Manex President and CEO Gene Russell interviewed Manex Food Manufacturing and Safety Consultant Michael Guerrini, Ph.D. about the coming year and areas the C-suite needs to acknowledge as ongoing challenges and opportunities.

What’s one of the biggest areas of disappointment in improving food manufacturing operations and safety in food plants? 

Every year New Year’s resolutions are made with a stated goal of continuous improvement of our persons or programs or facilities. We start out bold in our statements and often resign ourselves to the same old within 30 – 60 – 90 days.

On the quest for continuous improvement, we work on corrective actions for internal audits, customer audits, 3rd party audits and other inspections. The minute we mention corrective actions is the exact minute we start hearing collective complaining by our fellow associates. 

Worker complaints must be driven by many factors, from workload to training, to the “not my job factor.” What do you think?

The top five complaints or gripes or statements from our colleagues about corrective actions are:

  • I do not have time to talk about the issue – I will just fix it and hope it never happens again!
  • That is a job for QA – not me or my department!
  • I will help you out next week – just send me a calendar invite (which is often ignored)!
  • Here you go dragging me into another one of these problem-solving adventures of yours!
  • Do you just like to invent more work with your corrective action?

There may be some other complaints/gripes/comments you have heard in your time.

I think you’ve captured most if not all of the worker complaints.  Why is this true and increasing? 

With the ever-increasing importance of 3rd party audits and GFSI requirements (BRC, SQF, IFS, FSSC 22000, Global GAP, Primus GFS – -to name a few) for food safety and quality culture commitment – Corrective actions are becoming ever more important to show engagement and a focus on doing what is right for making safe quality foods.

Manufacturing team at work

How do we sell the benefits of corrective actions to minimize the collective complaining?

Let us explore the benefits of corrective actions:

  • Protect Customers and Employees
    • By eliminating or minimizing the known risk or issue identified, you are taking solid steps in protecting your customers and employees. This builds trust in your products. 
  • Cost Savings
    • Lost time, damages, fines, and decreased productivity can all create a significant impact on your bottom line.
  • Increased Productivity
    • When processes are working correctly, and issues are resolved with the result of corrective actions from a good root cause – then you have less downtime.

An effective corrective action plan (CAP) identifies the root cause of problems and prevents recurrence. A well-developed CAP aims to resolve the root cause of the issue rather than just address the surface signs.

Now let’s talk just briefly about how to succeed in developing and following through on your CAP.

  • Go into the process with a positive outlook that you can fix this problem.
  • Be prepared when you meet with the team. Do not waste their time.
  • Work with people and give them ownership of the outcome. You own the problem, and the team owns the solution/outcome.
  • Celebrate the wins – and refer to the positive outcome as a team win. The team owns the solution and the outcome, and you are part of the team. When we celebrate the team wins – we have less collective complaining for the next corrective action.

What recommended correction action steps do you recommend, or a corrective action checklist if you will?

Six Steps of a Corrective Action Process

Step 1: Define the Problem – The first step is identifying and defining the problem. Use a team approach with partners from the various departments who might have a role in the problem happening or in how to fix the problem.

Step 2: Establish the Scope of the Problem – The next step is to understand the severity of the problem and how it affects your procedures.

Step 3: Find the Root Cause of the Problem – Finding the underlying issue is the hardest part of the process. Use a root cause tool (5-Why or Fishbone for example) with a small focus group to identify the root cause.  Without finding the root cause, you will just fix the surface issue and be doomed to have multiple repeats of this or similar issues.

Step 4: Plan Corrective Actions to Fix the Root Cause – Create SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound) goals and make real deadlines. Make sure these solutions focus on addressing/fixing the root cause. Set up a key plan with how each department can be involved in the solution.

Step 5: Implement the Corrective Action Plan – The next step is to implement the solution you all identified in Step 4 above.

Step 6: Follow Up to Ensure That Your Plan Worked – Schedule a day of implementation review (5 minutes), a 14-day review (10 minutes), and a 30-day review (10 minutes) to make sure the fix is working.

Thank you, Michael.  It is always a pleasure to hear your wide-ranging practical knowledge that clients can use every day, especially after a project is complete and they want to sustain the Manex expertise long after we are gone.  

To learn more about food safety or for a complimentary consultation, contact Manex at 925-807-5100 or

About the Authors

As Manex President and CEO, Gene Russell is a driving force behind the firm’s successful track record in helping California manufacturing companies grow and thrive. He has held three successful CEO positions over a 20-year period for businesses that included early-stage, private equity, and non-profit. He has served as senior leadership for global Fortune 100 and iconic consumer-branded companies. Prior to Manex, Russell led a turnaround at a California midsized manufacturer. His experience in global sourcing and manufacturing over several decades led him to Manex where he brings real-world experiences, and as a result, a personal passion to restore and invigorate domestic USA-based manufacturing.

Michael Guerini, Ph.D., is a food safety consultant with Manex and has more than 10 years of experience in food safety, specializing in Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) audit protocols, biologics, and remediation. He is proficient in microbiology, food safety, auditing, audit preparation, and quality assurance; and skilled in developing production plant standard operating procedures (SOP), sanitation standard operating procedures (SSOP), hazard analysis, and critical control points (HACCP), and Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) plans.