Data: The Secret Ingredient for Food & Beverage Manufacturers and Distributors
The food industry is highly regulated and food producers are very concerned about quality and traceability to protect the products and the people who consume them. Regulatory requirements vary from country to country but they all have this in common – it is very important to be able to identify individual products and the ingredients that went into them, from the end consumer or retail outlet, right back to the source of each component. Traceability is the foundation of food industry control and compliance.
There are two parts to accomplishing traceability; the first is identification and data capture, and the second is data management. Both can and should be accomplished through your ERP system.
Traceability data must be captured at the source, as activities are taking place – after-the-fact just won’t do. In order to minimize the impact on productivity, and to ensure completeness and accuracy, data capture should be automated as much as possible. Most companies rely on bar-coded labels and scans, although RFID and direct machine connection play a role in some companies. The collection step should be integrated within the ERP program to ensure that batch number, source, test results and quality measurements, temperature, and whatever else that’s needed is included in the database.
The second half of the traceability equation involves the ability to make effective use of the data through data management and reporting. The database must be able to make the connections – through recipes and formulas, production histories, and transaction records – to tie ingredients to intermediates to finished products and out through the distribution records. The system must be able to follow the trail in both directions; starting from a suspect product up the chain to identify processes, equipment, operators, conditions and ingredients to help isolate the source of the problem; and back down through the chain to find any other products and batches that might be similarly affected.
While various regulatory agencies require this kind of traceability, many companies strive to exceed the regulatory requirements for their own quality assurance and the safety of their customers. The more detailed traceability you have, the better your ability to isolate problems initiate mitigation and correction, and limit the extent of any recall that may be in order.