Solving a contamination crisis with the right tech

Don't get caught without the right tech in a contamination crisis, it is typically not a matter of ‘if' it will happen, but ‘when'

Food contamination is a constant threat when you deal with perishable food and beverage products every day. According to SYSPRO an independent provider of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, it is typically not a matter of ‘if' it will happen, but ‘when'. Given the recent events in South Africa, it's a scenario that most companies will not find too difficult to imagine.

"When staring down the threat of a food contamination crisis, the right technology may just help you save lives and your reputation," said Doug Hunter, head of product services for SYSPRO.

SYSPRO is a global provider of industry-built ERP software designed to simplify business complexity for manufacturers and distributors.

It's every food and drink company's worst nightmare. Consumers are getting sick. The Health Department is knocking at the door door and the brand reputation that has been so hard to build is in tatters.

While the headlines may soon move on from the latest food contamination crisis, it will undoubtedly mark a period of change for the food and drink industry.

No longer will the absolute minimum in food quality management be good enough and companies, big and small, will turn to tech to maintain the standards they seek.

Ask more questions about your ERP

The food and drink company will start asking more questions than ever about the ERP functionality and the standard of the system's batch management and lot traceability. As soon as a potential health risk is detected, it is imperative to be able to revert to batch numbers and quickly.

It goes back to batch numbers

It is important to be able to go back and identify the batch of product that the orders were filled by. Once the right batch has been identified the it is then key to be able to see where else that batch has been distributed and on which dates it was sent.

The process doesn't stop there, though. Because, how can you be sure it was the finished product that was contaminated and not one of the ingredients?

The ingredients used in that batch need to be known. Many of these ingredients will have their own batch numbers so that you can drill down even further, identifying the batches of product made using the affected ingredient.

It becomes a process of going up the supply chain to investigate the raw materials used, as well as down the supply chain to recall any products affected.

Efficiency is everything

It's the only real way to minimise health risk. And when the risk of having a contaminated product out there on retailers' shelves comes at the cost of an increasing number of lives lost, then speed and efficiency is key.

What's more, if it is not possible to trace exactly the affected products, a much greater of product than necessary will end up being recalled, which becomes very expensive. It's safe to say conducting this process manually is simply not an option anymore.

Kicking quality up a notch

Perhaps even more to the point, the industry's overall standard of food quality management must improve, also a task for increasingly advanced technology.

At the moment, food authorities play an important part in ensuring certain standards are maintained, but this doesn't mean food and drink companies cannot and should not conduct their own inspections. And ERP can assist with this as it allows you to schedule process inspection points, through which you can take samples and have them sent to the lab.

Similarly, when raw materials are received from a supplier, typically some form of certification for them is also received. But to ensure a higher standard, samples can also be tested on site.

Third time's a charm

Once all of the raw ingredients have been combined, further tests can then be conducted. Tests that are associated with a specific product and supplier should all be linked on the ERP so it can be proven that certain tests were conducted and passed, on certain days. Then, before the product is shipped it can be checked whether all previous checks were met to satisfaction. The more quickly and efficiently this is done, the more likely health risks are reduced and money is saved.

Having anticipated the growing need for rigorous checks and balances, SYSPRO has been working on enhancing the quality management module of its ERP system. Ultimately, the product will have better functionality, making it simpler for food and drink companies to conduct thorough quality stream processes.

At the end of the day, it is important to ask the right questions regarding an ERP system. Not all of these systems have batch traceability, a major concern considering you may one day it may be needed to help save lives and a companies' reputation.

SYSPRO is focused on delivering optimised performance and complete business visibility, the SYSPRO solution is scalable and can be deployed on premises, in the cloud, or accessed via a mobile device.