Quality Systems Manager
Our Day in the Lab blog series takes a closer look at our team members to see what it takes to change what the world is drinking!
What does a typical day look like for you?
We usually start out by taking a look at whatever batches of product are going to be made for the day. We work closely with the production team when they have new batches of product to see if all the ingredients are up to standard, and to check for any unusual ingredients or procedures they need to be aware of. Once they make the product we continue to check in and make sure everything is going smoothly, as well as taste it to ensure it’s at its best. The ingredients we use here have a shelf life just like anything you would have at home, so we have to make sure ingredients aren’t past their prime by checking for density, pH, and general taste.
One of the most important things we do here is maintain a high level of food safety by auditing the production area. We check that everyone has their hairnets on, make sure there’s no eating or drinking in the blending room, and ensure that doors are closed so that no pests are able to get in the building.
In addition to that we work with everybody in the building for our yearly conducted food safety audit where the outside auditor comes in and makes sure everything we’re doing meets the standards of the SQF (Safe Quality Foods).
Aside from our daily work at Flavorman, Matt [Matt Hurst – Beverage Quality] and I also travel to production facilities across the country and across the world to make sure that everything goes smoothly when our clients go to production. While some of our clients have a background in the beverage world, a lot of our clients don’t, so we want to help them out on the production side of things any way we can.
What makes this job different from others you’ve had?
You never know what’s coming up on any given day. Some days things are very calm and quiet, and you have time to catch up on emails and paperwork but a lot of times you need to have a lot of time available because most of these production facilities run three shifts, 24 hours a day. You have to be really good at prioritizing and be okay with adjusting certain deadlines if unexpected things come up.
What’s your favorite part about your job?
My favorite part of my job would be that sometimes I get to act like a detective. A lot of things can go wrong so you have to be able to think critically about what’s happening. You never know what could happen and a lot of times you’re not given the whole story behind an issue, so you have to be able to know when to make certain leaps and assumptions and also when not to. You have to know what questions to ask and where to look for information. When the answer’s not right in front of you, that’s when you have to act as a sort of detective.
What are some common issues that come up?
A lot of times clients will be in the middle of a production and run out of an ingredient, accidentally add too much, or a different ingredient entirely. In those cases we have to figure out how we can salvage the batch while still maintaining the high level of quality. The materials are really expensive so it’s important to our clients that we save what we can in those situations.
What’s the most uncommon/weird thing you’ve ever had to deal with?
Something that can really throw a wrench in a production is when you get to where you’re almost finished with a product, everything looks good, and then you open one of the raw materials and it happens to have gone bad. We had this happen with sugar once when we had containers of liquid sugar that weren’t stored in the right manner, so then when we popped the top there was tons of mold. Lucky for us we were able to round up a hundred bags of sugar that we needed from all the surrounding restaurant supply stores and fix that.
Another thing we’ve seen is odd ingredient interactions. There have been times where ingredients have been added in a different order than the first time and suddenly everything is different and the color isn’t right. We’ve had a lot of times like that where it really just depends on sequence, which can be weird and frustrating.
Do you have a favorite beverage type to work with?
Flavored Sparkling waters. They’re great, they’re refreshing, and they’re super easy because there are only two ingredients.
Tell me more about the travel aspect.
I like being here [at Flavorman] more than traveling. I’ve been out of the office for work at least one day a week for the past six weeks in a row. We have some productions that are 25 minutes away, and some that are 25 hours away. I’ve been to more new states in the last 6 months than the past 10 years.
What’s your favorite drink?
Barq’s Root Beer