‘Can you show me the listeria hit rate for all my extended-run plants? Are they significantly higher or lower than my normal production plants? Are my dry sausage plants better than maybe my hot dog plants?’”

Dustin adds, “We’re at the phase where we’re building a large amount of data in the system and are able to use that data to show people they no longer have to maintain the reports they’ve been maintaining manually.” The solution has transformed Smithfield’s solid environmental monitoring program into a highly automated and efficient one.

Since the initial implementation of Sample6’s CONTROL software, Smithfield has realigned. Now, the two food safety directors have over 30 plants producing RTE foods and tracking environmental samples, thereby requiring an increased management effort. Due to the level of optimization that Sample6’s CONTROL software has delivered to the Smithfield team, there are plans to roll out CONTROL to 14 additional plants and work with Sample6 on APC air plates, RODAC contact plates and Salmonella results.

Take a cue from Smithfield Foods and find out whether your environmental monitoring program could benefit from a more streamlined approach. Try our free quiz now.

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