Traceability in the Food & Beverage Manufacturing Industry
One of the benefits of working in our industry (enterprise software, that is) is that we get to meet and work side by side with people in all industries. If industry diversity wasn’t enough, we also get to help and provide solutions to all levels of the organization we set out to help.
Within every industry there are certain questions that keep coming up. As we found out by talking to industry folks at the Food Manufacturing & Safety Forum in Dallas recently, questions surrounding enterprise software tend to hover around the issue of food safety, ingredient traceability, and the highly-avoided-but-highly-required recall scenarios.
Product Quality and Food Safety
Whether you are a purchasing director, plant manager, or quality control manger, connection and access to manufacturing information is going to play a big part in ensuring product quality, and meeting safety standards. Both issues have to do with controlling the output of products to make sure they meet the specifications set by the manufacturer, whether imposed by government regulation or secret company recipes.
Should the output stray from these specifications, the manufacturer has to, first, become aware of the issue, and second, be able to track where in the manufacturing process the deviation occurred.
That’s where the traceability function of an ERP software solution comes in. In our talks with Food & Beverage industry members, traceability is quickly emerging as the focus of discussion. Managers want to know that, should any issues arise, they will have timely and accurate information to enable them to take action. Knowing where in the manufacturing process the product quality was breached allows managers to map out a quick action plan.
How much of the product output has been compromised? Has human error played a part? Should you stop production? Finally, the dreaded, is a recall necessary? These questions involve not only actions taken in the manufacturing plant, but also the receipt of ingredients and delivery of products.
To know the status of the situation is to be able to act confidently to manage any issues that arise.
Traceability functions in ERP solutions offer various functions to ensure that this is the case, including audit functions, traceability of actions, traceability of ingredients (both upstream and downstream), electronic signature checkpoints, and alerts definition. In short, traceability functions offer a fully integrated quality control process from receipt of products to production to delivery.
Audit functions ensure that production is going as planned, tracking all actions and ingredients looking for breaches in predefined tolerances. A properly set up ERP solution will take information from multiple sources (connecting offices with factories and distribution centers), enabling inspections and enforcement of required characteristics of the product being manufactured. It will also have various tracking functions based on user defined alerts that will flag any time production is not happening as it should be. When an error is flagged, the ERP solution will send emails to the appropriate end users, and even give action options through buttons embedded in the email. Easy as factory-made pie.
The result is full control and visibility of the products being manufactured, so managers can trace each ingredient, and employee action, all the way through to the product hitting the store’s shelf. When the need comes, and here’s to hoping it doesn’t, for a recall, total traceability ensures that this is done accurately and immediately.
Tracing your product is like tracing your reputation. You don’t want to wait until it’s too late to start doing it.