December 5, 2016
7 Simple Tools for a More Proactive Food Safety Approach
Regulations in the food and beverage industry are strict due to the potential of the products to cause consumers to become seriously ill or die. While undoubtedly necessary, these regulation requirements can seem daunting to manufacturers as they ensure compliance. Often, manufacturers enter a re-active mode in response to a recall, scrambling to deploy proper procedures and put crisis plans in place. But, by establishing a few critical tools to support compliance, you can take a more proactive food safety approach. Improved process efficiency and cost savings are only two of the benefits that result from the following tools:
1. A Centralized Quality Hub
Solving problems upstream in the production process is much harder when you’re monitoring multiple data views across lines, plants, and sites. With siloed data, it’s nearly impossible to truly understand where potential problems exist. Centralizing your food quality and safety data in one place gives you visibility into your entire enterprise so you can catch issues before they result in waste and recalls, and negatively impact your brand. You can then identify potential issues and focus your time and resources on solving those problems. Streamlined manufacturing data also help you quickly and easily trace final product lots and batches back to raw ingredients and suppliers.
2. Universal Naming Conventions
Properly monitoring food quality and safety requires access to information that can be easily analyzed to quickly identify possible problems. One small way to make data easy to navigate is the use of universal naming conventions. Without establishing universal naming standards, the same food product from two separate plants can be stored in a database as two different items. Pulling together data on that one food item from both plants requires knowledge of each plant’s naming conventions and some extra time setting up your report to be sure you’re including all relevant data. And, even then, you may not be sure you have all the data you need.
The solution? Set naming convention standards across your manufacturing lines, plants, and sites. Key parameter names should be consistent across your production process, including part names, lines and machine names, test names, and employee names. With common naming conventions and a centralized data hub, you can produce a report that allows you to immediately identify which plant and line produced problematic products. The aggregated data can be easily retrieved across your company’s enterprise, ensuring you can correct the problem long before your product reaches consumers.
3. Dynamic Sampling Reminders
Sampling and testing food early in the production process is critical to food safety. It’s no longer enough to sample or inspect food when it comes off the production line. With quality control software that offers automated sampling reminders, busy operators in complex manufacturing environments can make sure quality and safety checks take place on time. This timeliness enables you to correct problems before ruined product has to be scrapped. This results in improved food quality control and safety, higher process yield, and less waste at the end of the line.
4. Real-Time Statistical Process Control (SPC)
Prevention isn’t possible if you’re reviewing old data about products that have already come off the line or if you’re reviewing defect data with little-to-no context. With statistical process control data and control charts that update in real-time, you can catch potential problems before they result in ruined product. Slicing and dicing the data produces manufacturing intelligence upstream in the production process, enabling true prevention. Moreover, the downstream results are better, safer food products.
5. Automated Alarms
Automated alarms can be used to alert key personnel when tests violate specification, warning, or control limits. Alarms help you stay on top of potential problems without constant monitoring of every line in every plant. In addition, you can require that plant floor operators enter an assignable cause and corrective action code to document the reason for an alarm and how it was resolved. This helps you ensure that problems identified during production are being addressed and corrective actions are being documented. This documentation also allows you to track and trend chronic problems over time for in-depth troubleshooting.
6. Lot Genealogy Reports
With lot genealogy reports, you have a complete view of the incoming/outgoing product relationship. This allows you to track raw material lot codes throughout manufacturing operations. For investigation purposes, genealogical “trees” can be created. These reports allow you to determine:
- Materials used in the production of a certain finished lot.
- Where incoming raw materials were consumed.
- Root causes of non-conforming lots.
- Information critical to responding to product recalls.
- Which final lots were created from incoming lots.
Lot also genealogy allows you to view summary statistics of final products by lot. For a deeper view, you can look at the component lots and their summary statistics for a complete review of your product.
7. Cloud-based Food Quality Control
Cloud-based food quality control technologies offer distinct benefits for food manufacturers. Supported by world-class hosting partners, these solutions are highly secure and available. For manufacturers with limited IT resources, they eliminate the burden of hardware and software maintenance. Even in remote locations, cloud-based solutions can be access via mobile or satellite connections, ensuring all locations are contributing to the system in real time.
These technologies also enable food safety prevention across the supply chain. With enterprise data visibility that includes suppliers’ operations, you can remedy potential issues before raw materials or ingredients reach your facilities. Data visualizations and reports provide quick and easy proof of compliance in the event of an audit. With a quality management solution, food safety prevention and traceability become an embedded part of your manufacturing processes.