Breaking down the key validation processes within food production and hospitality, then exploring the potential role of a Digital Quality Management System

It is impossible to overstate the importance of accurate testing within the industries of food production and hospitality. Overlooking this area of your operation could result in customer complaints, failed audits, and eventual closure. To prevent this from happening, you need to ensure you have access to accurate information at all times, and the only way to do this is to prioritise the validation of your equipment.   

With this in mind, we wanted to explore the different processes for validating some of the most popular equipment within food production and hospitality. From conventional thermometers and infrared devices to pH meters and food oil monitors, we have outlined the different approaches to making sure your equipment is reliable.  

In the interest of enhancing these processes even further, we have also outlined the potential role of a Digital Quality Management System, with this platform offering a welcome alternative to the piles of paperwork that usually accompany regular testing. 

Below is a list of the questions we will be answering in this overview. There is something to learn from each point and we have included key bullet points for each topic. However, there is also the option of skipping to the section most relevant to your needs:

Equipment Validation: How do you validate a thermometer?

There are three key methods for the validation of your thermometers.

1. The first and most traditional method involves ice and boiling water, with operatives holding a thermometer in ice water to confirm it reads 0°C (32°F), then boiling water to confirm it reads 100 °C (212 °F). We are seeing more and more sites move away from this method because of health and safety risks, time constraints, along with the lack of accurate and consistent results.  

Equipment Validation

2. The next method relies on test caps. Quick and easy to use, test caps are calibrated to replicate a specific temperature point and are attached to your thermometer in place of its temperature probe. This allows you to find out if your thermometer is displaying an accurate reading. The main issue with this method is the fact that test caps only verify your thermometer, but not the temperature probe. With most accuracy issues relating to the probe, this could allow a major issue to go undetected.   

Equipment Validation

3. The final approach is to use a machine that supports in-house thermometer and temperature probe verification. Based on over twenty years of industry experience, the Klipspringer team would recommend the LazaPort8. Traceable to UKAS standards and accurate to +/- 0.27°C, the LazaPort 8 will allow you to calibrate your temperature probe and thermometer together at 0 and 100°C (-18 also available). In fact, you can check multiple temperature probes at once, with minimal set up required. Although there is an upfront cost, this investment will help you to drive standards, save time, and will eliminate the cost of a separate reference thermometer.  

Key Points

There are three key ways to validate your thermometers:

  • Ice and boiling water: poses health and safety risks, plus the results aren’t always accurate
  • Test caps: quick and easy, but can only verify your thermometer, not the probe
  • LazaPort8: checks multiple probes at once. Accurate, traceable to UKAS standards, and involves minimal set up

Equipment Validation: How do you validate an infrared thermometer?

Infrared thermometers, otherwise known as non-contact thermometers, will tell you the amount of thermal radiation being emitted by the product you are testing. As with a traditional thermometer, it is important to validate this equipment on a regular basis.  

There are three key methods for the validation of your infrared thermometers. 

1. The first method involves the use of a Comparator Pot. This piece of equipment can be used to check your infrared thermometer at ambient temperatures. It can also check it at cold temperatures, if you first place the pot in a fridge to cool it down. Although it is possible to place the pot in a freezer to drop the temperature even further, this is an unreliable approach, as the temperature is likely to jump back up as soon as the Comparator Pot is returned to an ambient environment. It is also worth noting that this piece of equipment is unable to validate hot temperatures – a key limitation that has led many sites to embrace different techniques.

Equipment Validation

If you do decide to use a Comparator Pot, the first step is to insert a calibrated and accurate thermometer (ideally a reference thermometer) into the base port. You will then need to record the reading once it is stable. Next, hold your infrared thermometer directly over the mouth of the Comparator Pot and beam it onto the base section. Compare the reading of your infrared thermometer to the reading of the reference thermometer. Any difference will indicate the accuracy drift of the infrared thermometer. If the drift sits outside your assigned parameters, you will need to send off your equipment for external testing.

2. In addition to covering the validation of your conventional thermometers, the LazaPort8 can also be used for your infrared equipment. With no manual preparation or clean up required, this method will save your workers a huge amount of wasted time and effort. It is also the best way to ensure accurate results every time. What’s more, unlike the Comparator Pot, the LazaPort8 can validate a wide range of temperatures.

Equipment Validation

3. The third method is to send away your infrared thermometers for external validation. The success of this approach will be dependent on how frequently you are required to test your thermometers, as if you need to carry out daily, weekly, or even monthly testing, it would be more cost effective to invest in a machine that provides on-site validation. Whatever you decide, external validation will still play a part in your process, as many manufacturers recommend sending your equipment away for calibration on an annual basis and auditors have come to expect this level of due diligence. 

Key Points

There are three key ways to validate your infrared thermometers:

  • Comparator pot: can only validate at cold and ambient temperatures, not hot or freezing
  • LazaPort8: validates a wide range of temperatures, including hot and freezing. Accurate, traceable to UKAS standards, and with minimal set up
  • External validation: essential for all sites, but can be reduced with the introduction of a LazaPort8

Equipment Validation: How do you validate a pH meter?

When it comes to the validation of a pH meter, there is really only one suitable method and that involves the use of a buffer solution. Here at Klipspringer, we supply solutions with a pH of 1.68, 2, 4, 7, and 10. To test your meter, you will need a neutral solution with a pH of 7, along with a solution that has a pH that sits near to that of the product or ingredient you are testing at your site.  

You can complete the process in six simple steps: 

Equipment Validation
  1. Turn on your pH meter. Give it around 30 minutes to warm up, then use a cleaning solution to remove all contaminants from the electrode’s glass membrane. 
  2. Allow the buffer solutions to reach the same temperature as your pH meter, then place the electrode of your meter into the pH 7 solution and press the ‘calibrate’ button on the keypad.  
  3. As soon as you have a stable reading, press the ‘calibrate’ button again to set the meter to the value of the solution’s pH. 
  4. Rinse and clean your electrode again before placing it into the solution with the pH that sits closest to the product or ingredient you plan to test. Press the ‘calibrate’ button. 
  5. Allow the reading to stabilise, then set the meter to the value of the solution’s pH. 
  6. Rinse and clean your meter one final time. 

Key Points

  • Buffer Solutions: you will need a neutral solution with a pH of 7. You will also need a solution with a pH that sits near to that of the ingredient you are testing at your site
  • Testing procedure: a detailed guide is listed above, but validating your meter is essentially a case of testing both solutions to see if the equipment provides accurate results

Equipment Validation: How do you validate a food oil monitor?

It is recommended that you return your food oil monitors to Klipspringer’s Service Department on an annual basis for calibration and service. In the meantime, you should be carrying out an in-house validation of your monitors every 1-2 months. This will help you to drive standards, impress auditors, and extend the lifespan of your equipment. There are two possible ways to do this: 

1. Depending on your requirements, it might be possible for you to purchase a reference oil alongside your monitor. This will give you the option of testing your monitor independently until you reach the deadline for your external calibration. If you do locate a suitable oil, you will need to place it in a small container and heat. You can then use your monitor to test the sample in the same way that you would test your standard oil during a daily check.

Most samples will need to be heated, but there are some reference oils on the market that can be tested at room temperature. If you are unable to find the right reference oil for your monitor or you are unsure about your choice, the best bet is to reach out to your supplier for guidance. Just don’t take any unnecessary risks, as you need to protect the integrity of your monitor. 

Equipment Validation

2. If it isn’t possible to purchase a reference material alongside your food oil monitor, we would recommend working with your supplier to establish an alternate approach to validation. Here at Klipspringer, we always advise our customers to validate their monitors with the same kind of oil as they use on site e.g. vegetable oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil. Taking this advice on board will help you to get a more accurate picture of how well your monitors are working. Just remember to use clean and unused oil for accurate results.

A lot of our customers have also achieved success by sending us a sample of the oil they use. We can then test the oil for them in our lab and let them know what an accurate reading looks like. If our reading matches the one they take on site, they will know their oil monitor is working. If the readings don’t align, they will know their monitor is sharing inaccurate results.  

