Industry 4.0 – opportunities through new technologies

Meeting compliance guidelines

Food producers are under pressure to meet changing consumer demands and purchasing behavior. At the same time, new products must meet compliance guidelines both on the local and international level. The US-American Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and the EU’s LMIV represent just two food standards that exist around the world that must be met when trading products globally. To this end, effective data management and seamless documentation of all processes throughout the entire product life cycle must be in place – from research, development, and finally, to the supermarket shelf.

Compliance management is meanwhile an independent task required to react agilely to changing market demand, to guarantee food safety and maintain quality standards, and finally, to expand market share. In terms of safety and compliance, an effective data management system must be in place. However, systematic means of storing useful data such as ingredients, recipe mixtures, raw materials and specifications is often lacking, centralized data difficult to access and communication between departments absent. Product and data development benefit from centralized data storage with a sophisticated specifications management system: data access, file sharing, and data management can be quickly, easily, universally, and synchronously designed. A single database standardizes processes, improves quality assurance and thereby simplifies some of the challenges presented by unannounced inspections. Some large food manufacturers are successfully implementing Big Data and use the data from regulatory agencies to identify possible problems in food safety in time and preemptively to avoid such problems.

Along with effective product data management, it is also important to use compliant packaging that displays the correct contents on the label. Service providers that review product labels are valuable partners for food producers, since they help clarify food regulations, assisting companies in understanding them, as well as support enterprises in developing compliant product labels in different languages. A further mode of action can be to review existing labels or provide comprehensive support in designing food labels for international export markets.

Guarantee of traceability and transparency

Traceability and transparency are important factors in food manufacturing labs. Only when both exist can contamination be traced to its source as quickly as possible and eliminated in a timely manner. Not in the least, these factors obligate food producers to accurately disclose product information.

Even when these requirements are usually quite manageable, different options for doing so are often lacking. In fact, many manufacturers have neither the proper knowledge of respective national and global food manufacturing regulations, nor do they have access to industry standards stipulating manufacturing directives and product specifications.
Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN) and Lab Information Management Systems (LIMS) are solutions to this problem.

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM): In the course of having to implement comprehensive product management, PLM has progressed from an administrative task to an essential cornerstone of the food and beverage industry. With the help of a PLM platform, food manufacturers can not only better meet consumer and retail demand, but also shorten time-to-market and thereby increase profitability. PLM solutions deliver global product development processes, including centralized formula and recipe management. Further PLM arenas include Change Management, Master Specification Management, Supplier Management, Process Automatization, Document Control, and Resource Planning, along with improved company-wide collaboration and an extended supply chain.

Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN): As a network with over 30 certified data pools that connects over 35,000 enterprises, GDSN guarantees utmost data transparency. It gives producers the opportunity to efficiently share information such as shelf life, ingredients, order information, organic certificates, warehousing information and instructions for use, alcohol content, diet information, food additives, preservatives, packaging hierarchy, and product tracking details (barcodes, RFID tags, etc.) with retailers, distributors and trade partners. Additionally, the network also contains country-specific legal regulations, which is especially helpful for exporters.

Lab Information Management Systems (LIMS): These systems enable tracking of all data, guarantee data traceability, and can also automate lab processes, workflows, and quality controls. Further, LIMS support manufacturers in harmonizing their product quality with legal standards and changing customer demand.

Take for example the Swiss company SpecPage. It is developing software solutions specifically for the recipe-based manufacturing industry, allowing food manufacturers to easily and quickly develop new products. With its product data management system “SpecPDM,“ for instance, SpecPage provides enterprises with an application platform that bundles all formulas, ingredients lists, and specifications into one single database. This way, current data about any product will always be available at any time. The lab management system „SpecLIMS“ also automates daily lab processes, quality control, management, budget controls and legal regulations in the lab.

What food manufacturers should do now

Digital transformation is unstoppable and it implies fundamental changes. Industry 4.0 is ringing in a new era where intelligent machines are taking on important work functions. Enterprises in the food and beverage industry face the challenge in this context to find the right blend of technology and human labor to enable efficient manufacturing processes. The following are the next tasks that managers should be taking on now:

  • Decide whether a change in business model is necessary, or whether additional capacities and related services can lead to new profit potential
  • Identify areas with potential for improvement
  • Understand the technological infrastructure necessary to comply with internal and external standards
  • Develop partnerships which can prove important in a digitally, hyperconnected world
  • Be proactive in fomenting positive changes in the industry, which can be of great benefit to consumers, producers, manufacturers, and any other link along the supply chain
  • Train employees and develop a corporate culture that handles change well and can adapt to digital transformation

Enterprises do not have to completely turn their culture upside down in order to succeed in this new environment. It is often enough to adapt existing processes and to address new challenges with an open mind. Enterprises who welcome change with open arms and demand flexibility on the part of employees can greet a successful future with a motivated workforce.


Featured Image: © fotolia / karenfoleyphoto

2019-01-14T12:10:12+01:00Industry 4.0|
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