Analyzing the Food Chain

Nov. 30, 2015
Food manufacturers are under pressure to minimize risk throughout the entire supply chain. Many companies are turning to cloud-based technology to implement quality control across global operations and enable collaboration with partners.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s rules for preventative controls for human food and produce safety—as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)—are now final. Many of the key requirements will directly impact farms. For example, the final produce safety rule addresses agriculture water quality, soil, sprouts, livestock, as well as equipment sanitation and worker health and hygiene. These also factor into the key requirements for food producers who must implement a food safety system that includes analysis of hazards and risk-based preventive controls throughout the supply chain.

Considering that about 15-to-20 percent of the U.S. food supply is imported and many domestic farmers are just starting their smart farm journey, end-to-end management of the global food chain is a problematic proposition for any manufacturer.

Meanwhile, we are hearing so much about traceability and serialization technologies for meeting quality and regulatory requirements. But food companies are also looking for ways to visualize and analyze the data that they are tracking. For that, they are turning to manufacturing intelligence (MI) and analytics that can “see” the supply chain movement from a higher vantage point—the cloud.

Vendors like InfinityQS, Plex Systems and Dassault Systèmes are taking on the complex supply chain with products that can deliver a global view of data, while promising to improve overall quality in operations and ultimately the end product.

While many MI products can provide valuable insight to what’s happening directly on the plant floor, the ability to apply the same capabilities on a grand scale is what manufacturers need. The InfinityQS ProFicient on-demand enterprise quality management software is a cloud-based system that streamlines the global data collection and analysis within a unified data archive. Powered by a statistical process control (SPC) engine, ProFicient can proactively monitor, analyze and report on data and processes from ERP, MES and production equipment in real time. It includes alerts to prompt corrective action in order to address issues that might lead to a product recall. And the MI software promotes continuous improvement to optimize operations.

According to InfinityQS, 15 of the top 25 food and beverage manufacturers use ProFicient to maintain compliance and traceability. One global food and beverage company, for example, established and maintained standardized quality processes across nearly 150 bottling plants worldwide. With a cloud-based deployment of ProFicient, the IT team configured the software once, in a single location, and deployed it to each location with standardizations based on user-based permissions and preferences such as user’s location, preferred language, level in the corporate hierarchy and required view of the software. The company also integrated devices on production lines to automate collection of data for net content control, Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) compliance, federal regulations, and specification limits on PET bottle creation. The company is seeing time and cost savings, a reduction in maintenance and an increase in operational efficiency.

More importantly, perhaps, it is offered as a software as a Service (SaaS) which means companies can also view their supplier’s quality data in real-time and work collaboratively to mitigate supply chain risks.

Plex, too, recently rolled out its Plex Insight suite of reporting, analytic and benchmarking capabilities to help organizations tap into the large amounts of data captured in the manufacturing supply chain and turn that data into actionable information. The Plex Manufacturing Cloud enables collection of machine, material, supplier, and customer information, and, by applying analytics, organizations can create intuitive, drillable reports on any cross-section of data. In addition, Plex Benchmarks, will be able to leverage results from a community of over 400 companies running across the Plex cloud by aggregating anonymous data to provide organizations with industry-level insight and references of key metrics around inventory and planning costs.

And, last month Dassault Systèmes announced general availability of its Delmia Apriso 2016 product suite that will take advantage of the cloud to better harness big data and use mobile devices to improve quality and responsiveness on the shop floor. A key aspect of Apriso 2016 is its Global Traceability (GT) enterprise app that provides intelligence and integration across multiple plants and disparate systems to trace products throughout the life cycle. Built on a central repository that uses business process management capabilities, GT can become the foundation for cross site process benchmarking, predictive analysis and continuous improvement to improve smart manufacturing initiatives, the company said.

These are just a few examples of how vendors are responding to the regulations—and deadlines—food manufacturers face. But it’s still just one piece of a big puzzle that needs to be put together. The food supply chain still has many weak links. So while these products are a step in the right direction toward FSMA compliance, it will require more time, technology, money and due diligence to meet the quality demands of the government and the consumers.

About the Author

Stephanie Neil | Editor-in-Chief, OEM Magazine

Stephanie Neil has been reporting on business and technology for over 25 years and was named Editor-in-Chief of OEM magazine in 2018. She began her journalism career as a beat reporter for eWeek, a technology newspaper, later joining Managing Automation, a monthly B2B manufacturing magazine, as senior editor. During that time, Neil was also a correspondent for The Boston Globe, covering local news. She joined PMMI Media Group in 2015 as a senior editor for Automation World and continues to write for both AW and OEM, covering manufacturing news, technology trends, and workforce issues.

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