Key Points

  • Calibration and service: it is recommended that you return your monitors to Klipspringer’s Service Department on an annual basis

Your in-house validations should take place every 1-2 months. There are two ways to approach this:

  • Reference oil: can be tested in the same way that you would test your standard oil during a daily check. It can be difficult to locate a suitable oil and there is an additional cost involved
  • Working with your supplier: you could use a clean and unused sample of the oil already at your site. Some suppliers also accept samples and will test them for you

What about the other forms of validation?

Although we have addressed some key examples of equipment validation in this article, it would be impossible to cover the full range, as the industries of food production and hospitality are filled with a staggering number of tests and processes. Fortunately, there are a series of basic principles that apply to validation in all its forms. 

First, to properly validate your equipment, you will need to ensure it is in good condition. Failing to take this step could result in you misunderstanding data exceptions – assuming the equipment isn’t working correctly when in fact it just needs to be properly cleaned or to have its batteries replaced.  

On the subject of batteries, you will need to make sure they are replaced at regular intervals in accordance with either the instruction manual for your equipment or direct guidance from your supplier.  

Next, you need to have access to the recommended reference material for testing your equipment. You should only use this material if it has the relevant certification, as this will be something your auditor is likely to follow up on.  

Across the board, validation will involve comparing the results of this reference equipment to the equipment being tested. This will always be with the purpose of finding out if there is any difference between the results and if this difference sits inside or outside of the established parameters. 

Finally, it is a matter of recording the results of your validation. Whether your equipment passes or fails the check, it’s important that you have a clear record of this so that everyone on site is in the loop. Detailed records will also play an important part in impressing your auditors, as they will expect to see evidence of you validating your equipment on a regular basis.

Key Points

There are five basic principles that apply to equipment validation in all its forms:

  • Ensure your equipment is in good condition
  • Replace batteries at regular intervals
  • Secure access to the relevant testing materials with the correct certification
  • Compare the results of the reference material to the equipment being tested
  • Record the results of your validation

What role can TRAKKD play in equipment validation and verification?

A cloud-based quality management system, TRAKKD is the forward-thinking alternative to paper checklists. Whether you use our Bluetooth Dual Thermometers and Oil Monitors to transfer data automatically or encourage your operatives to switch out paper checklists for this user-friendly digital system, TRAKKD provides a fantastic opportunity for you to enhance the verification and validation processes at your site.

Equipment Validation

Here are just some of the ways in which this digital quality management system can support you and your operatives:

TRAKKD can be connected to our Bluetooth Dual Thermometers and Bluetooth Food Oil Monitors. This will save your operatives the hassle of manually inputting data, as it will be automatically transferred to the digital system. Instead of risking human error, this instant transfer will ensure your data is accurate. 

You can use TRAKKD to set up acceptance criteria for the different tests taking place at your site. Once these parameters have been established, a reading that sits outside of the criteria will result in an exception being raised to the relevant managers. This will allow you to monitor activity at your site remotely, something that is particularly useful for managers who cover more than one location. It will also empower you to act immediately, instead of having to rely on an operative to find and file the relevant paperwork.

TRAKKD will help you to drive accountability across your site. If an exception is detected, the system will insist that appropriate action is taken e.g. sending an inaccurate thermometer back to its supplier for calibration. This emphasis on accountability means that any issues at your site will be accompanied by a record of their resolution. This is a fantastic way to reassure auditors of your commitment to quality, consistency, and safety. 

Another benefit of TRAKKD is that it allows you to alter the parameters of tests across a whole group with just the click of a button. If there is a change to one of your processes, instead of relying on your operatives to remember this information, you can make the update through your digital management system.  

Key Points

TRAKKD is a cloud-based quality management system that offers a welcome alternative to paper checklists. Here are four examples of how it can benefit your site:

  • TRAKKD can be connected to our Bluetooth Dual Thermometers and Food Oil Monitors – saving your operatives the hassle of manually inputting data
  • TRAKKD can be used to set up acceptance criteria for the different tests taking place at your site
  • TRAKKD can help to drive accountability – raising exceptions to the relevant managers and keeping a record of resolved issues
  • TRAKKD allows you to alter the parameters of tests across a whole group at the click of a button

If you would like further guidance relating to equipment validation or any of the instruments mentioned in this article, the Klipspringer team would be happy to help. Share your details below to arrange a free consultation.