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4 steps to control food quality

Raj was a worried man. He is part of an agritech startup, aggregating food supply from farmers to retail stores. He just got off the phone with a customer who was upset about the quality received. When Raj discussed it with his DC (Distribution Center) personnel, he gets a conflicting view that the dispatch quality was really good. Raj sees an inconsistency as just the previous day he was resolving a conflict between his CC (Collection Center) and DC teams on dispatch quality vs. arrival quality. Each stakeholder had his own understanding of quality, and there was no consistent capturing or reporting of data.

If you are facing similar challenges, here concrete steps you can take to streamline the quality reporting across the supply chain:

1. Make the quality measurement objective
Re-visit your quality manual. Dig deep into any subjectivity you may have. For instance, what is a ‘cut’ or a ‘crack’ in potato? Does a 1 mm cut qualify as a defect? How about 20 mm? Make it clear. Adopt digital quality assessment tools to make it scientific and accurate. Remove ‘I feel this is bad quality ’ out of the equation.

2. Start with customer-level quality, and work backwards
While being customer-focused sounds intuitive, we have seen that most food businesses approach quality differently. Their practical definition of quality is based on perceived external factors (overall market quality, or seasonality) or current internal constraints (type of storage and transportation used) rather than what their customers actually want. Such a view on quality (without any input from the end customer) is futile.

Whether you supply to retail consumers or you supply to stores, start with the last point in your supply chain. What does that customer see? Start a process to measure quality at that level. Implement the same framework to check quality across the supply chain – farmgate or CC, Mandi, DC, store and so on.

3. Share quality scores across the teams
Once you start collecting data across the supply chain, share the data with each stakeholder. Be it management team, quality personnel, operations people or sales reps interacting with the customers, let them all have visibility. Let people see what the end customer sees as quality; let them know how quality drops across the chain; let them understand the sources of defects.

4. Collaborate, to take corrective action
One of our clients procured some of the items through a vendor (in addition to their own sources). The client started sharing the quality score of these items with the vendor. Initially, it was merely information sharing; the vendor was encouraged to ask questions on the report, and was given confidence on accuracy and usability of the reports. Over a period, vendor was asked to fix sourcing issues that could be clearly traced back to the vendor supplies. The vendor understood and took immediate action. The quality score improved in a few weeks.

When there is transparency and trust in the system, collaboration and improvement becomes simpler.

How are you dealing with quality processes? Do your regular AQR (Arrival Quality Report) / DQR (Dispatch Quality Report) give you the accurate picture?
If you have been able to improve your quality through specific initiatives, we would love to hear from you.


Ram is passionate about Agriculture, AI and start-ups. You can connect with him on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter