Raising the Barr: creating the perfect Irn-Bru with an electronic quality system

As the food and drink industry grows in complexity, with new standards and regulations, fresh competition and ever-growing supply chains, how do businesses adapt and build the brand equity and quality they've been nurturing for years?

Founded in 1875, Scottish drinks manufacturer A.G. Barr adopted Qualsys's electronic quality management software (EQMS) to control, strengthen and automate their processes for the future.

Qualsys interviewed Harry Singh, A.G. Barr's Quality Systems Administrator, to learn more about the impact that EQMS was having across A.G. Barr's three soft drink manufacturing sites. 

Read the interview transcript to learn:

  • How A.G. Barr use EQMS to guarantee product safety and quality
  • How EQMS has changed A.G. Barr's company culture and behaviour
  • How Harry's first week with Qualsys's audit management module went

Or watch the videos below to hear more from the A.G. Barr team.



The A.G. Barr quality team at the beginning of their EQMS project


Qualsys: As a major drinks manufacturer, what does the quality landscape look like for you? What standards and regulations do you have to comply with?

Harry: ISO and BRC are our big ones. We're fully certified to both. When our auditors come by, especially for our annual BRC audits, they're looking for evidence of good, robust practices in place to ensure quality control and safe working practices.They'll probe various parts of the business and make sure we're on track.


Qualsys: A.G. Barr's been operating since 1875. What was the main business challenge in 2016 that made you start looking for an electronic quality solution?

Harry: Well, in the quality and safety team we're trying to implement uniform standards and regulations across all A.G. Barr sites. We were seeing these gaps time and time again where we were falling short in document control, keeping processes and procedures up-to-date and easy to find, logging issues.

We had a system and process in place which ran for many years, but we outgrew it. The communication between teams wasn't working correctly either and it was slowing our resolution time. We wanted a system that would make it quicker to identify and collate issues and fire them to the right people, so we could drive corrective action and close the issues out.


Image result for irn-bru

"Scotland's other national drink."

Read how EQMS supports the original one here.


And we do a number of audits across the business, as you'd expect: quality audits, safety audits, food hygiene. Lots of different checks up and down the country. But we had no top-line visibility of what was going on, what actions were coming out of audit findings, and what was being done about them - all that information was being lost.

There'd be a little bit of information on one spreadsheet here, we'd start another there with some more actions. Every site was doing things differently and logging different pieces of information. We had no standardisation; all our action lists looked different, even down to little things like column headers. 

That's why we were attracted to a module that would manage information like that for us, from schedules to actions, and help us track everything. And we started with Audit Manager just over a week ago.



QSE Manager John McMullen discusses how Audit Manager

helps A.G. Barr more effectively plan and follow up on audits



Qualsys: Before we discuss your first week with Audit Manager, could you tell us how you've been using Issue Manager

Harry: Currently we use it for handling our customer and consumer feedback and complaints. Obviously it's so flexible with the data fields and workflow that we plan to use it for a variety of things in future, like tackling issues before they even reach the consumer by logging what gets spotted internally and setting corrective actions at the source. But right now it's purely for managing our relationship with the customer.


Image result for irn bru factory

After the SNP's seat surge in 2015, Irn-Bru sales

within Parliament increased by 60%


Qualsys: What sort of complaints are we talking about? Problems with taste, packaging and so on?

Harry: It's all of those. Like any food and drink manufacturer, we can get complaints about taste of product, packaging, labelling, short fills, damage. We occasionally get enquiries about stockists too from the general consumer.

Once we have all the details from the customer, we fire that over as an issue to the quality team from them to investigate and close out, with some root cause analysis to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Over time we'll see those complaints begin to decrease, and as we expand our market share and introduce new products, EQMS has been a great system to help us manage that data.

The functionality is absolutely what we were looking for - and we're really looking forward to Version 7.


Image result for ag barr

Alongside Irn-Bru, A.G. Barr also manufacture international brands

like Rockstar, Rubicon and Strathmore Spring Water


Qualsys: What's the big measure of success for using our software over the next, say, year or so?

Harry: Well, we want to drive our complaint KPIs down: number of complaints and time to resolve.

The system is also helping us identify issues and making sure there's full ownership in resolving them. And the big benefit, I think, will come from Audit Manager - in the past that's where the biggest gaps were. There was no drive to close out actions, they were just moved from one spreadsheet to another.

Audit Manager will help us track all that information and the reminder functionality and escalation paths will drive that positive behaviour to continuous improvement.


Audit and inspection Manager example for quality management system

A.G. Barr are using Audit Manager's reminder, escalation and calendar features for a standardised, multi-site auditing programme with full staff engagement


Even after a week, we've already seen that. We've only added one specific audit type into the system so far, but there's been a noticeable difference in raising the profile of the outstanding actions.

That's meant there's a behaviour now to close out those actions, because the system alerts and reminds them. Before, the actions would've just sat in a spreadsheet from month to month. Now there's interest and engagement and we're seeing actions being closed out.

There's even interest and engagement at a higher level; the audit type we've set up is used by an external auditing firm so there are senior managers, even directors, involved with the system, and they've all been impressed by what the system can do.



Harry discusses the time savings provided by EQMS



Even after a week, we've already seen a noticeable difference in raising the profile of the outstanding actions. There's a behaviour now to close out those actions, because the system alerts and reminds them. Before, the actions would've just sat in a spreadsheet from month to month.


Qualsys: What do you think the impact of that behaviour change will be?

Harry: It should make the company stronger in terms of being audit-ready and being proactive with issues. We've only added one audit type into Audit Manager, so it'll only get stronger as we add quality audits, HACCP audits, safety audits and so on into there. That's the big push. That's next.

Document Manager was our first module and having that proper document control in place now, with reminders and workflows for document owners, has made a big difference as well.


There are senior managers, even directors, involved with the system, and they've all been impressed by what the system can do.


We have so many people creating documents at A.G. Barr and they weren't really easy to find at all before we found Qualsys. EQMS is now our library for all live documentation, which again has improved behaviour. We had Google Drive before, so you could argue we did have a document management system, but there was a cultural problem with training people to use that properly.

I just feel EQMS is a much better place for live documents.


Qualsys: What's next for your use of EQMS?

Harry: We're pressing on with our audits for now and adding new audit types, transferring data across. We've taken the risk module so we'll be rolling that out after, then the supplier module.

I've enjoyed working with the team at Qualsys. Really friendly bunch, always looking to solve problems. Rob Needham [Technical Director], Dave [Beard, Service Implementation Manager], Declan [Webster, Product Delivery Manager], and so on. Whenever I come down to Sheffield for a workshop, it's always a really good day.

I feel I'm embedded and I've got a good working relationship with the team. That's really exceeded my expectations. I'm keen to grow the system. 

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Next steps

See how Diageo produce Scotland's other national drink with the help of EQMS by reading the case study post.

Or access our food and drink datasheet to learn how Qualsys's software modules are used by companies worldwide to build BRC- and ISO-compliant electronic food safety management systems.

food drink safety quality management software


Topics: Food Safety Management, Case Studies, Continuous Improvement, Multi-site enterprises, Success Stories, Customer Success

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