Food and consumer goods manufacturing organizations face numerous challenges. On one hand, there's the need for inventory management to ensure there's not an overabundance of products that can lead to spoilage and to avoid short supplies, leading to missing revenue opportunities. In addition to those concerns, manufacturers still have to worry about the longevity and functionality of their capital assets, such as machinery used to produce or package items. Furthermore, there are always worries about the likelihood of a recall and the impact that it can have on the overall operations of their facilities and customer relationships.
What's the main solution to these potential problems? Automated data collection and management will help any manufacturing organization gain clarity when viewing multiple facets of their processes to ensure they can trace their products - from field to fork, if necessary - and ensure the creation of high-quality goods.
A recent article for Time magazine highlighted the problems food manufacturers can run into when they aren't completely on top of the status of their assets, like the machinery used to process products. Some organizations seem to forget that contamination can occur even in a sterile environment.
For instance, the highly visible and multibillion-dollar manufacturer Kraft Foods recently recalled roughly 242,000 cases of macaroni and cheese. This is due to metal pieces that were found in the packages. In a press release, Kraft went on to say that no injuries were reported and that it issued the recall in response to eight consumer contacts about the specified product. Fortunately for the manufacturer, it was able to isolate the problem based on the "best when used by" date and the production line identified by a code on the boxes.
Another case cited in the Time article involved a California-based company that sells ready-to-eat beef and pork products. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Services, there were "metal extraneous materials" discovered in two types of products that are found in Unibright Foods' sukiyaki beef and gingered pork, some of which made its way to a restaurant in Illinois. In this particular instance, there was a stainless steel wire found, but it did not lead to injury.
In all likelihood, the metal parts entered the packaged foods as a result of machinery that isn't functioning properly. The fact is, it's critically important that the equipment used in processing and packaging food meant for consumption is maintained to optimal performance levels in order to avoid any issues with contamination from foreign objects.
Asset management software that integrates with an ERP system is likely the first step for most manufacturers in keeping track of their machinery. Performing physical inventories or checking the status of a fixed asset can be accomplished with barcode labels and hand-held scanners. Using this system, organizations can be more accurate and faster in assessing the viability and integrity of their equipment. Furthermore, they can trace contamination to a specific machine if the need arises.
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