ERP Systems Provide Visibility Into Food Safety

As food production gets increasingly complicated, food manufacturers often struggle to track products from raw materials to packaged goods -- and, in the event of a recall, from packaged goods to raw materials. Even those with automated quality systems often find it hard to integrate supply chain data. That's why some food makers are turning to specialized ERP systems.

By John Moore
Tue, October 01, 2013

CIO — Love & Quiches Desserts, based in Freeport, N.Y., had different priorities than the typical enterprise resource planning (ERP) customer.

ERP buyers often look at capabilities such as sales, procurement and financials. Love & Quiches focused on another attribute when it replaced its aging ERP system in 2012: The capability to track its treats in detail through the various stages of manufacturing.

"We never worried about the [general ledger] platform, but from the standpoint of being able to document full traceability," Love & Quiches CFO Corey Aronin says.

The dessert and quiche maker went live in August 2012 with S2K Enterprise for Food, an ERP software product from Vormittag Associates Inc. (VAI).

The result, according to Aronin, is an end-to-end food safety capability that the older ERP system never could have accomplished. "We can identify every single step of the process and every single item along the way, from raw material to work in progress, all the way to finished goods."

As Recalls Rise, Food Producers Search for Solutions

Systems that help companies keep tabs on food safety and quality have become increasingly important in an industry beset with product recalls. The number of food and beverage recalls has nearly tripled since 1999, according to a Deloitte Consulting report.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported more than 30 recalls in just the past two months. Headline-grabbing examples including Chobani's September voluntary recall of some yogurt products produced at an Idaho plant where mold was detected.

Food safety experts suggest the increasingly globalized nature of food production has created a complex environment subject to safety and quality issues. Despite this complexity, many food manufacturers rely on paper records or a patchwork of standalone automated systems to monitor food production.

But the industry is beginning to adopt the quality approaches already prevalent in other process industries such as pharmaceuticals. "The food industry is just starting to understand and embrace those quality concepts now," says Cathy Crawford, vice president with The HACCP Consulting Group, a food safety consulting firm based in Fairfax, Va.

Food and beverage companies lag somewhat in deploying automated systems for monitoring quality.

"They are behind some of the other FDA-regulated industries in terms of the maturity of the quality management systems and processes," says Matthew Littlefield, president and principal analyst at LNS Research, a Cambridge, Mass. advisory and benchmarking services firm that focuses on enterprise quality management software (EQMS), among other fields.

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