Simply put, consumers must be able to trust the food they buy. Quality control issues can easily and quickly lead to consumer dissatisfaction and negative sentiment towards a brand or product line. They may also lead to a costly product recall, or in the worst-case scenario, a consumer death and the massive destruction of brand value and reputation.

By Johan du Toit, strategic sales executive for Syspro Africa

The food and beverage manufacturing industry plays a crucial role in ensuring the production of safe and high-quality products for consumers. Inspection and detection techniques are vital components of quality control processes employed in this industry and are important not only for mitigating the risk of product recalls, but for identifying and preventing risks and hazards throughout the production cycle.

Technology enables increased efficiency in inspection and detection

ERP systems should provide instant access to all the critical information required to track a suspect product throughout the value chain. Smart factory inspection and detection equipment ranging from code readers to automated sensors can provide advanced status and diagnostics information if they’re linked to real-time connectivity which enhances quality and traceability. Automated systems and sensors can also help to improve inventory management systems, allowing food manufacturers to better monitor supplier ingredients, warehouses, logistics, and retail points.

Emerging trends in inspection and detection, such as the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) algorithms can enhance detection accuracy and speed. AI and ML technologies allow manufacturers to leverage data, algorithms, and models to improve their capabilities and efficiency.

Automating complex and repetitive tasks like defect detection and analysing large data sets to uncover patterns, anomalies and insights can help manufacturers to predict and prevent possible quality issues. Monitoring and analysing all of the variables that can influence product quality, generates streams of valuable data, and this is where an ERP system can help identify critical patterns and help mitigate any issues.

Higher-level data handling is becoming increasingly important

Food and beverage manufacturers need informed, data-led decision-making to manage the balance between supply and demand. The ability to inspect and trace products quickly and efficiently is also crucial for manufacturers whose production processes run at a rapid pace.

Systems must be able to record large amounts of data and produce reporting that is accessible at any point, as this data and analysis help manufacturers to meet the challenges of supply chain management and synchronisation in a dynamic and complex global environment. More rigorous data collection process targeted at a more thorough and frequent data collection also enables improved compliance and allows manufacturers to provide more accurate detailed reports to regulatory authorities.

One bad batch (in or out) can destroy a brand

Even with the best processes and technologies deployed, things can still go wrong. Systems must be in place to allow the swift tracing of defective product stock, whether it’s spoiled, damaged or of inferior quality. Food and beverage manufacturers must ensure that they have quick and easy access to all the key information about any given product, including the purchase, production, packaging, sale distribution and delivery, should a product recall be required.

Manufacturers with the correct systems in place can perform a full product recall quickly and efficiently by rapidly identifying and retrieving potentially defective goods from customers using their product recall system.

A fundamental for the food and beverage industry is to implement tight risk management. To meet the stringent requirements of food safety regulations both locally and internationally, companies must be able to identify and trace every single ingredient consumed in the manufacturing process, from receipt through processing, packaging, and shipping, to the exact customer location.

Full bi-directional traceability from source to consumption requires the ability to interrogate the business system, analyse the results and promptly execute a plan to mitigate the risk to the consumer, and this can be supported with a ERP system that provides bi-directional traceability reports against ingredients, finished goods and packaging.

It is not only accuracy that is needed but also speed. A company must be able to trace every part of a batch that came out of the factory to each customer as soon as possible after receiving a notification of a food safety problem. No manufacturer wants to consider that their products may be recalled for any reason, but when a recall happens it’s vital that it is conducted quickly and efficiently, both for public safety and for the reputation of the business.

A good ERP system enables manufacturers to remain compliant, productive and most importantly, trustworthy in the eyes of consumers. Having ERP deployed throughout the manufacturing process goes beyond just providing data – it enables manufacturers to take actionable steps to mitigate risk throughout the processing journey, before and during a recall, should the need ever arise.