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Benefits and Challenges Of Implementing a Digital Safety Management System?

Are you trying to implement Digital Safety Management (DSM) into your hospitality business?

It’s becoming increasingly popular for businesses to convert to working digitally, and the kitchen is no different in following the trend. When it comes to managing food hygiene and health & safety restaurants are looking for innovative ways to manage their management online.

We attended Restaurant Tech Live in London last month where we exhibited our sector-leading software Auditus. Food Alert’s Managing Director Client Services, David Bashford, gave an interesting talk on the challenges of implementing digital safety management which captured the essence of both the issues the benefits and challenges food businesses can face when implementing digital safety management processes.

As part of his talk, David had an in-depth discussion with Mathieu Stein, Risk Manager for Côte Restaurants, on his views on bringing technology to his kitchen and going paperless.

We have further interviewed David on his own thoughts on the matter.

Tell us a bit about your experience with Food Alert, and how the technology has changed over time?

I joined Food Alert in 1999. Although the internet had already been in existence for many years, virtually no online systems were available to operators in the food safety industry. The ‘World Wide Web’ had only been introduced to the public in 1991. We were using digital photographs in our audit reports. This was the cutting edge at the time! Previously we had previously been gluing photos into reports to send to clients.

We began updating and improving our hardware. We had been dictating audit reports and typing them up into Word, until we were introduced to Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) in the early 2000s. However, at this stage, we were using a stylus to complete checklists, and had no online access to reports.

How do you think that these changes in technology have affected client expectations?

Nowadays it sometimes feels like we are an IT company! Many of our clients and operators in general have increasingly embraced technology in all areas, including DSM. For example, wagamama were early adopters of technology, as they beat the crowd to many restaurants and were one of the first to introduce using tablets in restaurants to order food.

Now, over the years, increasingly we have clients asking “what is your system?” as opposed to “do you have a system?”  We’ve also noticed that other restaurant service providers increasingly use online systems, as well as our competitors. This has made it necessary for us to continue to develop our offer to stay ahead, which is where our software systems come in.

 What has been your experience of the move towards IT-led safety systems?

In our time, there is a younger generation who are automatically expecting to use digital systems, and there is also always a presumption that we have an ‘app’ – a question which we are often asked. The popularity and increase in digital management in some areas has made it almost necessary to make a change towards IT-led safety systems. For example, clients wanting to use their smartphones for temperature logging.

What do you believe are the benefits of moving towards a Digital Safety Management System?

In general, implementing Digital Safety Management Systems to complete tasks is favourable primarily by its simplicity. The ease of its functionality such as: the speed in which you can complete tasks, the visibility of data, the ability to track activity, are what make using paperless solutions so worthwhile. Digital Safety Management Systems enable you to view drill-down analysis of your data, such as audit action close-out and accident reports. In addition, we can rely on automatic record-keeping to be accurate.

You are able to witness live updates across multiple sites, live records, and use the system to edit and change things at the touch of a button – attributes that would not be possible whilst just using paper.

What do you believe could be the barriers or challenges to introducing and implementing a Digital Safety Management System?

I think that one of the foremost concerns regarding executing these systems would be their initial and ongoing costs.

The security of data can also be a challenge, especially when employees leave a business, but still might be able to access the system. This makes it vital to be consistent with regularly changing passwords and keeping up with security checks.

The transfer/availability of the data in the event that you discontinue using the system is a concern, as it might mean losing all data, so it is essential to ensure that data is easily extracted and transferable.

Sometimes we are too used to technology to remember that it can actually be very time consuming, and whilst systems and machines are easier to use, the ‘old-fashioned’ manual/paper-based way might actually be faster. The usability of the system can also raise issues, as sometimes they can be over-complicated to use, and particularly more ‘mature’ staff might struggle to use the system. It is therefore important that systems are easy to use and not more time-consuming than using traditional ones.

Language boundaries can be a challenge for both national and international businesses. This makes it vital for businesses to assess and understand their audiences in order to comply with their customers and offer what they can. As an example to complying with their audience, some businesses might make their systems heavily visual, to make it easy to diminish any language challenges. 

There is also often the question of whether or not enforcing authorities/courts accept digital records as opposed to paper reports. Increasingly, Environmental Health Officers are used to viewing documents and records on-line. Businesses just need to make sure the manager on duty can log in.

What advice would you give to restaurant businesses that are looking to introduce Digital Management Systems in their business?

It’s important to work one step at a time, and take things module by module. With our clients at Food Alert, we take it upon ourselves to be vigilant with the amount of information we give them at once regarding their Digital Management Systems, so they are set-up correctly and ‘eased’ into using the systems, and not overloaded with data.

I also think that if businesses wish to implement Digital Management Systems, it is necessary to ensure that a business has a strong safety/hygiene culture in place, and these systems should form part of it. Digital Management Systems should complement an successful safety culture.

What developments do you anticipate during the coming years?

We anticipate over time an entire change to online systems. Enforcement agencies will begin moving to digital auditing systems whilst food businesses will access their reports and close out actions online, as opposed to via paper. Whilst digital systems currently replicate old ways of working and processes, soon they will be changing and making improvements to the way we do things.

I also think overtime digital systems will make what is ‘invisible’ visible, in regards to showing what is actually happening ‘under the bonnet’ of the business. For example, group managers can view safety performance in detail across a large number of sites.

 

Key benefits of implementing Digital Safety Management Systems:

  • Easy to use
  • Speed of use
  • Visibility of data, across multiple sites
  • Trend analysis reporting
  • Tracking of action management
  • Credibility with younger employees
  • Drill-down analysis of data
  • Accurate data
  • Live updates to policies and procedures
  • All systems in one place – accessible and easy to find

For more information about how we can help you implement Digital Safety Management Systems, please get in touch with us at enquiries@foodalert.com 

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