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Identifying the Best Traceability Software for Food Manufacturing

Identifying the Best Traceability Software for Food Manufacturing

Identifying the Best Traceability Software for Food Manufacturing

Sep 2, 2021

Jack Payne
A food facility worker bags cookies at a scale.

Today, food and beverage businesses like yours are hearing it from all sides: traceability is crucial. Whether it’s for the purpose of demonstrating transparency to consumers or accountability in food safety to regulating bodies, it’s likely among the most vital concerns your organization has.

Of course, maintaining true end-to-end food traceability is a tall task and requires careful planning, dedication of significant resources and advanced technological tools. Traceability software is just such a solution, but not all of the options on the market can accurately capture and account for the massive amounts of data that the practice takes while remaining accessible and intuitive for your employees.

In the following sections, we’ll discuss the common elements of these systems and what purposes they serve, and then dive deeper on specific features that only the best food traceability software provide.

What to Look For in Food Traceability Software

To boil it down to the simplest terms, traceability software for the food and beverage manufacturing industry needs to track where your materials came from, which of your business’s products they’re used in and where those finished goods are headed. A system doesn’t offer complete traceability, however, unless it records additional details about all the stops along the supply chain that your ingredients make, as well as all the pertinent data associated with them.

Capturing and maintaining information on materials’ sources—including country of origin, as well as the facilities from which they originated—is typically the starting point for traceability efforts. Other fairly straightforward characteristics, such as quantity, weight and variety, should also be established in your system’s digital database at the very outset of the journey.

From there, all critical tracking points need to be logged, and any modifications to the materials’ characteristics should also be updated. While it’s unlikely that significant changes will occur in periods of transit, it’s still vital that they are collected at each and every step, as that’s the only way to create a complete picture of the trip through the supply chain for an individual product or lot.

Once the goods are received at your own facilities and their important attributes are again recorded, your software should immediately begin tracking important information about where the materials will go within your facilities. You need to record where and how they’ll be stored while in inventory, what production lines they’ll be used on, what surfaces and other ingredients they might come into contact with, and more.

After your manufacturing processes have been carried out, more information about packaging and shipping destinations, routes and transportation methods will need to be collected. And of course, upon receipt at the final destinations, the vital data points for the given product must be recorded once more to ensure the viability of the received goods and complete the documentation of the entire process from start to finish.

Features of the Best Food Traceability Software

Tracking your ingredients and products as they move from point to point and maintaining the pertinent facts and figures associated with them is a good start for food traceability software functionality. But, the best solutions—like industry-specific enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions—offer additional features that make your operations more consistent, efficient and secure on this front.

Many of these functions also serve to make completing common traceability exercises easier. After all, your food manufacturing business is a complex operation, so tools that can simplify processes and lessen the load for your employees are definitely desirable when you are evaluating potential options.

Automated Data Capture

We’ve made clear how important it is to log important information each time materials or products move from place to place, but all that data capture would require a lot of work if it’s to be done by hand. That’s why the best food traceability software, like Aptean Food & Beverage ERP, automates the process.

By integrating with barcode and QR code scanners, as well as other connected sensors and scales, the vital facts and figures can be logged in no time without any of your staff members lifting a finger. Automatic scheduling of these actions also ensures that it’s done correctly every time, so there’s no room for human error.

“Traceability of product can now be done in a quarter of the time,” said Robert Oldershaw Jr., director of Moulton Bulb, an Aptean client. “The information we now have at our fingertips and systems we have in place will help us grow the business.”

Granular Quality-Related Information Collection

Knowing item types and quantities is one thing, but for total traceability, even more detailed data is necessary. Depending upon product category, nutrient breakdown, consistency, shape, color, grade or any of a number of other characteristics could be critical.

The top food traceability software solutions will not only be able to record readings for these parameters but also flag deviations from accepted ranges so that they can be rectified. With the right system on your side, you can rest easy knowing that everything you produce is up to your own high quality standards.

Multi-Level Tracking

Ingredients and goods are frequently associated with larger combined units, like lots, pallets and containers. They also can be identified in multiple ways, including names, serial numbers or other codes your facilities may use, as well as time periods and shifts.

For the best and most reliable traceability, you need to be able to track at each of these levels—from the higher echelons like entire shipments, down to individual units. Advanced food traceability software facilitates switching between the layers and ensures visibility of important characteristics no matter which way the information is sliced.

Allergen Management

Food safety and regulatory compliance are chief reasons why traceability is so critical in food manufacturing, and allergens and the health risks they pose continue to be among the biggest risks on this front. If your lines involve any ingredients with allergen concerns, your food traceability software absolutely must facilitate keeping them separate from other materials and surfaces to minimize chances for contamination.

Your solution will need to be able to identify exactly when and where allergens are present so that you can build in the proper precautions and sanitation measures to maintain excellent food safety. Aptean Food & Beverage ERP is among the most well-equipped solutions for allergen management and traceability. The system tracks ingredient usage down to the most minute of details and also automates the scheduling of cleaning procedures and safety checks.

“Product withdrawals were costing us around £250,000 a year,” said Brian Crane, dispatch manager at Aptean client G’s. “We are now looking at a situation where we have not had any product withdrawal costs for a year, so thankfully the system has paid for itself.”

Recipe and Formula Management

If your food and beverage business is involved in batch processing and other more complex manufacturing methods, recipe and formula management is critical for not only getting your products right but also knowing exactly what went into which finished goods.

Superior food traceability software will provide complete control over the amounts and timing for material usage in production. That way, even if an ingredient has changed forms or become unrecognizable through blending, baking, grinding or another process, you’ll be able to identify its presence.

Recall Facilitation and Automation

Preventing food safety emergencies is one of the most compelling justifications for putting a complete traceability solution in place, but accidents requiring recalls happen at even the most prepared and well-maintained facilities. Food traceability software that can make such a time-sensitive and crucial process go much smoother is what you need in moments like this.

Only with complete data capture from one end of the supply chain to another will you be able to pinpoint the source of a contamination and isolate the problem. You also must be able to find exactly what products were affected, whether it’s entire batches or single items, so that withdrawals can be carried out.

Aptean Food & Beverage ERP takes it a step further by automating portions of the process. It can help issue the necessary communications to involved parties and will flag any and all finished goods that are at risk so that they can be removed and eliminated.

Selecting the Right Solution

Achieving complete traceability in food and beverage manufacturing is no easy feat, and even the most accomplished businesses come up against issues in this area from time to time. What matters most is being as prepared as possible and ensuring that your due diligence is done.

As we’ve outlined here, software solutions like ERP are necessary for achieving the level of traceability that today’s marketplace requires. Whether it’s for the sake of ensuring compliance or protecting your brand reputation, putting a purpose-built system in place will pay dividends down the road by helping you avoid errors and act with agility in crises.

Aptean Food & Beverage ERP was designed with decades of industry experience, and our teams know well the challenges that organizations like yours encounter when attempting to maintain safe, transparent operations. Our system covers all the bases because we’ve built it on best practices and expertise gained from working with numerous food and beverage clients with varied needs over the years.

Its fully integrated nature eliminates information siloes, improves operational efficiency and provides complete traceability so you don’t have to sweat the little stuff and can focus on growing your business.

If you’re ready to learn more about what our traceability software for food manufacturing can do for your food and beverage business, contact us today.

Tell us about yourself and an Aptean specialist will be in touch.