What Certifications Matter?
15 June 2020
By Ryan Hicks
Director of Sales
Certifications not only attest to the safety and quality of your products, but they also benefit many other aspects of your business. Certifications improve consistency in your supply chain, empower employees to maintain operation standards, and provide customers a baseline set of expectations.
When a business starts its path to becoming certified, many questions emerge. What certifications should you obtain? How long does it take? How do we prepare? Who will it involve? Why does it even matter? Or even what have we got ourselves into? Let’s explore some of these questions in hopes of answering why certifications actually matter!
What is a quality certification?
A quality certification is a verification and validation of your entire quality system. It involves your full team from the shipping and receiving team, maintenance team, operations team and of course the quality team. While the site Quality Manager and site Operations Manager typically lead the process, the quality certification process certifies the knowledge of everyone operating the facility. The certification applies to the company’s entire quality management system (e.g., Standard Operation Procedures, Prerequisite Programs, and much more). It truly is a team effort by all. Quality certification is less of an auditing formality and more of a comprehensive validation of your entire facility and processes that is appropriate for the scope of the certification.
Which quality certifications should I obtain?
To determine which quality certifications best apply to your organization, first evaluate your business and the scope of products you sell. For some, a basic Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) audit is sufficient. For others, a much more extensive global food safety initiative food grade audit, such as Safe Quality Food (SQF) is required. For example, at Trouw Nutrition, we sell pet food premix and specialty ingredients, so we are SQF Food Safety Code certified for the pet food sector category (FSC 32).
In some cases, organizations may need to obtain certifications in addition to HACCP and SQF. Some certifications are specific to certain types of product offerings. For example, restricted use protein product (RUPP) certification specifically certifies that your facility is RUPP free and is critical in some product types. Read our Certifications and Accreditations page to learn more about other accreditation options.
How do I prepare?
To determine the preparation required, first identify the quality standards your desired certification aims to validate. Quality standards document the requirements, specifications and/or guidelines applied by your facility to ensure the safety and quality of your operations. Auditors also evaluate whether the quality standards sufficiently and effectively address their intended purposes. After aligning the team on your quality standards, a thorough internal quality audit would be very helpful in identifying necessary corrective actions prior to your certification audit. This can be executed internally with your team of experts or with the help of a consultant, who previously has conducted audits under the same quality standards and scope as your facility.
How long does the audit process take?
The length of the audit process varies by audit type and size of the facility. Some certifications can be completed in a matter of hours, while more extensive food quality audits may take several days. For example, Trouw Nutrition participates in a week-long audit process for each of the SQF and FAMI-QS audits, while something like a HACCP or RUPP-free audit only takes one day. You can request your audit agency to conduct more than one audit in the same week to streamline preparation time and efforts.
With regard to the size of your facility, in general, the larger the operation, the longer the audit will take. Some audit agencies offer additional services, such as a pre-audit, to aid in preparation. Pre-audits are especially useful if you are starting a brand new quality standard. Typically, the longer the audit process, the more expensive the certification tends to be. But remember, you cannot put a price on the quality and safety of those you are serving or feeding!
What are the benefits of a quality certification?
Obtaining and maintaining a quality certification provides many benefits. The more obvious advantage lies with safety and quality. Certification gives you and your customer base a baseline quality management system upon which you can align and define expectations. The more rigorous certifications require ongoing due diligence, helping your organization maintain these high standards of conduct. You will also receive competitive and cost advantages. The global food safety initiative certifications are recognized worldwide and are not given, but rather earned. You likely will see improved quality performance, which often equates to fewer mistakes and decreased waste.
To truly determine which certifications matter, first fully understand your business and the desires and needs of your customers. The quality and safety of your brand are of utmost importance, often making the difference between a one-time purchase and a lifelong customer. Stay diligent with the process and make it a true team effort. The responsibility of fostering a culture of safety and quality belongs to everyone, not just to your quality department.