Albert Einstein said: "The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them." Applied to a farm or ranch, this implies the need to take management to a new, higher level in order to solve problems and excel as a business.
For most farm and agribusinesses, quality assurance (QA) is a key to achieving this new higher level, says Bob Milligan of Dairy Strategies, Inc. "Quality assurance is necessary to enable ourselves and employees to succeed," he emphasizes. "Take the recent egg recall. I have no inside information, but I am confident that the Iowa farms involved had processes in place to produce quality eggs. The problems were created when those processes were not followed every time. Quality assurance is assuring that tasks, procedures and processes are executed exactly as designed every time.
Perhaps the most obvious example of quality assurance is in attaining and maintaining quality of what we produce—procedures to keep feed from molding or milk from spoiling, for example.
In addition, says Milligan: "Farm managers who raise crops spend endless hours selecting inputs and designing planting, pest management, nutrient management and harvesting systems. These inputs and systems determine the unknown but real crop yield and quality potential. We cannot control reductions due to unfavorable weather, but we can minimize reductions from this optimum output due to failure to exactly follow the input and planting/harvesting specifications. This requires quality assurance.
"Given our knowledge/expertise/skills and what needs to be accomplished in our position, each of us begins each day with an unknown but real potential for what we can accomplish," he adds. "Every time we lose time because we have not established proper priorities, or work on a task someone else should be doing, or keep working when a break would increase productivity, we fall further behind our potential for that day. Time management and other tools to reach our potential are quality assurance.
SOPs, Checklists and To-do Lists
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are needed for situations in which the sequence of tasks must be completed in a specific sequence. Where the sequence is not crucial, checklists and to-do lists are additional tools for quality assurance.