Last updateSun, 14 Jul 2024 9am

GFSI Conference: What does it actually mean to be agile and resilient?

Hosted in Atlanta, USA, between April 24-27, the annual GFSI conference brought together stakeholders across the global food and beverage industry under the theme: Delivering Safe Food in Turbulent Times: The Need for Agility & Resilience. Here, Kimberly Coffin, Global Technical Director for Supply Chain Assurance at LRQA explores what it means to be agile and resilient.

The past three years have shown us that change is inherent. What we’ve seen is an evolution, with consumer expectations and investor demands around ESG (environmental, social and governance) objectives, plus global events, accelerating the rate of change. This transforming landscape has put risk under the microscope and, as a result, it’s crucial that the food and beverage industry revisits its approach to managing risk – if not, the delivery of safe food could be compromised.
Ensuring business continuity
Put simply, being agile and resilient is all about having the ability to move quickly, adapt, and recover easily. This is crucial for maintaining food safety and quality. As change is now the only constant for businesses, and perhaps the new greatest threat, a business continuity plan is key.
It’s all about understanding the broad spectrum of risks presented and the inter-relationships between these risks. For example, how does a small disruption to one of your processes, impact other business operations? Proactively establishing this insight will help to define a more agile business model, enabling efficient reaction to threats or changes, all while having a higher level of confidence that you are manufacturing safe food.
Ongoing assessment
A business continuity plan should also have the scope to evolve as disruptions are faced. It’s important to learn from challenges, re-evaluate the way things work and validate the efficacy of any developments while analysing the impact. By using continuity plans as a framework to capture and evaluate lessons learned, businesses will adapt and recover quickly from difficulties and become more resilient.
Equally crucial is that these plans are no longer viewed as ‘set and forget’. Rather, they should be seen as both an ever evolving and fundamental part of how a business operates. Establishing a resilient business model requires a process-driven approach that evaluates threats and allows you to establish a framework or plan on how to respond to potential incidents.
Organisations should take a step back to assess the suitability of current systems, processes, and procedures. Key gaps must be identified to achieve a more harmonised risk-based approach to supply chain management. It’s a balancing act which takes into consideration regulatory requirements and customer expectations, as well as internal commitments and objectives.
Could culture be the secret ingredient?
If an organisation, and more specifically the people within an organisation, don’t anticipate risk – and plan for it – then it’s unclear whether the business can continue operating during turbulent times. The term ‘top down’ is frequently used, but in the case of building an agile business continuity model, taking a view from the bottom up is equally important. It might sound obvious but ensuring that everyone within an organisation understands what their role is in delivering safe food and why they operate the way they do, enables people to use initiative and question process suitability during times of disruption, rather than simply following a previously established procedure because that’s what they’re told to do.
This brings us to the topic of building a food safety culture and the importance of fostering accountability and responsibility throughout any organisation. Providing the necessary training to personnel is key to ensuring all areas of the business have complete clarity of the non-negotiables – those elements that cannot be compromised – as well as the organisation's risk appetite; assessing whether a deviation from established processes requires additional measures for risk control.
With change being the only constant for businesses, and perhaps the new greatest threat, remaining agile and resilient is salient for preserving food safety. Whether it’s supply chain issues, workforce changes, natural disasters, or a cyber attack, it is crucial to have key business practices, processes, and plans in place.



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