Use of PDCA Cycle in the food industry

The PDCA Cycle in the food industry

The Deming Cycle, also commonly known as the PDCA cycle or PDSA cycle, was developed by Edward W. Deming (Hussain et al., 2020). Edward Deming was inspired by the model “Plan, Do, and See ” introduced by Walter. A. Shewhart, in the 1920s and used this model to develop the PDSA cycle or known as the PDCA cycle. (Hussain et al., 2020)

The PDCA cycle comprises the Plan, Do, Check and Act concepts. The PDCA cycle offers an effective and simple method for problem-solving and managing process changes and ensures that ideas are adequately tested before committing to full implementation (Mind Tools). The PDCA cycle enables businesses to develop and test a hypothesis in a continuous feedback loop. The PDCA cycles are meant to be used as a continuous improvement cycle or, in simpler words, in a cycle until the intended results are achieved (Mind Tools).

The PDCA cycle can be used when starting a new improvement project, implementing of changes, continuous process improvements and planning data collection and analysis (ASQ 2021)

How to Use the PDCA Cycle in the Food Industry?

There are four main stages for the PDCA cycle: Plan, Do, Check and Act. The following is a quick summary of each stage:

Plan Stage: In the planning stage, we identify the problem statement, and collect data and intended root causes and outcomes (Skhmot, 2017). Based on this definition, we select the intended outcomes and develop a plan to meet the outcomes.

The planning stage also helps to evaluate and forecast potential problems that may arise during the “do” stage and prepare for mitigation steps to prevent potential problems.

Do Stage: In the “Do” stage, we develop and implement a solution, decide on potential solutions, and measure the result (Skhmot, 2017). You must follow the plan by treating the studies as experiments and documenting every step.

Study /Check Stage: In the Study /Check Stage, we check the status or effectiveness of the implemented plan (Hussain et al., 2020). Questions may include the intended outcome met. If the intended outcome was not met, why or what went wrong?

Act Stage: In the Act stage, we review the solutions against standards and take action (FoodBio Network, 2020) and document results and information about process changes and recommended changes (Skhmot, 2017). The Act stage is the final stage of the process and the first stage for the next cycle.

Use PDCA Cycle in the Food Industry for Corrective Actions

The PDCA cycle can be broken down to be used in the food safety management system’s 7 steps for Corrective Actions procedures (Brooks, 2021).

Plan Stage -Steps 1 and 2: Understand the system requirements and plan the process

During the planning stage, you must understand the system requirements for the food safety management system and the nature of the deviations and conduct a root cause analysis to determine the cause of the problem (Brooks, 2021).  We must also evaluate the frequency, risk and consequences of the deviations.

Do Stage -Steps 3, 4 and 5: Develop and Document, Conduct Training and Implementation.
Once we determine the root cause analysis of the problem, we can plan to correct the deviations (Brooks, 2021). The following must be considered when developing a corrective action:

  • The actual cause for the deviations.
  • Actions plan to ensure the effectiveness of corrective actions and preventative actions.
  • Is training required? How do we ensure and evaluate the training’s effectiveness?
  • Do we need to update the procedures?

Once we have determined the right corrective actions, updated the procedures and perform training, it is time to implement the corrective actions. Implementation could include retesting the food products, ensuring and monitoring procedures and reviewing food safety records to ensure employees follow the procedures.

Check Stage- Step 6: Test the System

After a few cycles of corrective action implementation, we must ensure that the corrective actions become a permanent solution. It can be done by gathering employee feedback, employee interviews, reviewing the documentation and monitoring employee activities.

Act Stage- Step 7: Adjust and improve.

In the last stage, we review the effectiveness of the corrective actions and preventative actions and determine if it works or can the corrective actions be improved (Brooks, 2021). Data from the users are often useful.

Use PDCA Cycle in the Food Industry for Internal Audit

Internal audit is a very important process in any food safety management system because it helps evaluate whether it is functioning in the way it is intended (Safe Food Alliance, 2020). It enables checking for the process and systems and validates processes against their intended result (Safe Food Alliance, 2020). Further, assist in preparation for third-party audits (Safe Food Alliance, 2020). We will be reviewing the process of internal audit from the perspective of the PDCA cycle.

Before we complete any internal audit, we must have developed the food safety management system during the “Plan” stage and use the “Do” stage to implement the process and procedures fr a food safety management system.

The Internal Audit comes into play during the “Check” stage (Safe Food Alliance, 2020). The internal audit allows us to check the process that we have put in place during the “Plan” and “Do” Stages (Safe Food Alliance, 2020). Internal audit collects data and evidence for the effectiveness of the implementation through document review, observation and employee interview. It allows for a full systemic review of the food safety management systems.

The intended purpose of the internal audit is to ensure that we find the deviations or gap in the food safety management system before the third-party audit finds them and resolve them. The deviations found during the internal audits are documented and further reviewed for immediate corrections and/or follow the Corrective Actions and Preventative Action procedures listed in this article. You can see that the Internal Audit and Corrective Actions procedures are interconnected. That’s the “Act” stage, where we can use the information we gather to improve our food safety management system.

Benefits and Disadvantages of PDCA Cycle

The Deming Cycle’s benefit is that it is designed to be repeatable and reused as often as needed. It allows for continuous improvements (Chapman, 2019). As a cycle, it allows for error or mistake identification, evaluation and corrections that can be repeated as necessary (Chapman, 2019). Any changes can be tested on a small scale before being implemented on a large scale (Chapman, 2019).

There are some disadvantages to Deming Cycles, including the actual work only comes in the action plan, it can take very long and even get stuck at the “Plan” stages while it is being analyzed and not proceeding to the next step (Chapman, 2019).

Key Take Away

The PDCA cycle is an important tool kit for business and process owners to implement process improvement on a small or manageable scale (Chapman, 2019).  While the Deming Cycle has its disadvantages, it is inevitably one of the best continuous improvement cycles that allow for a detailed process to implement changes. The cyclic nature of the PDCA cycles also allows for the problem to be continuously reviewed and improved.

It also brings together team members and helps with employee retention and motivation and builds employee loyalty. (Chapman, 2019)



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