Hempstone Omondi – Quality Assurance Team Leader, Kenafric Industries Ltd Speaks to Food Safety Africa Team.
Describe your current role, key responsibilities and the most critical deliverables.
As the QA Team Leader at Kenafric Industries Limited, Nairobi, my key responsibilities are developing, implementing, updating quality & food safety processes and procedures, ensuring root causes to deviations/non-conformances are promptly established and addressed, and acting as a link between quality assurance and other departments.
Quality and food safety systems compliance, process excellence, zero defects to the customer and prompt communication are key deliverables in my role.
What are some of the most important skill sets in achieving success in your role?
Sound knowledge of quality and food safety (when, where, and how to use such information), analysis and good decision making, leadership and resilience.
This role technically ensures quality and food safety systems are established, implemented, monitored and reviewed as necessary to build confidence.
How would you describe your journey to the role you are currently having? How has your childhood and growing up guided your choice for this career option?
From a very personal perspective, at some time in primary school, I had frequent issues with foods that were handled unhygienically. I remember suffering from H. Pylori infection at some point and, even though I did not know what exactly it was then, I developed interest in food quality and safety. I thought I could, in future, learn more about food and how to make it safe for everyone.
I decided to pursue Chemistry because I could utilize advanced analytical methods to establish contents of a sample – I wanted to be a food expert after campus.
Even though I am still looking forward to growing my skills and expertise in food quality and safety, I am glad I have practical experience in several food companies so far.
What are some of the quality, food safety and compliance certifications your company has achieved? How would you say these certifications have shaped up your company to achieve its goals?
Kenafric Industries Limited is certified against Quality Management Systems ISO 9001:2015, Food Safety Management Systems ISO 22000:2018, Environmental Management Systems ISO 14001:2015 and Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems ISO 45001:2018.
Our operations are aligned with the requirements of these certifications, and we do guarantee that the products we produce are high quality and safe for consumption. Standardising our operations in this fashion has helped us achieve one of our very top goals – customer satisfaction – which means better market for our products.
How does your company ensure that food safety culture is inculcated within the teams? What are some of the challenges your team and company face in ensuring compliance throughout the business?
Our management demonstrates its commitment to good food safety culture by effectively communicating the food safety policy, providing relevant internal and external training on food safety, and encouraging new ideas that align with our business needs.
What are some of the quality, food safety and compliance your company challenges on a regular basis? What are some of the processes you have put in place to ensure that raw materials, in-process and end products meet your requirements?
Lately, especially with the current pandemic, we have had major delays in deliveries from our suppliers for raw and packaging materials. As a result, we have had to sometimes temporarily resort to other suppliers – some of whom we have received materials with varying quality parameters.
However, we have a robust incoming material inspection system, which helps us promptly detect such variations so we can take necessary steps to prevent variations or deviations on in-process and end-product quality.
Tell us about your company and how it fits in with career goals. Briefly, what is the typical day like in your role and at your company?
I’m passionate about food quality and safety, and my current company is a platform for me to utilize and enhance my skills on the same. Also, Kenafric Industries Limited has a wide range of products, which technically translates to a wider experience for me.
My typical workday involves review and verification of process monitoring records, doing reports, communicating and resolving matters regarding process and product quality, coordinating analyses, meetings and training sessions, and ensuring general compliance to in house processes and procedures.
Having worked in both quality assurance and ehs roles has taught me dynamism – both roles involve making decisions often and constantly interacting with lots of people
What have been some of the previous roles before the current one? How important were those roles in shaping your current role?
I began my career as a Quality Assurance Officer, then moved to the beverage industry as a Quality Assurance Supervisor & Safety Officer. I then decided to make a slight change in career direction to an EHS Coordinator in the edible oil sector. I’m back to Quality Assurance as a Team Leader in the confectionery and beverage sector.
Having worked in both Quality Assurance and EHS roles has taught me dynamism – both roles involve making decisions often and constantly interacting with lots of people. One therefore needs to be sharp, tough, creative and resilient enough in order to be successful. That has been me – relentless.
What have been the key turning points in your career? Have you ever had a change in career direction? If so, how did you handle the change? What lessons did you derive from this change?
One conspicuous change in career direction was working as an EHS Coordinator for Edible Oil Products Ltd.
I must admit that this role also taught me a lot about compliance issues regarding legal obligations. I was the contact person for officers from local authorities who often came in unannounced, so everything had to always be right. This meant I had to be a master planner and a leader with good organisational skills.
What makes your role interesting? What do you enjoy most about your role? What has been the role of mentors and family in the achievement of your professional goals?
In my role, every single day is different. At one time, I could be reviewing documents and another, coordinating root cause analysis or conducting internal audits. That dynamism makes everything interesting and demands some level of flexibility and good organization skills.
I’m glad I have friends – some of whom are my former bosses – who have been of great support. They offer advice and share materials that help me advance my skills and capacity in Quality and Food Safety.
My family is my biggest support team. They challenge me to take risks and always see potential in me.
What challenges do you face in delivering on your current role and how do you overcome them?
I always give my very best at work. It’s, however, sad that this is not always the case with everyone else and it can manifest in different ways. Sometimes I must get tough to get things done. In whatever I do, focus and persistence are my biggest sources of power.
How do you wind down after a hard day at work? What are your personal hobbies? How do these hobbies contribute to your personal and professional development?
First thing at home for me is either listening to music or playing tunes on the guitar to help me relax and unwind. Music has a way of refreshing the mind.
As a routine, I always have something to read before I sleep – could be an article or a book. I love this because it’s one way I get myself ahead of things.
How can young people who may aspire to a career choice like yours plan their journey? What advice would you give them to succeed in their careers and life?
One must be intentional about quality assurance – know where you are and where you would want to be, embrace a lot of learning and use that knowledge to make a real difference. Look at the bigger picture. Have objectives that drive your career goals and work hard towards them. Finally, you either do it with passion or not at all.
What would you want to accomplish in your career before you step away from the industry? What else would you want to do in the future?
I’m looking forward to climbing up to higher SHEQ (safety, health, environmental and quality) positions and better yet positively influence quality and safety compliance standards. This will satisfy my passion for quality, safety and customer satisfaction.
As a long-term goal, I would also want to start a food business and utilise my knowledge and expertise to deliver best-in-market products and work environment.