Living in and through a pandemic, we’ve all adjusted a bit. We don’t shop as much. When we do, many of the things we used to buy in person are purchased online. We don’t go out to eat as often.

Many things we want or purchase are delivered to us. Other things we get by using the drive-thru.

Drive-thrus and online retailing are great ideas and can truly help the economy locally and nationally. After a couple minutes of shopping and placing an order, we get the satisfaction of our confirmation email and news that whatever we bought is on the way.

Of course, it isn’t always perfect. After receiving a delivery, I’ve realized I was shipped the wrong item. After getting my take-out meal, I have found that the entire order wasn’t included. Both of these examples would be failures if this was a food safety or quality program.

That got me thinking, are we managing our quality programs using the same drive-thru thought process? Are we taking a minute to order, expecting that in a few more minutes we’ll have the best output from our quality programs delivered to us? Or are we actively managing quality and food safety programs to achieve the best possible outcomes, without failures?

In training classes I am blessed to provide, I like to use a beehive diagram to represent all the quality and food safety programs that are needed or managed in a food plant. Look at a honeycomb: Notice how all those hexagonal openings fit so well together? Notice how they are all interconnected? Notice that if one cell is removed, several others are affected?

Look at your quality and safety controls like you would a beehive. Each hexagonal cell needs the other to preserve the structure.
© Dionisvera | Adobe Stock

I think of the honeycomb as the home for all those quality and food safety programs that we have to manage. Imagine that each cell is a single unique quality program: environmental monitoring, net weight, preventive maintenance, allergens, pest control, process control, product quality, package quality, quality certifications, microbial testing, quality culture and so many more. How many cells of quality does your beehive have?

Now, imagine that you have to do all that program management using a drive-thru methodology.

Can you do it?

Of course not. It’s impossible to just drive-thru and get what you want. UberEats and DoorDash can’t deliver your high-quality allergen management plan. You can’t drive to the pick-up window and be handed your successful process control program. Quality management takes active hands-on approaches; it requires that you be there.

Successful quality and food safety management programs take time and skill to build. There are lots of jobs in a beehive, but just like the architect or nurse bees, quality management means getting out there to work with the other bees and assure the hive is growing in the right direction and will support the overall goals of the hive/company.

You have to be on the processing and assembly line. You have to observe actions taken by all those worker bees, forager bees and repair bees, then you have to react to those actions to assure that product quality (the honeycomb) meets the expectations and results in goodness for the entire hive. Each cell contributes to the success of the other cells and the result is your consistent and high-quality finished product.

Bottom line: In a world now dominated by drive-thru windows and drive-by deliveries, don’t let your quality and food safety programs become a matter of convenience instead of deliberate actions. Bee sure you’re there and appropriately directing, reviewing and (most importantly) correcting things in a timely manner to have a successful hive.