There are many ways to improve food safety using software and technology. Blockchain, going paperless, and audit software are just a few options, and many companies are constantly innovating and improving their technologies.
New software and technology
“Traceability has been one of the most important aspects of food and drink production for decades, and the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that quick, detailed traceability has become even more important,” says Jeremy Williams, product consultant, FlexiBake, Vancouver, British Columbia.
“FlexiBake ERP tracks the raw materials across many levels of recipes through to the customer and allows you to bring up a detailed list of customers who received product with a specific lot in under 15 seconds,” says Williams. “Being able to action a recall ASAP is key to saving lives in this industry—gone are the days of 6-hour or multi-day recalls.”
The single most important thing that factors into traceability is detail, says Williams. “Ensuring lot numbers are double-checked to validate that production teams are following what is in the work orders is imperative for accurate traceability. FlexiBake ERP manages this by having ingredient and product pickers record lot numbers and batch numbers so that a supervisor can review the information when closing production. Inventory adjustments can be done quickly and easily with FlexiBake ERP on the cloud, as you can use FlexiBake ERP on tablets throughout the facility to adjust for any spills or wasted product.”
Harry Burgh, COO, Nexcor Food Safety Technologies, Inc., Atlanta, GA, says that in the past year, they have made great strides in expanding the reach of their KLEANZ Enterprise solution. “KLEANZ Enterprise takes the complete food safety and sanitation functionality of KLEANZ and adds visual Dashboard views for tacking and trending tasks, completion percentages, employee performance and more at a corporate level,” he says. “It gives management the tools to ensure corporate consistency and standardization across facilities by tracking KPIs and trending data over time across facilities in one centralized system.”
Measuring performance by facility, business unit, region, and more ensures that standardizations are adhered to and the performance of corporate initiatives can be backed with hard numbers, Burgh notes. “KLEANZ Enterprise can automate reports in the form of email and SMS messaging. Reports are configured to fit the client’s methods of operation and can be based on specific tasks, date ranges, audit requirements, and more. For example, we have had several bakeries request old dough checks. We have worked with them to incorporate these checks into KLEANZ and developed appropriate KPIs that can be tracked over time.”
KLEANZ Enterprise gives operations the tools to track facility performance in real time with appropriate alerting of deteriorating situations, he comments. “Management is always ‘in the know’ of how corporate initiatives are performing at a facility level at any moment. Taking the guesswork out of preventing food safety risk to brand reputation and consumer is what we strive to do,” Burgh adds.
In addition, the entire KLEANZ Family of Services adheres to the documentation and reporting requirements of FSMA. “The FSMA zones are easily configured into KLEANZ so that associated tasks adhere to the requirements of each zone and the appropriate documentation is captured in real time,” says Burgh.
Jerry Van Oort, CEO, inspectiTRAC by Russell Associates, Le Sueur, MN, says that their inspectiTRAC software is a browser-based application that is designed to collect and manage the results of inspections, audits, and observations. “Customizable forms make it easy to create an inspection form that works for any situation. Uses include facility and equipment inspections—fire extinguisher, hard plastic, walking surfaces, etc.—as well as pre-ops, JSAs, JHAs, quality observations, employee observations, and facility audits.”
The newest feature of the software is the ability to easily view and assign any findings to a user to ensure the appropriate corrective action is taken. This feature allows for the tracing of results from initial finding all the way through the system to correction. “inspectiTRAC is designed to help companies of all sizes with the ability to collect and securely store inspection documentation while eliminating redundant work controlling the data. The corrective action feature of inspectiTRAC helps companies ensure that they are tracking the issue from start to finish,” Van Oort says. “This helps them ensure that the equipment is in appropriate working condition, and when issues are found that they are corrected in an appropriate timeframe.”
Matt Brown, CEO, Wherefour, Petaluma, CA, says that over the past year, they have introduced a variety of new features and enhancements that are designed to improve accuracy of information entered into their ERP, enhance records retrieval and verification, and provide additional mobile features that fit how people are using technology today. “When we talk with our customers, many of them have been asking for help climbing the mountain of documentation they have to deal with, and we’ve done updates designed to ease that paperwork burden.”
When it comes to traceability, accurate data entry is foundational—as is speed, ease of use, and the ability to operate optimally in environments with wet and particulate ingredients and widely ranging temperatures, says Brown.
“We wanted to offer a single-device barcode scanning system that was ruggedized and would seamlessly integrate with our software. We found that solution this year with ruggedized tablet and phone-sized devices with laser scanners that are highly accurate even in challenging environments. Wherefour is providing these in partnership with Zebra Technologies,” Brown adds.
