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, particularly 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 returned and recalled products.
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Explore this issueOctober/November 2009
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In the event you can’t avoid a recall—like many of the companies who received PCA peanut products that they thought were safe—non-integrated systems can slow and complicate the process. For example, let’s say Mike always pulls all the correct lots for production but sometimes 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 l ots that don’t even exist. He’d have to pull several months of recorded batch tickets 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 into 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. Combined with an integrated food manufacturing software system, it can help you prevent the common errors that cause product recalls, and, in the event a recall is unavoidable, help you trace items with surprising speed. For one food manufacturer, La Tortilla Factory in Santa Rosa, Calif., an integrated ERP system with built-in lot tracking reduced by half the amount of time the company spent tracing raw materials. “In a matter of hours we were able to trace back to the source of ingredients,” said Stan Mead, CEO of La Tortilla Factory.
Barcode-based technology, as part of a fully integrated software system, allows food manufacturers like La Tortilla Factory to achieve that level of lot control and tracking efficiency. This kind of system lets Mike generate barcode labels as soon as he receives purchase orders. Then, using hand-held scanners, he enters lot data into the system and traces items as they move through every part of your operation, including inventory, production, and shipment. This way, he can’t make transcription or data entry errors that might complicate lot tracking during a recall. Barcoded pick lists and batch tickets also help him prevent accidental substitutions that could ruin or taint a batch: The scanners will alert him if he scans the bar code on lot 510 when he was supposed to pull lot 501.
The software also allows you to establish process controls to keep Mike from allowing negative inventory—by preventing him from filling an order that includes items not listed in inventory, he is forced to follow the process of receiving, using, and shipping materials to ensure he creates traceable, electronic lot histories.
In the event that you still need to trace or recall a lot, you can view up-to-date lot histories at any moment. You can pull a lot tracking report that shows you everywhere a lot is or has been, stamped by date, time, and signature. This report should include everything from the original purchase order to jobs that include the lot, products made from it, shipments that contain it, and any amount of that item still on hand.