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From: Food Quality & Safety magazine, June/July 2006

Sodexho Embraces Technology to Improve Food & Facility Safety

An interview with Mike Dunn, Sodexho’s Director of Product Quality Assurance

by Mark Beatty

Sodexho, Inc. (Gaithersburg, Md.), is a provider of food and facilities management in the U.S., Canada and Mexico with $6.3 billion in annual revenue and more than 120,000 employees. Sodexho also offers outsourcing solutions to more than 6,000 corporations, healthcare facilities, retirement centers, schools, college campuses, and military sites throughout North America. Sodexho attributes much of their success to the latest advances in auditing technology. The technology, developed by Steton (St. George, Utah), has led to a reduction in risk for Sodexho through increased compliance to their safety programs throughout the facilities they manage. The following are excerpts from an interview with Mike Dunn, Sodexho’s director of product quality assurance, relating his perspective on how Sodexho has attained their successful management of food and facility safety programs.

Inefficient Data Analysis

Although Sodexho had relied on paper audits to monitor food and physical safety in the past, the challenges of a technology-driven marketplace and the necessity to transfer information instantaneously made it critical for the company to identify a new system that would offer the speed and precision essential to Sodexho’s objectives.

“The data we collected was difficult to organize into a manageable review format,” Dunn explains. “The technology platform we have implemented has provided us with a mechanism to quickly and easily identify food safety and physical safety deficiencies, and implement corrective action plans.”

The challenges faced by Sodexho are common to paper-based and partially-automated food and physical safety auditing programs. It was clear that an enhanced system would provide Sodexho with the velocity and functionality needed to achieve their auditing objectives in the most effective and efficient manner possible.

Finding a Solution

Sodexho wanted a solution that was powerful and scalable with the assurance that it would meet their specific needs.

“We looked for a solution provider that had a solid reputation for innovative development and the capability and capacity to address our needs,” says Dunn. In addition, we wanted to ensure we chose a vendor that was committed to the future of this technology. From a business perspective, we needed a functionally superior product that could grow with us.”

Dunn says Sodexho is achieving a consistency that cannot achieve be attained with books and paper.

“By the software installed on our handheld computers, we significantly improved our efficiency, thus increasing the annual number of compliance audits completed throughout our company,” he says. “More importantly, the improved audit technology has given us the opportunity to raise the bar on our “satisfactory” or “passing” scores, which resulted in decreased risks for the company.”

Automatically generated reports provide Sodexho with immediate knowledge, key insights and decision-making power that was simply not possible with a manual or partially-automated system.

“Technology has allowed us to proactively manage our auditing program substantially increasing our efficiency and accuracy,” he says. “The key is to identify trends early, and then activate the tools necessary to correct any revealed deficiencies.”

The software’s flexibility allows Sodexho to not only examine data from a company-wide perspective, but also by division and sub-division. In addition, we gain the mechanism to create reports for different sub-hierarchy levels. As audits are completed and uploaded onto the web-based system, an audit report is generated and automatically e-mailed to the Sodexho operation and its management team.

“New developments have allowed us to create an audit summary report that is sent via blackberry pager to the executive team members as soon as their division’s latest audits have been uploaded to the system,” Dunn adds.

The ability to identify and correct deficiencies early has enabled Sodexho to successfully manage risk. “We’ve seen a direct correlation between improved audit scores and a decrease in risk to our business due to food and physical safety concerns” he says.

Sodexho has also benefited from the competitive advantage this technology offers. “To obtain our contract with the United States Marine Corps, we were required to have real-time audit data available electronically,” Dunn says. “Our utilization of this technology positively impacted our bid for the Marine Corps contract.”

Greater Control, Lower cost

As costly and inefficient as paper-based and partially-automated systems are, selecting the wrong technology or choosing in-house development can send costs spiraling out of control.

A key to successfully integrating technology for managing quality and safety programs is to implement software that is developer independent. Software that is user-friendly, with in-depth administrative controls, is imperative for a successful long-term and cost-effective solution. Sodexho has recognized these advantages with their choice.

“The continual advancements of the software we’ve implemented provide us with in-depth administrative control over our food and physical safety audit programs,” Dunn says. “Our program costs are more easily kept in check utilizing this technology. In fact, our administrative costs have actually decreased.”

Maximizing Efficiency

Sodexho analyzes data from 7,000 food and physical safety audits conducted each year at their facilities. With the technology fully implemented, Sodexho determined that it was feasible to have a third-party auditor (NSF International, Inc.) perform their extensive audits.

“The audit management technology we use allows us to put comprehensive tools in place to manage third-party auditors,” Dunn says “For example, if an auditor who has been trained in all of the Sodexho standards comes across a situation that is not clear-cut, we have a tool in place to help them. The software gives the auditor an opportunity to refer to a more in-depth policy statement associated with each question.” These in-depth policy statements are accessible throughout the audit on the same handheld computer device-used to conduct the audit. This dramatically improves audit quality as the risk of auditors misinterpreting their findings is minimized.”

Mark Beatty is director of marketing for Steton (St. George, Utah). Reach him at 435-627-5094 or mark.beatty@steton.com.

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