The food & drink supply chain: quality and contamination risks

Guest Blog by Food Journalist Paul Gander

In my last entry, I looked at the risks to the food ingredient supply chain from criminal adulteration of (usually relatively high-value) raw materials. In fact, the role of food fraud in downstream threats to quality and safety is minor in comparison with other challenges – despite the high-profile exceptions to this rule.

Those challenges from the upper reaches of the supply chain tend to have more to do with negligence than malice, potentially involving inadvertent contamination with allergens, pathogens or simply poor-quality ingredients.

Naturally, even those manufacturers which take the greatest care in screening and updating their supplier lists can fall prey to these issues. So is there anything else that can be done to reduce risk?

Increasing amounts of information directly relevant to quality monitoring are becoming available from external sources. Some of this comes from third-party quality/safety certification providers such as the British Retail Consortium (BRC). Just one small (but important) example is the BRC’s advice to manufacturers and other supply chain partners that they should check the certification status of supplier sites on its online directory. Talking to BRC packaging expert Joanna Griffiths ahead of the launch of the new issue of the Global Standard for Packaging, she told me that forged certificates of compliance were still a problem among some suppliers.

Third-party certification will provide reassurance with regard to the overall probity of your supplier, but what about specific contamination risks?

There may be nothing new about the EU’s Rapid Alert System for Food & Feed (RASFF) when it comes to potential risks from allergens and pathogens, but the number of additional tools for monitoring the global marketplace is increasing and will grow still further.

Take, for example, the widening use of whole genome sequencing (WGS) of pathogens. While some still consider this an unnecessarily elaborate (and costly) route to relatively straightforward data, the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is using the technique extensively, and in the UK, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) is assessing its wider value.

Head of science delivery at the FSA Alisdair Wotherspoon tells me that WGS and other relevant data is finding its way into the Global Microbial Identifier (GMI) project. This aims to create a shared platform and database ‘fingerprinting’ a broad range of micro-organisms and showing how they are linked.

On the level of chemical contamination, the UK’s Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) has been developing the idea of ‘smart surveillance’. If you have a ‘snapshot’ of what is ‘normal’, chemically-speaking, (the theory goes) then you can pick up any divergence from that benchmark. This could in turn automatically trigger a system of ‘traffic light’ warnings.

Wotherspoon makes the point that the key developments with the GMI project, for example, will come in the field of bio-informatics. That is certainly true of the way data is collected, but equally important will be the IT routes by which businesses can access that – and other – data.

No one can eliminate risk from the supply chain altogether, but by accessing and integrating external data, future food manufacturing may be able to travel a long way in that direction.

To find out how Signum and SAP Business One can aid your business call 01244 676 900, or click the button below.

Start Simple with Business Simplification

As your business grows, the bolted-together systems and processes that worked when your company was smaller won’t scale sufficiently to support new customers, employees, product lines, and service offerings.

Equally important, there’s a natural tendency for companies to create more complex processes over time – for example, to accommodate new customer demands or to work around disconnected systems. And as they build up, these complex processes create inefficiencies, drive up costs, and make your business less agile.

But if barriers keep slowing down your simplification efforts, you’re not alone. As noted in a recent Knowledge@Wharton paper, “Business Simplification 2015: The Unmet Strategic Imperative,” companies battle everything from a resistant culture (often due to fear that simplification will lead to lost jobs) to managers who lack the time to implement new systems, processes, and policies.

But sometimes simplification initiatives stall because they fail to start simple. Sometimes the best way to get the ball rolling is to focus on one or two processes – for example, a decision making and an approval process – and empowering the people closest to those processes to simplify their daily work.

  • The project should have clear-cut goals and incentives tied to performance.
  • What might this look like? Consider
  • As this example illustrates, this approach to simplification changes people and culture from the bottom up, paving the way for acceptance of larger initiatives that require a more top-down, technology-driven approach.

Such projects still need to have the support of top management and be tied to strategic initiatives, of course – but the goal is to build momentum around the goals and benefits of business simplification.

People can experience first-hand that it’s really just adopting a simpler way of working that reflects proven business practices. And they can realise the benefits directly, right away.

So where do you see opportunities to start simple with simplification within your business? Contact us for more information on 01244 676 900

Food manufacturers: Tracing the Genealogy of a Product

With traceability of the full life-cycle being vital to anything that is being manufactured in the food industry being of the utmost importance when supplying to wholesalers, supermarkets and smaller retail outlets alike, here’s a handy guide to ensure that you don’t miss anything out!

  1. Start with the batch and serial number, checking that all number formats and counters are defined
  2. Check that the shelf life of a product is clearly defined – in both days and hours
  3. Define the batch management policy for expiry or consumption
  4. Calculate the expiry and consume by dates, based on the shelf life of the product
  5. Record the vendor/supplier batch number for each product
  6. Define the period between inspections and plan in future inspection dates
  7. Define the warning period for batch review and expiry date inspections
  8. Record all properties inherited from the product master data, including batch properties and values
  9. Record quality control results using actual test result values, which should be stored against batch properties
  10. Ensure that all of these stages are ticked off and that everyone is aware of this at each stage!

 

That’s a lot of information to trace.  How best to keep track of all of this?

