Small to mid-sized food processors can realize benefits with ERP
You’ve probably seen one of those programs on the food channel that shows how foods are produced in large volumes, at very high speeds, in highly automated factories. In many cases, the computers that control the manufacturing equipment are linked directly to the company’s ERP systems, providing real-time data to be used in process control, accounting, quality assurance and the like. I’ve helped design and install integrated systems in several companies, and let me assure you, they are excellent tools.
But did you know that 90% of all food manufacturing companies in the United States employ fewer than 100 employees? Small companies rarely have the capital to invest in such an elaborate system… nor do they need to. Does this mean that you forgo the all benefits of computerized process control?
Today, most of the better ERP software systems offer tools that can be used to enhance manual process control procedures like your HACCP Program (Hazard Analysis at Critical Control Points). And ERP software can help in lot code tracking, and in monitoring expiration dates, and labor utilization.
Most of the systems I’ve worked with enable your company to electronically manage recipes, ingredient lists (or Bills of Materials), process instructions and even pictures that are associated with their respective Stock Keeping Unit (SKU). And almost all ERP software will facilitate record keeping of process inputs and variables like different lot numbers for the ingredients used. Should there ever be a problem, investigations are easy to conduct and document.
Some of the most powerful and useful features of ERP software are the Quality Assurance functions that aid in monitoring ingredients used, process steps, recording process measurements. One company I worked with had the unfortunate opportunity to learn just how valuable electronic record keeping can be… we were notified by a supplier that we had been sold a contaminated ingredient, necessitating a recall. Because we had maintained lot control records in the ERP system and because we had recorded process variables with each item we manufactured containing the contaminated product, it took less than an hour to sort through two days of production of 40 different items and determine what was OK to ship and what needed to be put on QA hold and what needed to be recalled from our customers. The system even told us which customer locations and the name of the contact to call.
I’ve consulted with a number of food manufacturing companies, both big and small, and I’ve seen many companies that continue to rely on manual, paper based systems for process control and record keeping. Every one of the owners involved cited the cost of ERP software as a deterrent. But, it only takes one mistake to negate that argument.
Learn more about the role technology plays in food safety, compliance, and quality in today’s food processing business – join a panel of experts for Blytheco’s upcoming webinars:
- The Role of Technology in Food Safety and Recalls – July 16, 1pm ET. Register here.
- The Role of Technology in Food Processing Compliance and Traceability – September 25, 2pm ET. Register here.
About the Author: Michael Siegmund is Supply Chain Executive at Winslow Bainbridge Consulting, former President of RM Foods, former Director of International Supply Chain at Starbucks Coffee. Thoughout the “Traceability and Beyond” blog series, Mr. Siegmund will be sharing with us “Best Practices in Food Processing,” tips for Processors to improve efficiency throughout their business lifecycle.