Characterizing the integration of BRC food safety certification and lean tools: the case of an Ecuadorian packaging company

Juan Sebastián Bravo-Paliz, Sonia Valeria Avilés-Sacoto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Purpose: Worldwide, companies are interested in improving processes and reaching high levels of quality through the adoption of various systems. For example, they implement quality management methodologies, such as Lean, with the aim of reducing waste and cost. In the food sector, however, companies also adopt food safety management systems, such as BRC (British Retail Consortium), destined to comply with the standards of hygiene, food safety and quality systems. Interestingly, both Lean and BRC seek to boost quality. Thus, both should be able to work as a single system and cooperate to add value to a company without duplicating efforts. By solving the problems in the bag sealing process of an Ecuadorian company through the implementation of Lean tools incorporated in the steps of the DMAIC methodology (define-measure-analyze-improve-control), and then framing a cooperation matrix of Lean tools and BRC clauses, this paper seeks to demonstrate their feasible cooperation. Design/methodology/approach: One of the most well-known methodologies for process improvement is the DMAIC methodology. Through the sequence of the DMAIC steps, the main problem of an Ecuadorian company that produces flexible packaging for food was identified. With the voice of the customer (VOC) from historical customer surveys of the company, the common issues were found. Similarly, historical data of non-conformities required by ISO-9001: 2015 provided insightful information for this phase. In order to measure the current quantitative state of the processes, a VSM (value stream map) was jointly employed with an operator balance chart. Data was collected during the whole operational month. Having this quantitative data, and with the ideas generated from the Kaizen events, improvement initiatives were analyzed and proposed. The proposed solutions involve production and maintenance teams. After some tests, it was verified that all these improvements had had a positive impact on the company. Finally, it was analyzed that Lean tools can collaborate and also be used as proof for BRC requirements. Thus, a correlation matrix between them was built, which demonstrates cooperation between both systems. Findings: The results of this study indicate that Lean can cooperate in the pursuit of the BRC Standard for food packaging companies. This is shown through the case study of the Ecuadorian company, which implemented Lean tools and reduced its costs by shortening lost time and reducing set up time in the machines employed to cut and seal bags. Additionally, overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) from machines 1 and 2 rose their values considerably. Since BRC is a certifiable standard, it contains clauses that must be achieved in order to get the certification. By using Lean tools, it was possible to comply with some of the clauses of the BRC standard. A matrix was built so that it could be identified that Lean tools can work together with BRC, and thus, reduce costs and waste, while simultaneously complying with the safety and quality standards that the standard guarantees. Research limitations/implications: This research had two limitations. The first limitation is related to time. The data was collected in a month due to the project's deadline. For further research, it is recommended to increase this period of time to at least three months of production. The second limitation is related to the processes studied, which are associated with the time period. This study encompasses two major processes, which present major problems. For further investigations, longer periods of time can allow to include more processes from the company. Practical implications: The implications of this project rely on the fact that the company achieved a better level of efficiency. The application of Lean tools reduces waste in the company. Basically, the waste was associated with lost time in machines 1 and 2 from the cutting and sealing processes, which was mainly produced by mechanical malfunction and inefficient maintenance. These problems had a direct relationship with the bad quality of the bags since the machines operate almost fully automatically. Additionally, mechanical problems caused by inefficient maintenance have a direct impact on quality aspects of the bag, like correct dimensions or a proper seal. Moreover, these problems generate a loss of time since the operator must stop the machine during production time in order to fix it. Machines 1 and 2 reduced their lost time drastically. Furthermore, by using Lean tools alongside the BRC methodology, the company can now reduce the resources that are destined for Lean projects and the BRC certification. Specifically, as a result, Lean tools and their documents can serve as proof of compliance with certain BRC clauses. Social implications: These improvements impact the company's profits, and therefore the workers. Since there is a significant reduction in the company's costs, and also an increment in the company's production, the company will probably require hiring new employees. In this way, more job opportunities will be generated. Originality/value: The originality of this work relies on the nature of the research and the type of production facility. Previous studies have examined Lean tool applications in many settings. There are a few studies regarding the adoption of BRC standards. However, and definitely, the merge between Lean tools and a food safety management system is novel, since there are few to almost no articles that have been published using such a merge. The positive outcomes that were obtained not only prove that both methodologies are compatible, but they can also encourage further research on the applicability and functionality of merging two methodologies similar to the ones used during this research. Regarding the production facility, very few articles have been published about flexible packaging companies, and this article will help further research in this field.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)872-892
Number of pages21
JournalTQM Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - 21 Apr 2022


  • BRC (British retail consortium standards)
  • FMEA (failure mode and effect analysis)
  • LEAN
  • TPM (total productive maintenance)
  • VSM (value stream map)


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