In modern times, it’s very difficult to discover a bakery or food production facility which hasn’t already invested financially in some kind of Ingredient Traceability process to enable the tracking and tracing of ingredients used within their processes. However, do any Ingredient Traceability methods provide a return on investment (ROI)? Is it worth investing in additional administration to setup a paper trail? Should you gamble and wait to see what other companies are doing first? Is there technology available to provide seamless traceability and also prevent unaccountable ingredient losses in the production process? SG Systems investigates the possibilities and analyzes the options available and their associated risks.
It’s a given that in most cases, once ingredients are received into a food manufacturing facility, Ingredient Traceability takes four routes through a manufacturing process;
How easy is it to track a finished product back through to a manufactured batch, through the bulk, minor and micro ingredient control systems and then back to the supplier? Lots of systems offer part control of these processes and then still rely on a manual transfer of data through hand written records to form a paper trail.
Given than the FDA and some of the major retailers provide timeframes for ingredient recall of anything from 2 days to 4 hours and downward, is it really possible to track and trace ingredients through these stages of delivery when a single micro ingredient such as an enzyme could be weighed into literally hundreds of formulations and batches across many weeks of production and be present in possibly millions of finished products? Definitely a food recall nightmare for the unprepared.
So, where’s the opportunity? SG systems explore 3 common options and the pro’s and cons of each.
Option one – Do the minimum.
Doing the minimum requires compliance with the Bioterrorism Preparedness Act 2002 (available for download through www.fda.gov and involves simple record keeping of goods received and shipped finished goods. A manual process of paper records can achieve this, but you need to keep records from anything from 6 months through to 2 years, depending on the category of your goods sold.
However, in the event of a recall of a raw ingredient such as salt, if you don’t keep Ingredient Traceability for ‘when and where used’ then you have virtually no way of knowing who it was shipped to. The only way to cope with this situation of to recall entire days, weeks or possibly months or production costing thousands of dollars and huge brand damage.
In some meat processing plants, it’s not unheard of for companies to be recalling millions of lbs of beef in a desperate attempt to keep their business reputation, but it’s often too late! Having no idea about where you used your ingredients is now a very high risk strategy and the return on investment from setting up a paper system and administration is definitely non-existing.
Verdict – Non-existent ROI, High Risk to Brand and Shareholder Value
Option Two – Invest heavily in manual record keeping.
Taking the Bioterrorism Preparedness Act one stage further and investing in more paper trails to keep track of ‘where used’ in the production facility is the common approach to satisfying retailers looking for damage limitation during the ingredient or finished product recall process. Manually recording ‘where used’ is often done by making operators complete paperwork to record which lot numbers have been used in each batch……
This administration allows a recall to be batch specific, limiting the recall times and providing the manufacturer with an opportunity to trace back where an ingredient has been used and more importantly, where and who is was distributed to.
However, the cost of implementing this administration is fixed and reoccurring. Having teams of administrators filling in data is expensive, complicated, time consuming and problematic and makes powerful retailers and auditors squirm due to the opportunity for human error during the manual data recording process.
On top of this, being able to track the usage of an ingredient which has been used within hundreds of batches can involve many administrators and QA staff searching through hundreds or even thousands of batches to see if the ingredient had been used at all.
To counter this searching process, many companies are making their administrators and QA employees manually enter data into an ERP / MRP System. This vastly reduces the recall times and makes retailers feel more comfortable.
So, after the cost of ERP / MRP (purchase & implementation) and the QA Staff required to manage the process and manually record the data, organizations can be running into hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars of annually reoccurring costs, having a direct impact on profitability and absolutely no ROI, presenting a competitive risk.
Verdict – Non-existent ROI, Low Risk to Brand, High Risk to Shareholder Value (increased permanent costs)
Option Three – Invest Moderately in Data Collection ‘Automation’
Taking the needs of the Bioterrorism Preparedness Act, the demands on the retailers to reduce recall times and also the desire to keep administration costs low requires some ‘out of the box’ thinking. It also requires management teams who have the strength and willingness to lead change and embrace technology.
These leaders are often found in senior Technical or QA functions in the words most successful food producing companies. But they haven’t got there through investing in technology unwisely; more investing in the right technology which produces fast ROI’s to make their companies appealing to Retailers & Shareholders.
So, having established that paper trails do the job, but are costly and deliver no ROI, how should you invest in solving the problem?
SG Systems has developed an Ingredient Traceability system called ‘Vantage’. It’s a specialist Ingredient Traceability system which places the necessary controls on the production floor to capture and control inventory lot numbers and ingredient usage from actual production floor events.
Vantage ensures Ingredient Traceability and lot numbers are captured at the receiving, weighing, mixing, portioning and shipping stages eliminating all paperwork and administration. Usages at the bulk, minor and micro ingredient levels are recorded automatically as lot numbers are added into the mix (even controlling the weights added through the hand scaling processes to reduce waste).
The system forces correct weights to be added and the inventory to be used in correct rotation.
So, Question – where’s the ROI? Answer – It comes in many areas.
Verdict – 6 month ROI, Low Risk to Brand, Low Risk to Shareholder Value.