Organizations in the food processing sector face a wide range of challenges they must contend with. This is especially true for organizations such as Clif Bar & Company, that emphasize organic ingredients and healthy products.
Research from The Association for Packing and Processing Association found that consumer trends favoring organic foods are creating new demand for manufacturers, thus adding pressure to ramp up production, Automation World reported.
All of this impetus to increase the quantity of goods being created is being met with demand for visibility and clean labels to heighten the pressure across the food processing industry. The desire for healthy, natural and organic ingredients is leading to a desire for transparency within the food production process. This means careful tracking of inventories across the entire supply chain, something that creates demand for greater flexibility and agility in food production, but also a need for processes and procedures that stand up to scrutiny from consumers and regulatory bodies alike.
Improving operational flexibility and transparency is difficult enough on its own. Doing so while increasing production adds another layer of difficulty. For Clif Bar & Company, all of these challenges were ramped up as they've emerged at a time of transition for the organization. In response, Clif Bar has revolutionized its operations around advanced mobile barcode scanners that integrate with its Oracle's JD Edwards EnterpriseOne system and drive efficiency across operations. This result came as the organization went through a major period of change.
Clif Bar Overcomes Production Challenge With Technical Creativity
Operational demands changed quickly for Clif Bar in 2016. The company had long depended on co-manufacturing specialists to produce its goods, allowing the company to focus its energies on marketing, sales and distribution as opposed to putting its emphasis on manufacturing. It decided to change this tactic in 2016 and make a strategic move to in-house production. In response, it began construction on a major factory in the hopes of completing a gradual transition. Then Clif Bar received word that one of its major partners, Conagra Foods, would be leaving the co-manufacturing space and would soon be unavailable as a partner. This forced Clif Bar to accelerate its production plans and move quickly to develop the internal competencies needed to manufacture its goods.
Dave Hartwell, senior director of business applications at Clif Bar, explained that the company was forced to handle everything from launching its new factory in Twin Falls to getting its JD Edwards systems aligned with new production requirements with an abbreviated timeline. This is where RFgen Software stepped in to help.
"We had to bring up the brand new Twin Falls bakery, and in the same year, convert all ERP, warehouse, manufacturing, and other business systems within six months to take over Conagra Food's Indianapolis bakery," said Hartwell. "An amazing and talented team of internal IT professionals, suppliers including RFgen, consultants, and business leaders pulled off successful rollouts in both bakeries despite pretty tough challenges."
We helped Clif Bar rapidly kick off its production plans across multiple locations through a barcode scanning and ERP integration project that resulted in a robust, modern food manufacturing setup that could keep up with today's industry demands.
Gaining Flexibility Through Data Visibility
Clif Bar's transition to produce its own goods is an example of how manufacturers today have a unique opportunity to gain flexibility that wouldn't have been possible in the past. We helped the organization establish the processes and procedures needed to keep up with a rapidly changing business situation, leaving them with a system that incorporated a variety of powerful capabilities. These included:
- An entirely paperless inventory management and production process that simultaneously fueled efficiency and fit with the company's environmental sustainability goals.
- Integration between the JD Edwards EnterpriseOne suite, third-party maintenance software and dedicated food safety systems, allowing for data integration across all lines of business.
- Continuous improvement through transaction management features that incorporate new learning into all processes.
- Lot-level traceability that allows Clif Bar to maintain visibility into all inventories and assets to provide transparency into production and materials.
- License plating to make it easier to track batches of goods as they move through the manufacturing process.
- Development tools that allow internal and external stakeholders to easily create custom workflows based on changing needs at any time.
All of these capabilities added up to create an operational climate where Clif Bar could quickly establish new production workflows, enforce internal processes and procedures, move data across a variety of relevant systems and establish flexible operations through mobile data collection functionality.
All told, Clif Bar was about to move into an existing facility and open its new production center rapidly, something that was made possible through a strategic partnership with RFgen.
"Our important suppliers are more than just suppliers; they are our partners. For us, RFgen has met that call," said Hartwell. "Our dedicated RFgen sales manager went above and beyond. We provided our RFgen development consultant with our requirements, and he was able to translate those into the transactions we needed. His deep expertise in JDE - both functional knowledge and development experience - was critical to our success."
Learning From Clif Bar's Experience
Clif Bar had a unique situation in which it had to rapidly transform its business around production, but many of the issues it faced are increasingly prevalent across the food production industry. Clif Bar is committed to organic and sustainable food production, and a study from The Center for Food Integrity found consumers are not only concerned about the quality and safety of ingredients, but also the sourcing and business practices surrounding manufacturing.
Respondents to the survey from The Center for Food Integrity labeled food manufacturers as the ones most responsible for food safety, environmental impact and business ethics in the food supply chain. This ranks production organizations ahead of farmers, grocers and restaurants in terms of the responsibility they hold in the industry. Clif Bar showed the potential for rapid innovation and flexible operations, and it is a lesson that applies to a changing and demanding industry.