Food safety needs a boost from more robust data capture

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Food safety problems could arise from relying on old, paper-based data capture systems
Food safety problems could arise from relying on old, paper-based data capture systems

Related tags: Food safety, Food, Manufacturing

Many UK food and drink manufacturers are putting themselves and their customers at risk by relying on outdated paper-based systems to capture data and monitor their operational performance and product quality, warn several suppliers of software to the sector.

Supermarkets should demand that their suppliers implement more robust processes and invest in supporting technology to prevent data falsification, manufacturing and quality intelligence software provider InfinityQS has argued.

This is particularly true for potential food safety problems, highlighted by the recent allegations made against the 2 Sisters Food Group chicken factory in West Bromwich, InfinityQS added.

“The​ [alleged] findings from the investigation into 2 Sisters were truly shocking and highlight a much wider concern as to why industries, with potentially high goods-safety issues, such as food manufacturing and particularly poultry, are at risk of tampering, with staff easily able to change records of fact,”​ said InfinityQS’s global strategic account manager Jason Chester.

‘Antiquated’ paper-based methods

Part of the problem was that many food manufacturing companies were still using “antiquated”​ paper-based methods of capturing and recording shopfloor data, claimed Chester.

“Clearly, technology can play a big role in supporting food safety and traceability and, arguably, if the suppliers themselves cannot afford this investment, support should then come from the supermarkets themselves or even escalating this further to lobby for potential government subsidies that can make food safety practice affordable for everyone,”​ Chester added.

By using “out of the box” ​manufacturing execution system (MES) software specifically targeted at food and drink manufacture, businesses can focus on building relationships and trust with the big supermarkets, safe in the knowledge their quality operations are secure, easily auditable and not open to manipulation and falsification of records, argued James Wood, director of factory MES product line at software supplier Aptean.

Capturing data

Aptean’s biggest customer in Europe is Intersnack, which owns KP Snacks in the UK. It has been working with Intersnack since 2009 and now has systems installed at 26 of its plants across the EU, primarily for capturing data on operational aspects such as downtime and understanding the reasons for loss, as well as structuring Intersnack’s continuous improvement activities.

“It’s very much about providing visibility to everybody in the organisation about how to manufacture while trending in real-time,”​ he added.

In contrast to other MES implementations that involve lengthy pilot projects to assess system suitability before a full roll-out, Wood claimed that with Aptean’s system the time is much less.

“We are looking at projects of six to eight weeks to get the facility so that people get manufacturing visibility into the entire production floor,” ​he claimed.

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