About Safe Food Queensland
Safe Food Queensland is the regulatory body that oversees all food production processes in Queensland. Safe Food Queensland’s mandate is to ensure that all businesses understand their responsibilities regarding food safety, and in doing so, allow consumers to have confidence in the safety and quality of food produced in Queensland.
Safe Food Queensland reports to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, and is responsible for ensuring that Queensland’s food production system meets national food safety standards.
Safe Food has typically relied on paper systems for reporting of environmental data from chicken processing plants. Paper reports would be filled out by plant operators throughout the day, with final data being compiled into a spreadsheet and emailed to Safe Food at the end of the week. Unfortunately, by the time this data was received by Safe Food, chicken processed earlier in the week would already have been sold to consumers and eaten, thereby limiting the ability of Safe Food to mitigate any risks of food poisoning from incorrectly handled chicken.
Safe Food engaged Outware to digitise this system in order to improve the efficiency of reporting and allow them to better regulate the processing of chicken in Queensland.
Phase 1: Poultry
Outware ran a preliminary Pre-Development Sprint with Safe Food to test the hypothesis that data capture could be performed using a tablet app and exported via a web app dashboard. Outware produced a prototype app and visited a large poultry processing plant to test the prototype with plant operators. After receiving positive feedback from both Safe Food and the plant operators, Outware proceeded to kick off the full development project.
The nature of poultry processing presented several challenges for the development of this project, including limited wifi access in plants, and the fact that Quality Control staff (QCs) do not have individual work email addresses to use as login IDs. Further, QCs must wear thick gloves whilst at work to protect their hands from cold temperatures, meaning that the user interface of the app needed to account for a lack of precision in gesture and interaction. There is also typically a high turnover of QC staff in processing plants, meaning that the app would need to be easy to use so that new QCs could be quickly onboarded. To better understand the unique requirements of the project, members of the Outware team visited production facilities to view the daily operations of QCs. This allowed Outware to gain a clearer picture of how the product would be used in-situ and what kind of adaptations needed to be made to suit the user’s’ environment.
Outware developed an easy to use iPad app that allows QCs to enter data about temperature, pH levels, moisture, and other environmental factors within their processing plant. The data captured in this app is retrieved and stored via web APIs and displayed in a web app for use by Safe Food. The web app also allows Safe Food to view the data daily via dashboards, and analyse results against performance targets, allowing them to proactively identify potential food safety issues. The iPad app also creates greater efficiency in reporting, reducing the instance of human error, providing instantaneous feedback, and eliminating the duplication of process that was inherent to the paper-based system.
The iPad app was built using Swift, and makes use of a highly customised keyboard to address the unique user interface requirements of the project. The result is an easy to use iPad app that allows QCs to record data easily, and a web app that provides Safe Food with a highly visual way of accessing data from processing plants.
Phase 2: Red Meat
After the success of the Safe Food App in poultry processing plants, Safe Food wanted to extend the scope of the project to include red meat processing. While there were some differences in the types of data and graphs required by the two industries, the red meat industry was reliant on the same paper-based reporting systems, and had similar user experience requirements due to the nature of the workplace environment. These similarities allowed the Outware team to adapt the poultry code base and develop a flexible architecture that will make future versions of the app easier to develop and customise.
This app provides Safe Food with greater visibility of food safety performance in Queensland.
Safe Food has been extremely satisfied with the outcome of the project, saying that it was ‘a pleasure working with the entire Outware team; their effort, professionalism, and talent resulted in a product which exceeded our expectations’.
Outware is now working with Safe Food to produce similar projects for seafood and egg processing over the coming months.