How Does a Virtual GMP Inspection Work?

AIB International food safety professionals are no strangers to travel. They're used to flying thousands of miles every year to deliver the thorough and rigorous audits your facility requires.

Well this year travel and audits look a little different! To gain some perspective on how Virtual GMP Inspections have changed auditing and what common concerns our auditors have been running into, we spoke with our Megan Coy Moran, Manager, Quality Assurance, North America.

What’s it been like to work at home more than normal?
Working from home earlier in the year was nice but challenging. Laundry, cleaning, cooking and organizing can keep you from focusing. We also have two beagles that like to bark at everything! It was also hard to turn work off at the end of the day. Fortunately, my husband and I bought a boat earlier this year, which allows us to get out and enjoy it after hours.

Are you traveling again and is it different than in the past?
Now that some facilities have allowed us to visit in person again, I have been onsite 4-5 days a week. Right now it’s all hands on deck to complete inspections by the end of the year. 

Now that some facilities have allowed us to visit in person again, I have been onsite 4-5 days a week.

That means I am traveling a few nights a week – mostly driving to facilities in the area. Hotels are very different now with different locations having different rules.  Hotel breakfast and coffee is mostly gone. Hotel restaurant bars don’t offer seating, so I either bring my own food and stay in a suite with a kitchen or I order delivery. In addition, most of the lobbies, gyms, pools, and hotel common areas are now closed.

What are some of the precautions you are taking while traveling?
I bring disinfecting wipes with me to clean any surface I may touch prior to unpacking. I also carry a laundry bag with me to hold anything I wear during my trip so it stays separate from anything that is clean. I then wash everything when I get home, whether I wore it or not. I also stay isolated when I travel, so my trip is to the hotel, the plant, and back to the hotel to try and keep my exposure to a minimum.  You can read about AIB International Prevention Measures here >

What are the biggest issues plants are facing right now?

Many operations have actually increased production volume, decreased staffing and are not able to meet product demand.

The biggest challenge seems to be staffing in the event of a positive COVID test or ensuring that a visitor doesn’t bring the virus into a facility. Another significant challenge is that many operations have actually increased production volume, decreased staffing and are not able to meet product demand. This results in limited cleaning time because they’re focused on longer runs to get more product out the door. When this happens, cleaning product contact surfaces and production rooms takes top priority, while miscellaneous and support areas may be secondary. This can cause dust and debris build up, leading to possible pest issues.

For instance, in a bakery, food contact surfaces are cleaned at a defined frequency, but the overheads may not be the main focus. When flour accumulates on the surfaces in the overheads and cleaning does not get completed at the defined frequency, flour beetles will become a problem. Upon inspection of the overheads during an audit, an infestation may be found.

Also, maintenance activities are not being completed when production is running over to meet demand. This can then result in issues like over lubrication to keep a machine running, which can be a contamination risk if the lubricant gets into the product.

These and other issues are traditionally identified during a GMP inspection.

With the goal of limiting exposure and keeping up with these possible food safety issues, how have our GMP Inspections pivoted?

We’ve pivoted to provide Hybrid GMP Inspections and fully Virtual GMP Inspections, each of which save you time onsite, possible exposure, and money. Both options also provide you with the opportunity to demonstrate the same dedication to providing safe, high quality food products as you would with an onsite GMP Inspection.

Documentation reviews during a traditional onsite inspection take place in an office or a conference room, with the policies, procedures or records shown on an overhead or TV screen. For both the Hybrid and Virtual GMP Inspections, we’ve transitioned this process to a virtual platform. By sharing screens, we navigate between policies, records and file types, just as we would in person. In addition, interacting through a virtual platform allows us to continue providing the same level of service and expertise you expect.

Hybrid GMP Inspections

With the Hybrid GMP Inspection, we then conduct an unannounced onsite inspection within six months of the desktop review. After completing the virtual review and unannounced site audit, you will receive certificate of completion with your audit score. We addressed the top three questions about the hybrid model in a recent webinar.

What does a Virtual GMP Inspection mean?

A Virtual GMP Inspection takes this entire inspection process to a virtual platform and can be a good option for facilities like smaller operations or small warehouses. The facility's inspection must be completed within one day of the document review and be in a low-risk industry like packaging or distribution. This option also requires approval from the AIB International QA team.
Email our team to see if you qualify.

This fully virtual option requires site personnel to walk their facility with a flashlight and a camera connected to the virtual platform. Just as with an in-person inspection, they climb ladders and stairs, look under the lines, and use a lift to inspect overheads. They’re just doing so with a camera so we can see the site.

Both the Hybrid and Virtual can be an option for those customers that want to reduce onsite visitors and save money on travel costs. Contact us at info@aibinternational.com for more information.

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