Food manufacturers are part of an ever-changing industry. Food products are heavily scrutinized by government agencies for health reasons and new laws are constantly proposed to regulate them.
In order to keep up with the shifting marketplace, food companies need to rely on a manufacturing process that is adaptable and can be altered as easily as possible. Supply chain automation tools create a flexible information system that can facilitate company-wide process changes.
READ MORE: Digital transformation through automation in manufacturing »
The FDA has given U.S. food manufacturers three years to stop using trans fats in their production processes. CNN stated the new regulation was passed this week because trans fats were found to not be “generally recognized as safe” by the administration.
In scientific reviews, trans fats have been linked to raising the cholesterol in the bloodstream, leading to unhealthy weight gain and heart disease. Health experts are praising the news but it could prove costly for food manufacturers.
Hydrogenated oils, rich in trans fats, are used by companies that produce baked good mixes and frozen desserts to keep food fresh and richly textured. Many other products use the ingredient for preservation and flavor. USA Today reported the FDA expects the transition away from trans fats will cost U.S. food manufacturers somewhere between $12-billion and $14-billion. The cost will come from discovering healthier recipes, removing old equipment and creating new processes.
The Supply Chain Automation Difference
Many manufacturers are going to have to make a lot of changes over the next three years. Radically changing operations can be a huge obstacle for a company, but it is not a big surprise in this industry.
The Aberdeen Group conducted a survey of food manufacturers that discovered maintaining compliance with government regulations was one of their top challenges. The report found many food company leaders had turned to ERP and supply chain automation to maintain consistent quality and become adaptable for future regulations.
Using supply chain automation, government compliance can be built into manufacturing processes. It gives managers and supervisors visibility of all operations and complete inventory control. Data reporting during food production tracks an item’s creation from beginning to end. If a step in production is not up to standard, then it is quickly noticed and dealt with. Mobile supply chain software proves especially useful in the event of recalls so companies can trace tainted merchandise.
If the system needs to be changed, ERP captured data will assist in the turnover. In the RFgen white paper, “Protecting Your Brand – The Food Traceability Survival Guide,” mobile data collection software is touted as a solution to alter and expand operations based on regulatory requirements. A properly implemented system projects a time frame for manufacturing adjustments. The three-year grace period provided by the FDA should be used to make gradual process redesigns. As each change is implemented, ERP reporting captures success and can generate projections for the next step.
Managers like mobile barcoding systems because they can be utilized proactively. Financial projections are created and real-time data collection informs supervisors if the process change is proceeding according to cost estimates and schedules. A system that is integrated throughout the entire business means employees are provided with the new operation standards, and they can report any problems with the changeover.
Using a mobile data collection software system offering complete company visibility will allow a food manufacturer to monitor and adjust operations and report compliance to government agencies.