Why Net Content Control Matters: Part 1 - Overview

Jason Chester
By Jason Chester | October 24, 2019
Director of Global Channel Programs

Fact checked by Stephen O'Reilly

Billions and billions of packages are filled around the world every day—boxes, cans, bottles, jars, you name it—and, by law, each of them must display net content, whether by weight, volume, or number of pieces.
Net content control ensures that consumers get what they pay for. Laws protect consumers from (intentional or unintentional) “shorting” of the contents of any product they purchase. It doesn’t matter what the consumer purchases—juice, after shave, toothpaste, or potato chips—they expect that the package contains at least as much product as the amount stated on the product label.

Net Content Control 
In this blog series, we’ll be discussing why and how net content control is important, the role of data collection to your net content endeavors, and how controlling net content affects the most critical positions within most manufacturing organizations: shop floor personnel, plant management, and executives. We’ll also discuss InfinityQS’ Quality Intelligence Platform, Enact®—our cloud-native quality management system, which can help you ensure that your net contents are accurate, that you’re minimizing “giveaway,” that consumers always get what they paid for…and so much more.

Net Content Control – Performance and Compliance

Net content control of food and beverage products has two goals:
  • the company must be able to evaluate performance to ensure that production is within the limits for net content external regulation and internal quality policies
  • the company must optimize (which in truth means “minimize”) overfill to reduce cost and waste
Here’s the kicker: achieving optimal net content control is a hidden source of untapped profits for many food and beverage manufacturers. Whether you’re talking about weight, volume, count, or a combination thereof, you need to comply with the requirements—such as FDA net content regulations—that exist everywhere your product is sold.  However, overfilling has a direct and obvious impact on the bottom line.
But without the right platform in place, achieving optimal net content performance and compliance can be a resource-intensive and inefficient process.
In Food & Beverage manufacturing, controlling net content is a mandatory operational requirement, for many reasons. Chief among them are regulatory requirements. Most, if not all, developed nations, developing nations, and international trade blocs have some sort of legislation aimed at acceptable levels of variation one may encounter as part of the packaging process.
Net Content Control

Each of these entities implements their own rules, regulations, and methods of measurement and reporting:
  • the U.S. Department of Commerce Maximum Allowable Variation (MAV)
  • the European Union Tolerable Negative Error (TNE)
  • T1/T2 violations
  • Etc.
Regardless of implementation, net content regulations from these entities are designed so that packages are not underfilled, protecting the consumer. Violating these regulations can result in significant fines or legal recourse.

Some are Unaware of Net Content Regulations

It is not unusual for your front-line employees to be unaware of all the regulations. In many companies, net content control is either not done, or is done the "way we have always done it." Which really means not at all. So, "overpack" or "giveaway" is, sadly, considered “the cost of doing business.”

And Then There’s Your Brand’s Reputation

There is also a significant reputational risk to underfilling food and beverage products. Today’s consumers have instant access to global social media platforms (and other digital channels), and unhappy consumers “name and shame” brands when products fail to meet their expectations by under-delivering net content. Such incidents have a tendency to go viral, which can have a significant impact on a brand’s reputation.
Wary of getting caught up in these incidents, retailers are increasingly moving to protect their brands by taking a close interest in the net content control policies and processes of their major manufacturing suppliers, including the independent surveillance and audit of supplied goods. Sustained failures can and will cause manufacturers to lose lucrative sales contracts—imposing further commercial risks on the manufacturer.
Quality Intelligence on the shop floor

Solving the Problem of Net Content Control

The traditional approach has been to “grade to the curve”—to fill packaging to a target that is substantially more than declared so that the probability of a package being less than optimal is so small that your company "must be in compliance."

The Band-Aid Approach

This “band-aid approach” is often the only option manufacturers have when they lack the internal capabilities needed to effectively monitor and control net content in their packaging processes. This approach can be both high-risk and extremely costly.
For packaged goods that are expensive to produce or are produced in high volumes, overfilling is expensive and costs the manufacturer dearly—in “giveaway” and in the resources wasted to produce the additional content (across man-, material-, and machine-hours).
Historically, that may have been the only economically viable option for net content control, but that is not the case anymore. The availability of cost-effective solutions in areas such as automation, digital sensors, process control, and quality monitoring means that manufacturers have at their disposal the capabilities needed to optimize net content control—while simultaneously avoiding the cost overheads associated with the aforementioned “band-aid” approach.
That is why manufacturers around the world are using the Enact® Quality Intelligence platform by InfinityQS to optimize net content control operations.   

The Importance of Data Collection to Net Content Control

Data CollectionData collection is the essential underpinning of any successful net content control strategy. Without accurate and timely data, manufacturers lack the visibility and insight needed to understand how processes are performing in real time. Significant variations in net content may therefore go unchecked, and the business risks increase. The importance of collecting timely and accurate data is paramount to successfully optimizing net content.

If net content control is a major concern for your organization, you can learn how Enact can help you address those challenges in our comprehensive use case.

Read the other two blogs in this series:
Take advantage of the technology at your fingertips today: contact one of our account managers (1.800.772.7978 or via our website) for more information about InfinityQS products and services.

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