Can mobile data collection and automation be the solution for food safety in Australia?
Australia is currently home to more than 87 000 registered food and accommodation businesses. From restaurants, bakeries and hotels to school canteens, aged care facilities and child care centres, each of these businesses are required to be inspected by Council on a regular basis.
Food safety inspections often result in a lot of paperwork, for example, data entry, scheduling, reporting and manual follow-up. For years information has been gathered using paper and clipboards, with the data being catalogued once returning to the office. It works, but it’s inefficient… Could the introduction of data collection via a mobile device in partnership with automation be the answer?
With countless food inspections required per Local Council, could Environmental Health Officers’ jobs be made easier, more transparent with improved control and accountability, all while reducing costs, saving time and improving reporting capabilities? The answer is yes, and it is quite an easy process too.
Why mobile data collection?
Mobile data collection is the process of collecting information via a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet. This method of collection offers a wealth of advantages – it is fast, efficient, portable, allows for personalisation and consistency both in the field, and in the office. The result of data being collected in the field is real time reporting and analysis, available both on the EHO’s device, and back in the office. Required actions can therefore be implemented promptly all while ensuring transparency and accuracy.
The opportunity in automation
Imagine having your ‘to-do list’ planned out for the next week, month or year, or being able to seamlessly allocate jobs depending on staffing and location. Having software that offers automation to the user allows for increased productivity rates, reduction in lead times as well as better planning opportunities. By automating aspects of your process data quality and consistency will increase, along with reliability, performance and an overall reduction in cost.
In a recent article from The Australian, strategic adviser to Citigroup, Irving Wladawsky-Berger, wrote; ‘automating the more routine parts of a job will often increase the productivity and quality of workers, by complementing their skills… as well as enabling them to focus on those aspect of the job that most need their attention.’ Further to this, MIT economist Professor David Autor supports Wladawsky-Berger’s argument in his 2015 paper, Why Are There Still So Many Jobs? The History and Future of Workplace Automation by noting; ‘tasks that cannot be substituted by automation are generally complemented by it.”
By combining the tools of mobile data collection and automation, Environmental Health Officers, and their departments, will greatly benefit as a whole. The time and money saved, reduction in errors along with customisable features (such as an in-built tailored checklist) will ensure staff can remain ‘ahead of the game’.
Mobile data collection software – what to look for
Using your current checklist (eg HACCP) and schedule as a starting point, consider the functions you would like to standardise, automate, manage more appropriately and report on. From here, you may want to create a functionalist wish list. The list may include:
- Pre-loaded business history, including location and contact details
- History of previous inspections, including a list of follow-up items
- Checklist with a rating option (eg 1-5, or 1-10)
- Pass or fail option for each checklist item
- Ability to schedule follow-up visits
- Speech to text
- Ability to take photos, and annotate them, to identify issues of concern
- Access to manuals, policies such as the relevant state, federal and local Acts and Standards (eg Food Standards Code)
- Comprehensive and accurate reporting on all aspects of inspections
- List of follow-ups required in order to allocate and foresee potential workload issues.
 Counts of Australian Businesses, Australian Bureau of Statistics, 26 February 2016
 Lessons from History on AI’s Impact on Jobs, Irving Wladawsky-Berger – The Australian, July 30 2016
 Why Are There Still So Many Jobs? The History and Future of Workplace Automation, David H. Autor – American Economic Association, 2015