Cloud Computing Maximizes Usefulness of Food Safety System Data

All too frequently, a story appears about tainted food that has traveled through the supply chain undetected until it causes illness and triggers a costly recall. This scenario not only puts the health of the consumer at risk but is also invariably expensive and can destroy a company’s reputation.

In a global economy, supply chains are growing more complex and extensive. The ingredient list of a typical processed food product found on a store shelf can easily reach 50. Today’s complex global supply networks allow for simplified sourcing of products from global locations. As a result, a modern food producer may have hundreds of unique suppliers with ingredients passing through many different hands before reaching the consumer. It’s easy to see how food producers at any point in the supply chain are at risk. A well-regarded company’s reputation and brand, which have taken decades to build, can be destroyed within days by a single tainted product from known or unknown suppliers.

Recently, we’ve seen stories that bring up E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella—terms we wish consumers didn’t need to know. In reaction to these stories, consumers have become well educated about foodborne illness and can share those ideas more easily in today’s socially connected networks. Within minutes, a limited product recall can become a fast-trending topic on Twitter and Facebook.

Industry-driven compliance programs and federal regulations are rapidly taking center stage, adding pressure to manufacturers from multiple directions. The Bioterrorism Act of 2002, FSMA, HACCP, GFSI, Safe Quality Food, and British Retail Consortium, among others, apply their own unique stamp of regulation in a sometimes overlapping and redundant fashion. It’s easy to see how food manufacturers struggle to keep up.

To solve these problems, food manufacturers would traditionally choose from a few painful options: Create a new spreadsheet, perhaps install an expensive software product that addresses a narrow issue, institute manual record keeping, and purchase a few new filing cabinets. Or perhaps make a bigger investment, in “hope”—as in hoping the FDA wouldn’t come calling.

A tipping point has been reached. No longer is it possible to add more paper-based recordings of production, quality, and CCP measurements to already exploding filing cabinets. No longer is it possible to show the complete manufacturing genealogy for a product by accessing various disconnected systems, collating data into reports, then struggling to respond within a four-hour window. Food processors are demanding an enterprise approach that provides total coverage to the organization, eliminates redundancy of data and systems, and allows instant access from anywhere in the world.

A cloud-based ERP system should include comprehensive food safety management capabilities (FSMS) that deliver manufacturing operations management, a dynamic, database-driven electronic HACCP program, and easily produce traceability records instantly in a single solution. These systems are taking the lead in helping food manufacturers comply and excel in today’s complex world. So what does a cloud-based FSMS look like?

Plant Floor Control

The key to an effective food safety program is found in laying a solid foundation. Likewise, the foundation to an enterprise FSMS is rooted in real-time plant floor control of production and the disciplined use of MOM. MOM not only implies plant floor control but goes a step further, providing a methodology for viewing end-to-end manufacturing processes, with a focus on optimizing overall efficiencies. Typically, a MOM system provides tools for recording production and machine metrics, enables performance analysis, and is managed through a touch-screen human machine interface designed for use in a variety of environments.

Once implemented, a MOM system provides real-time information about batches and orders, labor and materials, machine status, and product shipments. Data collected can also provide enterprise or situational metrics for determining overall equipment effectiveness.

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