USDA Food Safety & Inspection Service

N60 Work Measurements Time Study

Aerial View of the George Mason Fairfax Campus
Student Walking on the Fairfax Campus

Spring 2014 Capstone Project

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is a public health agency in the United States department of Agriculture (USDA). Their primary responsibility is to ensure that the commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products is safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged.

Project Scope

FSIS has tasked George Mason University with validating the current methodology for determining how much time is required for inspection tasks, which they call an indirect multiplier. For this project, they have asked us to focus in on the indirect multiplier for a tasked called N60, which is the sampling of beef product prior to grounding to ensure it has no traces of Escherichia coli (E-Coli).

In order to validate the indirect multiplier, our team had to collect as much data as possible regarding the times required to complete the actual N60 task (direct time) along with any other miscellaneous tasks in preparation or closeout of the task (indirect time). The direct time consists of the time it takes to cut 60 small pieces of meat from a carcass and bag them in sterile bags. The indirect time consists of filling out information online regarding the sample, scheduling and shipping the sample to a lab, and finalizing all required documentation. To collect this, our team sent out a Data Collection Sheet (DCS) with a complete breakdown of all required N60 tasks. Our team conducted multiple webinars online to have the inspectors become familiar with the DCS prior to filling them out, and gave them an opportunity to ask any questions or gain any clarification as opposed to making an assumption on their own. Then, the DCS was sent out by FSIS to multiple establishments around the country to be filled out by the inspectors and then mailed back to us at GMU for evaluation prior to the end of March in order to provide our team with time to conduct the data analysis. Our team ended up receiving 84 DCS prior to the deadline, of which 79 had data which was deemed "useable" for the project.

Once the DCS were returned, our team compiled the data and did extensive data analysis, focusing on multiple different unique parameters, to gain a better understanding of the data, find patterns within the data which could be useful to FSIS, and finally to determine whether the current indirect multiplier was an accurate depiction of the time spent by inspectors conducting the N60 sampling methodology.