Understanding the relationship between ERP Software and food traceability

Even the most novice food manufacturers and processors know the importance of food traceability and the steps required to achieve compliance. But what they may not be aware of is the role a software solution like an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system can play in their traceability, food safety and recall readiness efforts.

Instead of relying on manual processes, disconnected departmental data and spreadsheets to ensure your company is staying compliant, why not let a solution built for the food industry do the critical work for you. By leveraging the traceability, quality and preventative functionality built into an ERP solution, you have the ability to optimize your compliance efforts and ensure you’re always adhering to global food safety initiatives and regulations.

Below, we outline the functionality and features food companies need from their software to aid in their food safety efforts and ensure overall compliance.

But first, why is traceability important?

It is estimated that 600 million people will fall ill from eating contaminated food ever year. Contamination includes everything from physical contaminants (think hair, glass or insects), chemical contaminants (like antibiotics, pesticides or cleaning agents) and biological contaminants (like bacteria or parasites). As the world’s food supply chains continue to become more globalized, it can be harder and harder to detect and prevent foodborne illnesses resulting from contaminated food.

In an effort to combat contamination, governing bodies and safety regulators put strict guidelines and protocols in place to ensure the safety of the food we eat. Some of these safety agencies include Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), Safe Quality Food Institute (SQFI) and BRC Global Standards. While these agencies do important work in ensuring the overall safety of our food chain, it can be extremely difficult for food manufacturing companies to keep up with ever-changing safety laws and standards without a system in place to aid in these safety efforts. And without the ability to comply with these requirements, you’ll likely have a difficult time scaling your business and landing contracts with larger retail customers.

Where does software fit in?

It’s important to understand that not all product tracing systems are created equal. While many food manufacturers may have some form of tracing system in place, many solutions don’t do enough to ensure accurate traceability and product recalls.

In order to implement a holistic approach to food safety throughout your facility, you need the ability to incorporate a prevention-and-proof approach to traceability (which the FDA now mandates as part of its Food Safety Modernization Act) along with the more traditional record-and-response approach to lot tracking and recall. Here’s a few features you should look for in a tracing system to ensure you’re incorporating prevention-and-proof into your traceability efforts:

  • Built-in quality procedures that can enforce quality audits at various stages of material movement
  • A preventative maintenance module that ensures proper maintenance and upkeep of production equipment
  • Allergen recording
  • Ability to record lot number changes as the product is produced while also tracking each lot number of stated ingredients

In addition to this prevention-and-proof approach to traceability, your product tracing solution should include the ability to track a product at multiple levels of detail, not just at the item level. To ensure your company can track an item bi-directionally through the production process, it’s essential to have a system that can track at the lot, serial or container level. This visibility into the various levels of product tracing is critical in ensuring that you can quickly and easily see the entire history of the item/lot/serial number at any given moment. With an ERP solution built for the food industry, from the moment an item/lot/serial is purchased or produced to the time it leaves your facility, every transaction is tracked within the system and easily reported on. You can also see who made the transaction, which is important in the case of an audit, and when the transaction took place with the help of automated time stamps.

Remember those food safety requirements and standards we mentioned above and the importance of keeping up with these regulations? Having the insight, visibility and control over your traceability efforts throughout your entire production process enables you to ensure compliance and easily pass mock traceability audits that large-scale customers like Walmart or Costco demand in order to do business with them.

How fast are your recalls?

It’s impossible to talk about food traceability without talking about recalls. Most European countries state that notification be “immediate”, and most big-box customers expect the same. And if you aren’t able to pass a mock recall, which are often required by larger customers, you risk losing business.

With a software solution like an ERP with food-specific functionality, you have the ability to perform a full product recall in under 60 seconds. A system like Foodware 365, for example, has functionality built in that lets manufacturers perform bi-directional product recalls by using tracing data all the way from the material or item level and up.

If your food company is struggling with its traceability efforts, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us now.