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Do the “Write” Thing

Detailed BRC records help United States Cold Storage improve operations and keep customers. 

In the world of operations and statistical process control, they say “what gets measured gets managed.” Turns out, that applies equally to the world of warehousing. And although audits, recordkeeping and reports may not be “fun”—they do represent a critical functional part of USCS’ daily operations. Starting in 2013, USCS has had several warehouses apply for certification according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) global standards program. Put simply, BRC Global Standards guarantee the standardization of quality, safety and operational criteria and ensure that all members of the supply chain fulfill their legal obligations and provide protection for the end consumer. 

In 2016, USCS had 24 sites audited and certificated under the BRC Storage and Distribution Standard (the Standard), Issue 2. By the end of 2017, the company expects to add three more certified sites (for a total of 27) adhering to an updated Issue 3 version of the BRC standard, which went into effect in February 2017. Derick Scott, USCS BRC & Food Safety Coordinator, discusses the process and its benefits. “It is a means of continuous improvement and ensures we promote the best practices identified by the industry. During the course of each audit, the auditor identifies areas we could be better in. We take this feedback, determine how we can improve what we are doing and put it into action. This information is also shared with our other facilities so all of them can look at their own documents and operations to see if they can improve in that area also,” says Scott. He adds, “Becoming certified on a globally recognized standard like the BRC also reduces the need for each of our customers to visit our facilities annually to perform their own audits. It also serves as a selling point for our services. We can show current and potential customers our certifications and they can feel comfortable knowing we are doing things the right way.” 

 NSF International is the certification body performing audits for USCS. Scott notes the audit is normally conducted over a day and a half (about 12 hours). The auditor reviews USCS policies and procedures, pre-requisite programs, HACCP plan and records for approximately half of that time. The rest of the visit is spent observing operations, inspecting the facility, and interviewing staff to ensure what USCS says it does in documentation—actually occurs. An auditor checks records of temperature controls, maintenance logs, thermometer calibrations, trainings, meetings, and inbound/outbound Bills of Lading.  

Recertification must be completed annually. This ensures that facilities keep up with changes to the criteria and regulations, and maintain a clean and safe storage and distribution environment.  For that matter, Scott is fixed on completing this year’s audits—and he’s thinking ahead to next year, as well. “Our 2018 goals include continuing certification for the 27 sites already being audited, with the goal of improving their scores where possible,” he says. “We also are looking at our remaining facilities (of 36 total) to see what we will need to do to prepare them for certification in the future.” 

No matter what, all the hard and detailed work is well worth it. “Many major retailers are pushing their suppliers and distribution centers to be audited against a GFSI standard,” Scott concludes. “This is requiring that the entire food chain—from field to the table—become certified under a GFSI recognized standard like the BRC.  USCS chose to start early before many of our customers began asking for it.” 

At a Glance: British Retail Consortium (BRC) Certification: 

The British Retail Consortium was formed in January 1992 when the British Retailers’ Association and the Retail Consortium merged. In 1998 it produced the first edition of the BRC Food Technical Standard and Protocol for food suppliers. Today, BRC Global Standards is a leading brand and consumer protection organization, used by more than 25,000 certificated suppliers in more than 130 countries, with certification issued through a global network of accredited certification bodies. BRC Global Standards’ guarantee the standardization of quality, safety and operational criteria and ensure that manufacturers fulfill their legal obligations and provide protection for the end consumer. BRC Global Standards have become a fundamental requirement of leading retailers, manufacturers and foodservice organizations and moved into areas involving food safety, packaging, storage & distribution, agents and brokers. To learn more, visit the BRC Global Standards site: https://www.brcglobalstandards.com/

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