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Welcome to the August 6th Fresh Hub Newsletter.
In this edition we examine the theme of Export Certification with a spotlight on ensuring a robust system through document control.
- Document Control & Form Design
- Using Document Control to Keep Staff on the Same Page
- Relevant Links for Information on Document Control
In the early 1990s, I was Marketing Manager – Strategic Services for Foodtown. Through a combination of own research, off-shore consultants, IT breakthroughs and good old common sense, we determined that what was needed was a loyalty card service, specifically for Foodtown customers. We understood at the time that having several hundred thousand store transactions each week was great – for cashflow. We also knew how to segment our customers in a mathematical sense, by weekly average spend by department, for the whole store and by day of week and time of day.
We had to start in the stores – and specifically, we needed to design an application form for our customers that explained what we wanted, provided us with the details we needed to issue the card, and caused us the least amount of trouble in terms of labour, costs and costly errors.
No sooner had I started to think out loud at one or two senior management meetings then the whole company wanted to get involved.
My office door became suddenly one of the revolving kind, with just about every department in the company developing an opinion about how my application form should be designed. A quick running summary of everyone’s needs, desires and opinions would read like this:
Well, we need a new tool to grow our sales to existing customers and target our loyal shoppers with our specials and not the general public through ads.
Merchandise (the guys who bought the stuff stores sold)
How are you going to find this, sonny? And by the way, could you ask on your form what type of merchandise is being bought. The other thing we want to know is how you plan to fund the ‘give away’ component of the Loyalty Card product on promotion. Our budgets are locked in place for the next eighteen months, so I guess it will have to be your budget, mate!
What do you mean you are planning to issue at least 100,000 cards? Have you got any idea about the delay this will cause at the checkouts? It will blow our wage percentage out of the water. And where are customers meant to get the form from in the stores? Our staff are trained to take people’s money, not to take and administer bits of paper.
Who will maintain the database? What protocols are you planning to use? How do you want to access the data – and when? Like, you know, you can’t get to see the stuff during store operating hours that’s when all capacity is taken up by operating the tills – and when the store computers are not operating we maintain and upgrade them, so there are no more free time slots. I guess you will need to approve CAPEX to buy us a whole new system.
How are you protecting the data? How will people know on your form that they are not obliged to provide any information? We need to get an opinion from our Queen’s Counsel (translates into very expensive lawyer).
As the loyalty card will also double as the new cheque ID card, we will want to vet every application to ensure the applicant is credit worthy.
The Existing Cheque Card Admin Team
We have always wondered how we should handle applications by companies rather than people. Because nobody ever gave us a sensible answer, we never processed any of those applications. Maybe we can use your loyalty card once you have sorted it out. Those old application forms are probably still lying around here somewhere.
Head Office Admin
You realize, of course, that when the daily mail suitcases come back from the stores, they will be heavier than we are allowed to lift – with all those application forms in them. What are you going to do about that?
We had this ridiculous request from operations to install writing desks behind checkouts in every store – but they don’t want to pay for those and claim some idiot in Marketing came up with the idea of a loyalty card application form. Do you know anything about that?
The only departments which were gloriously unaware of the loyalty card revolution the Marketing department was about to unleash were Logistics and the Cleaning department. The former were real men who did not care about paper shuffling, whilst the latter were too busy with the mess the rest of us were making.
This performance went on for 3 months and I distilled three learnings from this episode:
- Document control is practiced by many and understood by few.
- If you want to start a revolution, announce that you are planning to design a new form to manage a new process.
- Good form design and document control are art forms and require more skills and knowledge than one individual can possibly contribute.
These lessons have stuck with me and are as valuable today as they were 18 plus years ago!
Dr Hans Maurer
An MPI Approved Organisation (MAO) operating system is a living document that evolves over time and requires regular updates to stay current. The MPI Export Certification Standards expect that everyone involved in phytosanitary activities within an MAO should be on the same page, follow the same instructions and use the same forms at all times.
Easy to say, hard to do if good document control practices are not implemented!
An easy starting point is ensuring that each document within the system has a version number and/or a date which identifies the most recent version. Every time a change is made to the document the version number and/or date needs to be updated. This information is typically reported in the footer of every page. Every new document version should have unique number every time i.e. V9 Dec 2019 moves to V10 Mar 2020.
Do not forget that any change to an operating system must be evaluated by an IVA and approved by MPI prior to implementation. This process can be made easy and efficient by highlighting or tracking the changes made. Handwritten amendments to the organisation system are allowed to correct spelling mistakes, however, remember to cross out the original wording with a single line and to record the date and initials of the person making the change. Correction fluid/tape is not allowed!
The trickier part which tends to cause issues is ensuring everyone uses the approved current versions of the documents. A clear understanding of roles and effective top to down and vice versa communication are key. To avoid confusion, appoint a person in charge of document control. This is the person that stays on top of and communicates the changes to everyone.
Once a new version of a document has been created, archive the previous one and save the new one. Walk through the premises where hard copies of documents are kept and remove all the previous version to avoid use of these and replace with the new version.
Old versions of documents must be kept on file for 2 years for auditing purpose. Do not dispose of them before this time.
Lastly, train everyone involved in export certification on the changes made to the documents and keep monitoring the implementation of the operating system for effectiveness.
The AgriChain Centre, as an IVA, can help you understand your requirements for export certification. If you would like to know more please contact Max Ciccioni on 027 4451 309 or email@example.com.
- Document control generally falls under the wider umbrella of a Quality Management System. The following ISO Update outlines the basics to managing document control for an operating system. The article can be accessed here.
- Section 2.2 of MPI Certification Standard: Organisation Requirements (28 June 2016) outlines the requirements MAOs must meet to ensure robust document control. The standard can be accessed here.
- A short tutorial on how to effectively name files to reduce confusion and improve usability can be viewed here.
- Version control on electronic files is a simple process that in reality can lead to a large number of variations. This video takes a simple concept and injects a bit of humour to reinforce the importance of version control.
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