The food and beverage manufacturing industry faces challenging market conditions on multiple fronts: product safety requirements, razor-thin margins, unique customer orders, and constantly varying stock keeping units. To meet such challenges, manufacturers turn to tracking and tracing tools. Capable of tracking materials and products within a single plant or throughout a network of plants, these tools have the potential to provide a complex range of benefits and competitive advantages. While tracking and tracing finished goods is now an established business process for food and beverage manufacturers, many manufacturers have realized that their approach can make all the difference.
Food and beverage manufacturers have traditionally relied on manual data collection methods to provide a best estimate on product and ingredient tracking, with reports based on paper records kept in filing cabinets. Automated systems, however, are providing manufacturers with access to dramatically more reliable real-time information. Such technology enables manufacturers not only to meet regulatory demands but also to respond more effectively in product recall situations—tracking products faster, more accurately, more efficiently, and more cost effectively. This also helps manufacturers establish brand value and provide a quantifiable return on investment.
Benefit #1: Improved Data Collection and Reporting
Given heightened awareness of the perils of terrorism and growing food and beverage safety issues around the world, protecting international food and beverage supplies has become more important than ever. This challenge is driving the push to track and trace food products throughout production more quickly and effectively than can be done using a manual solution.
An automated solution allows the user to collect genealogy data more effectively and with increased accuracy and to store it electronically in an auditable database where the information can be integrated with supply chain information. Manufacturers implementing new tracking and tracing systems gain access to more reliable and accurate information, pinpointing where products were shipped and what components were used in each product. Additionally, this holistic view gives insight into the complete supply chain and allows manufacturers to:
- Accurately and electronically collect tracking details at all stages of production;
- Identify the sources of ingredients used in or allocated for food production;
- Identify businesses to which products have been supplied;
- Adhere to tracing systems and procedures;
- Make tracing information available to authorities on demand; and
- Adequately label or identify products.
Such technology enables manufacturers not only to meet regulatory demands and respond more quickly in product recall situations, but also to be much more accurate and cost effective.
Companies that successfully improve the supply chain through responsive manufacturing processes have the opportunity to increase both revenue and brand marketability by earning prime shelf space at leading grocery and retail outlets.
Benefit #2: Enhanced Supply Chain
A well-implemented automated product tracking and tracing solution provides a view into the key details of production throughout the supply chain, allowing manufacturers to respond better to demands at the retail end of the food and beverage manufacturing supply chain. To reduce extra inventory held in stockrooms, for example, many retail outlets are looking for manufacturers to ship just enough product to replenish their shelves. In an increasingly competitive market, food manufacturers without the ability to respond to such demands risk losing valuable contracts.
However, to schedule production and get the product there on time, food manufacturers require real-time information on variables such as current production status, what is being manufactured, how much has been produced, and where it is in the shipping process. In a manual system, production feedback is only sent when a finalized product enters finished goods inventory on a pallet; this information can be delayed for up to 24 hours from the time of production. Such delays limit a company’s ability to respond to customer requests for information on delivery dates or confirmation that an expedited order can be delivered on time.