Industry standards and regulations, such as GMP, ISO 22000 and the Food Safety Modernization Act provide the framework for ensuring food safety across parts of the supply chain including producers, suppliers, processors, logistics and retail locations to implement Hazard and Critical Control Points (HACCP) for food safety.
It has come a long way, but the food and beverage industry continues to find ways to expand outside current markets. Mergers and acquisitions have increased footprints in other parts of the world but sourcing materials from foreign suppliers has impacted supply chain transparency. Now manufacturers must validate suppliers and track performance for compliance and consistency, verify the quality of the material and track Certificate of Analysis and Country of Origin documentation before production.
The “measure twice, cut once” theory can apply to manufacturing – test twice, produce once. Ensuring quality and safety of products before production eliminates unnecessary disposal and rescheduling of new production due to contamination or out of specification issues. It also prevents unsafe products from being distributed through the supply chain, tarnishing the reputation of the brand.
Outside the Four Walls
With 60 percent of manufacturing and packaging processes being outsourced, it’s more difficult to achieve transparency behind the quality of workflow and finished goods. Companies are relying on technology to expand external visibility beyond and uphold foreign suppliers to the same standards.
Companies are proactively managing contract manufacturers and packagers by scheduling Standard Operating Procedure-based audits every three years to ensure regulatory and quality requirements. The industry also relies on risk-based vendor audits that develop supplier scorecards and identifies high risk suppliers or vendors so on-site audits can be scheduled more often to ensure quality, safety and compliance in their products and processes.
Another key component when evaluating and rating a supplier or contract vendor is geological risk. Product lines may be in jeopardy if the area is susceptible to natural disasters. Out-of-stocks leave room for competitors to steal market share from the brand and fickle consumer preferences.
Lacking Visibility Hurts
Food and beverage manufacturers manage many suppliers, third-party manufacturers and contract packagers. They rely on existing IT infrastructure to track and record the many SKUs, materials and purchase orders received to get product into the supply chain and meet consumer demands.
Unfortunately, many systems only track products one step backward or forward in the chain, which prevents effective product traceability. So when companies must respond to adverse events and recall products from the value chain, existing process and IT system limits become obvious.
One way to ensure that product recalls don’t happen is to implement automated processes that track and test products through every touchpoint. For example, testing quarantine products at the receiving warehouse dock before material is inventoried can ensure that products used in production are safe and adhere to specifications. Automating and tracking this process in a quality management system allows information to be integrated into existing ERP and other IT systems for easier traceability.
Automated internal audits also allow manufacturing and plant personnel to determine if existing HACCP plans are up-to-date and corrective and preventative actions are implemented to reduce unstable trends or undesired levels of nonconformity. Companies also must automate the complaint process and tie it to root cause analysis so there is visibility to resolution of issues for internal or regulatory audits.
Adding checkpoints to the process allows for tracking and managing of internal and external resources to ensure safe products enter the supply chain. The cost to dispose product that failed QA testing and plan new production is small compared to the cost to withdraw products from the chain and lose consumer confidence in the safety of a brand.
Kelly Kuchinski is the industry solution director at Sparta. For more, visit www.spartasystems.com.