Lacking effective ways to generate labels and manage expiration dates also puts you at risk for recalls. With non-integrated systems, Mike has to look up quality control values and batch information in one system before turning to a separate program to create labels, which means he could make transcription errors or omissions. Similarly, Mike has to search several systems to cross-reference customer, product, and inventory data for managing expiration dates. This is particularly true if different customers have different expiration requirements for the same products. If Mike makes even one mistake, you could be stuck with spoiled inventory or products that are returned or even recalled.
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If you can’t avoid a recall, like many of the companies who received peanut products from PCA, non-integrated systems can slow and complicate the process. For example, let’s say Mike always pulls all the right lots for production, but sometimes he writes down the wrong lot numbers. When your supplier calls and says you have to recall certain lots, your records are muddled by Mike’s mistakes. And if Mike lets your inventory go negative by shipping products before he enters the materials into your software, he’s shipping from lots that do not even exist. He’d have to pull batch tickets from months around the shipment date to find all the affected products, wasting time that’s needed to communicate the recall to customers and end users.
Mike can avoid these and other mistakes that cause or protract product recalls if all your company’s business processes, including lot tracking, quality control, labeling, recipe management, purchasing, sales, production, and accounting, are integrated in one food-specific system.
Point A to B to C
One of the most important ingredients for achieving product safety and traceability is a strict lot control and tracking process. Incorporated into an integrated food manufacturing software system, this can help you prevent the common errors that cause product recalls, and, when a recall is unavoidable, help you trace items with surprising speed. For one food manufacturer, La Tortilla Factory, an integrated enterprise resource planning system with built-in lot tracking reduced the amount of time the company spent tracing raw materials by half.
“In a matter of hours, we were able to trace back to the source of ingredients,” said Stan Mead, president of La Tortilla Factory.
Bar code-based technology, used as part of a fully integrated software system, is what allows food manufacturers like La Tortilla Factory to achieve that level of lot control and tracking efficiency. This kind of system should let Mike generate bar code labels as soon as he receives purchase orders. Then, using a handheld scanner, he can enter lot data into the system and trace items as they move through every part of your operation, including inventory, production, and shipment.
With these advantages, Mike couldn’t make transcription or data entry errors that might complicate lot tracking during a recall. Bar-coded pick lists and batch tickets should also help him prevent accidental substitutions that could ruin or taint a batch. The scanners would alert him if he scanned the bar code on lot 510 when he was supposed to pull lot 501.
The software should also allow you to establish process controls that would prevent Mike from allowing negative inventory: By preventing him from filling an order that includes items not listed in inventory, he would be forced to follow the process of receiving, using, and shipping materials to ensure that he creates traceable, electronic lot histories.
So, if you still needed to trace or recall a lot, you could view up-to-date lot histories at any moment. You could pull a lot tracking report that could show you everywhere a lot is or has been, stamped by date, time, and signature. This report would include everything, from the original purchase order to jobs that included the lot, the products made from it, the shipments that contained it, and any of that item still on hand.