That’s the easy part.  There’s no need for numerous spreadsheets and reports to provide all of these processes and controls, which are ultimately completely necessary when tracing the genealogy of a product.

The system that more and more food manufacturing companies are choosing is part of an SAP certified industry solution called ProcessForce, which is a core part of the Signum Solutions Industry Edition for SAP Business One. It handles all of the above, easily.  As well as doing all of this:

  • Creation of batch genealogy trees, providing a forward and backward historical view of all processes
  • Creation of recall and audit reports, including lists of customers and batch recall reconciliations
  • Drill downs of transactions and document traceability navigation functionality
  • Creation of inventory and batch reports

Want to find out more? 

Call us on 01244 676900 or email enquiries@signum-solutions.co.uk

 

“My Business Is Small – So Why Worry About Running Simple?”

“My business is small – so why should I worry about simplifying my business?””

At Signum we hear this a lot from executives at small and even midsize companies. Most are focused on growth, growth, growth – as they should be, especially as competition intensifies.

But many growing businesses eventually hit a wall of operational constraints that limit their ability to deliver goods and services, or branch out into new markets. They simply can’t grow anymore because their business is running on a patchwork of cobbled-together processes, organisational structures, and IT systems that can’t scale and adapt.

Sound familiar?

It’s easy to think that business simplification is something you worry about after your business gets big enough to be complicated. Big companies are notoriously bogged down with overly cumbersome processes and locked into fragmented legacy systems and inflexible network architectures.

But there’s never been a better time for leaders of SMEs to think about business simplification. Run simple, and you can avoid this costly, frustrating scenario entirely – and keep the doors of innovation and growth open now and in the future.

Chart a Better Path to Sustainable Growth by Running Simple

From an IT perspective, this means saying goodbye to deploying stand-alone apps and patching your infrastructure here and there to meet immediate needs. Because over time, it will become overly complex, rigid, and less effective. And it means building a flexible, scalable operational platform that can deliver on your corporate growth strategy.

With the right platform, you can pursue growth while remaining resilient, adapting to market changes swiftly. So as your business grows – and you need to outsource non-core operations, support new business models, sell across multiple channels, and go global (with all of the regulatory, linguistic, currency and other complications that brings) – you can do so with ease.

That’s the power of running simple.

Benefits of business simplification are huge: better customer experiences and retention, higher profits, lower costs, greater employee engagement and retention, increased operational efficiency…the list goes on. They can also react faster to market changes and customer needs, lighten employee workloads, and accelerate time-to-innovation and time-to-market.

SAP solutions for SMEs make it easy for you to run simple. Easy to install and use, they are tailored to your specific business needs so they’ll work for you now – and as you grow.

 

Complete the form below and one of our industry experts will be in touch.

 

Heatmiser: Improving Efficiency, Revenue Generation and Growth

Based in Darwen in the North of England, Heatmiser is the preferred choice among many electrical contractors and original heating equipment manufacturers. With a turnover of £1.7m, and sixteen employees, Heatmiser’s success is based on its ability to handle small quantities and respond quickly to customer requirements.

Like many small and medium companies, having an online store has been a major contributor to Heatmiser’s success and growth. Individuals, and organisations large and small, use Heatmiser’s web store to buy the products they want.

However, during 2006, it became clear that the systems Heatmiser was using behind its store were less than efficient. “When customers placed orders with us, they were first of all keyed into the sales order system,” says Martyn Kay, Director, Heatmiser. “They then had to be re-keyed into the invoice system. That gave us a high potential for inaccuracies to creep in. In addition, the way the systems worked made it almost impossible to understand our customers’ buying behaviour.”

Why SAP Business One?

Two of the key reasons for selecting SAP Business One were the Material Requirements Planning (MRP) module, which included forecasting, and the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) aspects of the system. The third was the drill down capability. “Without searching, you can drill down from anywhere in the software to lower levels,” explains Martyn. “We could immediately see how useful that would be, enabling people on the phone to the customer to have all the information they needed available to them. By comparison, the other system looked clunky.”

So impressed were Heatmiser with SAP Business One that they had placed their order within a week of the demonstration, at the beginning of February. On 1st March it went live.

Benefits

Heatmiser has already seen major benefits from SAP Business One, aside from the streamlined processes the business was hoping to achieve by having an integrated system.

Previously it just wasn’t possible to gain an accurate picture of what each customer was purchasing. Today, Heatmiser can – easily. That’s helping them increase sales. “Now that we know what customers are buying, we can target them based on their needs,” says Martyn. “We can pull all the information we need from SAP Business One and link it to Microsoft Word, to easily print letters and envelopes and create mailshots. We can also do the same for e-mails. I don’t have hard evidence that it is increasing sales at the moment, but I am sure it is.”

A further benefit is the increased visibility of customers’ credit status. “Previously the invoice wasn’t matched at the time of despatch,” says Martyn. “Now we can see if a customer is on stop before we ship the goods. We could never have done that with disjointed systems.”

Why Signum Solutions?

“I always thought SAP was for big companies,” says Martyn, summing up. “But my attitude has changed completely. I am convinced we made the right choice in selecting SAP Business One and Signum Solutions, and I would definitely recommend them both to other companies who want to improve their business.”

 

Read the full case study.