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Wine Quality Business Programs

by Staff Writer - B. Shaughnessy | February 10, 2012

Today more than ever consumers demand quality in the products that they purchase. Competition within every aspect of the economy has led to an increase in the quality of products available for purchase. When consumers look to purchase wine, they are drawn to wines that they know they will enjoy. Quality plays a big role in this determination.

It is interesting to consider what most people imagine when they think of wine. It is natural that consumers are drawn to particular wines and wineries that they have enjoyed in the past. And when sampling new or enjoying familiar wines, thoughts of artistic talent, romance and passion are associated with the production of the wine. While it is important to realize that conceiving a truly great wine is an art form, the production of that wine is more of a manufacturing process than anything else. This does not mean that winemaking is a dark and depressing process, rather winemaking is quite the opposite. Realizing that winemaking is much more of a manufacturing process allows the forward thinking winery to institute a culture of quality as well as practical quality control. The bottom line is any vintner or winery owner will naturally want to produce the best possible wine for their particular market.

When looking at product quality, it is important to remember that quality is not an arbitrary phenomenon that naturally occurs. Producing quality products takes careful planning and proper execution of specific procedures within a manufacturing process. Quality also requires an environment conducive for maintaining as well as increasing the quality of produced products. Due to these basic needs, it is obvious that companies must be structured with quality in mind. Structuring a company in this matter is just as important as developing quality control procedures. In other words, if the environment of the company does not support quality then all of the quality procedures implemented within that company will be ineffective.

This article focuses on the various business programs available for wineries today. These business programs allow wineries to conform their operations to defined standards and thus create an environment where quality is preserved, wastes are eliminated and expenses reduced. The best part concerning these quality business programs is that when implemented correctly, efficiencies within the winemaking processes are maximized and the result is higher quality wines.

Several different models are available for building quality programs within winery operations. They include the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point system, the ISO 9001:2000 system, the BRC Global Food Standard and the Business Excellence Model. Various additional procedures are also available and in some instances may be included within the before mentioned systems. They include supplier audits as well as instituting Total Quality Management systems. Finally it is important to remember that various locales have their own rules and standards concerning which systems must be in use for the sale of wine.

The Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point system--or HACCP for short--is a food quality control system originally developed in the 1960s for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the United States. The HACCP system is a proactive based system aiming at preventing any defined hazard from occurring. From an efficiency standpoint, the HACCP system is only as efficient as its design allows. The implementation of an HACCP system requires individuals to determine operating parameters for a specific environment. If these parameters are too narrowly defined, the HACCP system will become inefficient and tedious. Conversely, if the parameters are too broad the HACCP system will become ineffective with quality control.

The specifics concerning a HACCP system work in the following manner. A panel of experts reviews theoretical processes. Each expert submits their own ideas of risks and hazards that could affect the production of food. The submitted hazards are reviewed to determine if they pose a risk to quality. Any critical hazards are then designated as a critical control point. A critical control point is a step in the manufacturing process where control can be applied to remove a potential food safety problem. After the determination of these critical control points, the system is put into practice. This involves: defining the area where the HACCP will be implemented, forming a team of experts that covers the defined area, preparing and distributing process flow charts, individually reviewing steps and hazards, building a decision tree to be used to determine if a step lies on a critical control point, setting-up feedback mechanisms to monitor quality and developing & reviewing preventative action plans on a regular basis.

The ISO 9001:2000 system is a standards and quality compliant system that originally was developed to address quality problems found within munitions manufacturing operations during the second world war. Since that time it has evolved into a complete quality management system existing on a standards based level. This means that organizations can publish their quality levels due to the fact that these levels are corroborated by an independent agency. Organizations first review the prerequisites of implementing an ISO system and then look to implement the system. When implemented and audited, an organization can then publish that they conform to the ISO 9001:2000 system. Prerequisites of an ISO 9001:2000 require a Quality Management system, management responsibility, resources, product realization & measurement, analysis and improvement.

The BRC Global Food Standard was formed in 1998 by the publishing of a global food standard by the British Retail Consortium. Included within the BRC Global Food Standard are all the processes of the HACCP system plus various other elements of quality management and factory environmental standards. Originally the BRC Global Food Standard was designed to reduce the individual audits companies were conducting against their suppliers. The BRC Global Food Standard fell short of this goal. Nevertheless, the standard has been successful in that it has been adopted in 23 different countries.

Another quality control system is the Business Excellence Model. This system is common in Europe and covers nine areas of business management including leadership, people management, strategy & planning, resource management, quality systems & processes, people satisfaction, customer satisfaction, impact on society and business results. It is important to note that the Business Excellence Model is not a compliance system but an ethical guideline for continuous improvement.

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