The 'middleware' application fills the gap between top-end enterprise resource planning systems and shopfloor control and has been developed with a leading UK meat processor.
One of the biggest advantages claimed for the new system is its integral traceability capability, which the Danish developer, Arolink, thinks will spark the interest of big retailers.
Arolink has set up a UK subsidiary, Cambridge-based Arotek UK, to distribute the modular software system, which has already been adopted in 15 plants by meat processor and co-developer Tulip UK (owned by Danish Crown).
Arotek UK is led by Tulip's former interim project manager Owen Morris, who used to work at Tulip's plant in Kings Lynn, which supplies ham to Tesco and Marks & Spencer (M&S). Tulip is about to implement a new vision module of the package for date and other data code verification at its Westerleigh site in Bristol, which supplies product to M&S, said Morris.
The system has modules for planning and scheduling, food quality and safety, automated production, production monitoring, stock control, labelling, and vision systems. A radio frequency identification (RFID) traceability module is likely to be developed next, said Morris: "RFID will probably be [used] within factories, rather than along the supply chain."
What differentiates this system from others on the market is its traceability module, said Morris. Many systems are only capable of doing about two-thirds of what Arolink can, he claimed.
"For instance, a lot of them will not do the full traceability requirements that you might need for British Retail Consortium [certification]."
As well as the meat processing, frozen vegetable and salad sectors, Morris plans to target major retailers. "My vision would be to sell it to Tesco and say: 'You could have one of these Arolink terminals on your desk and [via web links] keep an eye on your suppliers. You can keep full traceability on what they are doing any time you want to.'"
Morris added: "The sites within Tulip are quite complex and of different scales. So the system has been tested with all different sorts of processes and all different sizes of packaging.
"From my experience as an interim working in a wide range of different sectors, it could fit almost anywhere."