A simplified definition of cloud computing means a third-party solution provider offers its software through a monthly subscription fee, with no upfront fees for hardware and software. This drastically different model carries many other advantages aside from lower upfront costs. Because Internet access is the only requirement, managing your business is now achievable anywhere in the world an Internet connection can be found. Cloud-based solutions enable manufacturers to focus on their core business without the traditional IT management concerns of system upgrades, database management, virus patches, system integration, and data archiving and retrieval. Cloud solutions enable the processor to be more agile in responding to changing business requirements. These benefits give manufacturers a significant competitive advantage in a low margin, highly competitive marketplace.
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A recent study released by the Aberdeen Group indicated that most food and beverage manufacturers are below industry standards in four key metrics:
- Percentage of products in compliance;
- Complete and on-time shipments;
- Use of overall equipment effectiveness, a composite metric accounting for availability, performance, and quality; and
- Response time to non-conforming shipments.
A possible explanation can be found in the manual nature of today’s data collection related to product movement, production recording, and risk-based quality control—resulting in overall lack of visibility into a manufacturer’s operations and the inability to find specific information quickly. In the same Aberdeen study, three areas are mentioned as requirements to move beyond laggard status into best-in-class:
- Food safety must become a corporate priority;
- Traceability and compliance should be built into a manufacturer’s production process via enablers such as automated HACCP and CAPA; and
- Solutions that deliver real-time visibility and traceability across the entire supply chain must be implemented.
Although most food manufacturers and processors have adopted an enterprise resource planning solution, they frequently haven’t embraced an enterprise-wide, integrated food safety management solution that enables real-time shop floor control, electronic document control, quality, and traceability. Aberdeen identifies best-in-class manufacturers based on success in two key areas: integrating production and quality data and providing real-time alerts when required by adverse conditions.
In summary, the requirements remain and the pressure is increasing, but technology has advanced to answer the needs of today’s producer. By reaching to the cloud, food and beverage manufacturers can now afford to reach best-in-class status with an enterprise food safety management solution in an affordable delivery model. Investment in the appropriate technology will also help to avoid the damage that can result from an unnecessarily large or cumbersome recall.
When the data integration is automated and available in real time, better decision-making is the result—and producers and consumers win.
Tom Nessen is a senior solution engineer with Plex Systems. He has more than 12 years of experience as a technology consultant to large, small, and mid-size companies. Senior account executive Jon Cowan has spent more than 13 years in manufacturing, providing plant floor automation, MES, and ERP systems. For the last eight years, he has provided enterprise software solutions to process manufacturing industries, with a focus on food and beverage processors.