“We’ve added additional traceability reporting features to our existing forward and backward ingredient search capabilities including a new combined report with production and shipment information,” Brown notes. “In real-world situations, bakery customers have said it would be helpful to combine everything in one traceability report. This is useful for any size bakery, but especially crucial for very large wholesale companies that buy flour, for example, in very large quantity lots. The new report provides a view of inventory that may need to be quarantined so it is not available for use and lets users know whether the affected ingredient is in any current production runs along with finished products that are warehoused or shipped to customers.”
Wherefour customers now can create customized keyword tags for enhanced search capabilities and link documents to purchase orders and production runs, Brown comments. “Documentation can include anything from Certificates of Analysis to photos of delivery vehicles, arriving inventory and shipped goods. We’ve designed this feature to be fully mobile and fit with how today’s users expect technology to work so they are able to take photos with their phones and upload them directly to Wherefour.”
All documentation is kept in one place for quick response in the event of a recall or to demonstrate response capabilities during audits. Email alerts can be set up as reminders of COA expiration dates, says Brown. “Bakeries that produce cannabis edibles have additional layers of documentation to manage. Wherefour now automatically generates Metrc tags for every item in a customer order and can upload newly purchased Metrc tags in bulk, which can save a lot of time.”
Dawn Gorey, ERP product manager, SYSPRO USA, Costa Mesa, CA, says that with the significant rise in product recalls, SYSPRO has introduced its recall functionality, including mock recalls and full recalls. “Not only does our Recall functionality provide the users with the data needed to isolate the problem, but allows users to take actionable steps in order to lessen potential brand damage and financial impact,” she says.
SYSPRO Recall has the ability to quarantine and place products on hold during the investigative phase, in addition to provide the ability to trace and report on the affected products.
“SYSPRO Recall was designed and built by industry experts to support the quality and safety system,” Gorey says.
SYSPRO ERP offers a full traceability system, which enables manufacturers to:
- Track materials from receipt right through to delivery of the product to the customer, as well as at any level in between
- Rapidly identify, quarantine and retrieve potentially defective goods from customers
- Accelerate the time to completion of your product recalls
- Improve governance and drive compliance
- Continually test and improve your traceability system
- Remain compliant and meet regulatory reporting requirements
- Lessen the risks associated with recall
Meeting FSMA needs
“ERPs help enforce adherence to established processes by making it difficult to deviate from standard operating procedures and by giving only specified individuals the required permission to make changes. In Wherefour, an unalterable log is kept of all activity, which automatically maintains data to help companies meet FSMA stipulations for documenting verification activities,” says Brown.
With the ability to access all necessary documentation quickly for inventory items, bakeries can easily verify whether preventive control procedures have been followed in cases where potential hazards have been identified, notes Brown. “Also, some software allows product lots to be quarantined, which means they can’t be selected for production use until test results, sanitation reports or other verification activities are complete.”
Wherefour traceability software simplifies creating written recall plans by streamlining the procedures needed to access information required to conduct the recall. Reports can be generated in minutes at the push of a button since all data is stored in the cloud and is at your fingertips 24/7 anywhere in the world, Brown shares.
Gorey says that SYSPRO ERP is able to assist users to be compliant with FSMA from developing quality check protocols and validation, to capturing all applicable information from receipt through manufacturing to the delivery to the customer. “SYSPRO ERP has real-time data capture, easy to design and use queries & dashboards; allowing for immediate access to critical information. SYSPRO ERP enables better stock visibility and allows for complete traceability of stock movements throughout the factory. If the unfortunate event happens where users must do a recall, we offer a quick, easy to use, fully compliant recall process to allow users to analyze data, identify root causes for defect, leading to effective containment and resolution.”
Van Oort says that FSMA is resulting in many changes to the food industry, and the procedures that food manufacturers and producers must follow. “The use of appropriate audits, inspections, and observations of equipment, supplies, and people within the production system is a critical part of ensuring the safety of the food being produced. inspectiTRAC is designed to help companies complete and manage the results of these tasks while ensuring time appropriate responses. Responding promptly and appropriately to a potential food issue can mean the difference between safe food for everyone and a nationwide recall of all food produced within the plant.”
Williams says that the most important thing that food and beverage manufacturers can do is to properly train their staff. “FlexiBake’s implementation team works closely with new businesses to ensure that not only is the team properly trained, but that they can onboard new employees in the future. This futureproofing is key to ensuring that the business’ traceability plans will not collapse if one or more key team members move on to new opportunities.”
As technology advances, ERP companies need to look at how they can use new tools to simplify processes, while retaining the detail required to ensure traceability, advises Williams. “With FlexiBake ERP on the Cloud, food and beverage manufacturers can access FlexiBake ERP on tablets to expedite many activities including inventory counts, which has saved a lot of our customers many hours per month, and has limited user errors, as you are updating inventory numbers while counting. Introducing digital scales to ensure that recipes are followed properly has also been a great advantage to many of our customers. As we look to the future, we are excited at the prospect of what new breakthroughs can be used to empower our customers.”