Dairysafe has reported that dairy farms involved in the remote audit process in 2020 have excelled.

“Records have been shared via mobile phones or email and overall it has been a really positive process and we congratulate the SA dairy industry,” said Geoff Raven, Dairysafe CEO.

“The remote audits have found a demonstrated heightened awareness of personal practices and hygiene requirements, including cleaning and sanitation, increased social distancing and separation of staff due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The introduction of the remote auditing service has not been without its challenges.

“Initially there was an impact on productivity while we were developing and implementing the new remote audit arrangements,” Geoff said.

“Productivity was impacted in a small way when businesses struggled to supply the verifiable evidence we needed for the audit within the expected timeframes.

“Overall, it did take longer to complete a remote audit in comparison to a face to face audit, even taking into account travel, due to the additional planning, managing of expectations and the follow-up needed to obtain the required documentation and the visual detail to demonstrate hygiene standards.

“This is where technology improvements will assist with virtual audits in the future, potentially through a specifically designed app.”

In terms of impacts on auditors due to COVID, Geoff said there had been minimal negative impacts, but there were many positive impacts.

“COVID forced the development and implementation of an alternative flexible verification tools such as photos and videos for evidence,” Geoff said. “This is a positive step forward” for the industry.

“We have also been able to increase our engagement with accredited businesses during the pandemic, which is positive. And we’ve been able to maintain Dairysafe’s productivity in challenging times.”

Challenges with remote auditing

Geoff said the availability of technology within businesses was a key challenge for remote auditing. “14 dairy farms in South Australia don’t have email access, which makes remote auditing difficult,” he said.

“Gaining the required verifiable evidence and additional information within expected timeframes is also a challenge. This was mainly restricted to dairy processors. Over the COVID period our auditors have found farmers to be very responsive to the remote audit process.”

Geoff said not having the visual connection with the premises being audited was a challenge for auditors. “We trialled an augmented reality application, which highlighted bandwidth issues, including upload, download and connectivity challenges, and it was problematic getting signal within a processing facility,” Geoff said.

“Another challenge for businesses was finding the time for the audit process when all businesses were trying to manage COVID. But all businesses did their best.”

Geoff said remote auditing would continue to be used as an option to verify standards. “It will provide additional flexibility on an ongoing basis,” he said.

“Industry feedback to remote auditing has been mostly positive and supportive. Businesses have been ready to make time for remote audits and to provide the necessary evidence required. We congratulate the industry for this flexibility and commitment to continuous improvement.”

Image courtesy of PIRSA.