This article was written by and Paul Damaren originally published by FSR Magazine
Auditing is essential to ensure that restaurants and other food businesses are maximizing quality and safety while minimizing risks. Historically, food brands used paper forms and Excel spreadsheets to audit and, unfortunately, many within the food industry have been slow to adopt the tech tools that are revolutionizing the auditing process. The future of quality audits relies on technology, and brands that don’t get on board will get left behind.
Advances in technology—such as SaaS solutions, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and the cloud—are significantly improving the auditing process and changing the audit landscape. And today’s tech solutions are affordable, accessible, and user-friendly for brands of all sizes and budgets.
The biggest improvements are coming from:
SaaS-based quality audit software. SaaS offers many things that manual systems simply can’t provide, including real-time data analysis, error reduction, flexibility, scalability, increased collaboration, and greater transparency. What’s more, tech tools provide a more comprehensive view of an enterprise—and can drill down by location—so brand leaders can clearly see what’s happening and track trends. Additionally, tech solutions provide real-time data—something else that manual systems cannot accomplish—and helps brand leaders make more informed decision-making to maximize safety and mitigate risks.
AI and machine learning. AI and machine learning are game changers when it comes to managing complex data sets. Restaurants and other food brands—especially organizations with multiple units—must collect and analyze massive amounts of data, which is an overwhelming task when using spreadsheets and paper files. AI and machine learning, however, are improving audit quality immensely. For instance, AI can use advanced algorithms to identify data patterns to identify risks and trends. Brand leaders can leverage these insights to determine appropriate corrective actions. For instance, the data might show that a certain location continuously scores low in specific areas, indicating the need for additional training and/or revamped internal processes.
Predictive analytics. While audits are critical to identifying traditional safety and quality risks, brands now must be aware of more “non-traditional” risks, including cybersecurity vulnerabilities, climate change, etc. Predictive analytics allow brands to determine, identify, and address potential threats before they happen. This keeps organizations (and their customers) safer from a greater number of possible risks.
The cloud. Using the cloud makes the auditing process more collaborative, with everyone in your organization accessing the same real-time data for a single source of truth. Teams can work together from different locations, streamlining the process and making it faster, easier, and more accurate to manage data. Additionally, the cloud reduces the time, money, stress, errors, and redundancies that many brands experienced with their old, manual auditing processes. Tap into the cloud’s advanced security features with data encryption, role-based access levels, and other safeguards to protect your data and provide peace of mind.
Data visualization. Using data visualization helps brand leaders easily identify trends and risks. Data visualization helps leaders better understand the data, gather key insights, and make more informed business decisions. Furthermore, this cutting-edge technology can help organizations identify (and fix) risks, correct noncompliance issues, determine what’s causing certain patterns, and improve quality, safety, and compliance across the enterprise.
When auditing manually, inspectors spend significant time collecting and entering data, which is time-consuming, cumbersome, and often leads to errors. Manual systems can’t provide holistic views across an enterprise, pinpoint trends, predict possible disruptors, or identify problems before they become costly liabilities and potentially ruin a brand’s reputation. Therefore, it’s no longer realistic (or recommended) to use manual processes for audits.
In contrast, using tech solutions improves and automates the auditing process. Tech tools also provide a more holistic, real-time view of the data, and boosts efficiency, transparency, and accuracy. Tech solutions also help standardize processes, ensuring that all data is collected (and analyzed) in the same way and is consistent across the organization. Better, tech-driven audits can help mitigate risks, protect brand reputation, and ensure customer safety.
Technology is driving the future of quality audits, and this is a trend that all food brands should embrace. From SaaS-based quality audit software to predictive analytics, AI, machine learning, and the cloud, technology is revolutionizing the way we audit, which will keep brands—and their customers—safer.