Effective inventory management is important for many different reasons. For example, if a problem with a batch of products occurs and a recall is needed, properly tracking production will be vital to ensure that any dangerous products are taken off shelves and do not cause further harm to the public. Such an initiative is also important for the business because a successful recall can often improve a company's reputation, highlighting its responsibility to the public and demonstrating that the business values quality control.
In order to effectively trace inventory, plant managers should engage in automated data collection. Food Safety Magazine contributor Katie Beissel recently explored this topic, noting that many companies continue to struggle with proper tracing using traditional paper records. Going through all details manually can be particularly challenging in a time-crunched recall scenario, as components such as the contaminated lot number, the plant it originated from, the day and time of production and locations to which it was shipped need to be identified immediately.
"To avoid going through excruciating details when time is of the essence, many manufacturers will simply recall every item that was produced within a certain timeframe from every store," Beissel wrote. "Although this approach may be less time consuming, it causes unnecessary waste in the form of food and costs, and could cause a delay in getting the actual contaminated products off the shelves because precious resources are being spent ridding stores of the good products."
Battling Recall Costs
To avoid unnecessary complications, save costs and preserve a manufacturer's reputation, plant managers can implement automated data collection software to streamline operations. Automating systems and records not only enables plant managers to improve product quality and safety, but also boost plant efficiency. As Beissel noted, all these factors together can make a substantial difference in reducing business costs and minimizing the impact that recalls can have on a business.
Automated data collection systems can also help reduce the need for a recall in the first place, as plant managers can gain increased visibility into various production components and more easily identify potential problems. Beissel explained that these systems enable managers to aggregate and control the information that is captured from automated processes within the plant, which helps to more quickly identify the cause of a particular problem so that steps can be taken to resolve it.
"Food and beverage companies are moving towards automation for two key reasons: improving the quality and consistency of their products, and to comply with tightening regulations," Beissel wrote. "By deploying automated systems, manufacturers become more efficient and proactive, enabling them to drive costs of the their supply chain while at the same time contributing to better food safety."
SC Magazine recently further explored the topic of automation in an interview with Jerry Skurla, Firemon's vice president of marketing, and Matt Hines, the organization's head of product marketing and management. The pair noted that automating tasks and tools can also help overstretched staff. When there are many components of manufacturing and the supply chain to manage, automation can help reduce skills shortages and assist staff in extracting meaningful observations and conclusions from electronic data capture.