Not only are food and beverage manufacturers closely regulated, they are also subject to heavy scrutiny by news media. Recent events both foreign and domestic have raised public awareness of food and beverage manufacturing. More than one manufacturer has closed its doors after publicity about a tainted food product. Selecting the right food manufacturing system can help manufacturers avoid making costly mistakes—such as shipping food with spoiled ingredients—in their food production operations. One of the main benefits of food manufacturing software is that it helps food manufacturers ensure quality and accuracy in their products by providing extensive features for traceability and inventory management.
The most important software functions for food and beverage manufacturers revolve around inventory, recipe management and quality assurance. Inventory needs to track not only amounts, but suppliers and batches. Each batch of ingredients must be documented from receiving through inclusion in a product and ultimately to delivery. This high level of monitoring is what allows products to be recalled in case of quality or safety issues. The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) stipulates recommendations for recordkeeping and auditability in Title 21.
General ledger and payroll are standard. Accounts payable should track the batch numbers of all ingredients by each payment. Similarly, accounts receivable should track the batch numbers of sold products to customers. While most installations food and beverage enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems are still on premises, there is a growing number of cloud computing-based systems for food and beverage manufacturing, particularly in smaller operations. The Web-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) model offers subscription pricing and reduces front-end investment in hardware typical of a food processing software investment.
Food and beverage manufacturers should evaluate the following functionality is present in the food ERP software they're evaluating to meet their unique requirements:
|FDA 21 CFR Part 11 compliance||Strictly speaking, no software package can be 21 CFR Part 11 compliant because the rule stipulates administrative and procedural controls as well as technical implementation for electronic and hybrid record keeping. However, software can support 21 CFR Part 11 by completely implementing the technical requirements.|
|Other government compliance||The system should produce reports for compliance with the 2002 Bioterrorism Act and implement current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP). The system should also support reporting for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) management. It should generate any reporting required from federal, state and local authorities.|
|Spoilage tracking||Food and beverage manufacturers must track spoilage in the ingredients must be tracked while in inventory. Finished products must also be tracked throughout storage and shipping. Finally, the customers (i.e., stores or restaurants) must be notified when to take expired goods off the shelf or when the goods will be retrieved.|
|Recipe management||The system should include recipe management, including ingredient substitution and batch scaling. In some cases, ingredients are encoded to keep the recipes secret.|
|Batch and ingredients tracking||As part of compliance with the Bioterrorism Act, each batch must be identified and tracked. The ingredients of each batch must be tied to their individual batch number as well.|
|Quality assurance||The system should support quality assurance (QA) testing, with protocols documented and implemented through the software. The QA system should randomly identify samples for testing and compare test results against norms. Advanced systems will feature dashboards that will alert management to problems with quality.|
|Recall tracking||Recalls are initiated when an ingredient or product becomes contaminated. To ensure accurate, efficient recall, the system needs to identify all of the affected batches and the customers that received those batches.|
|Employee training tracking||Part of compliance is documenting employee training. The system should track which employees have completed which training. It should also notify managers if training has expired or if employees have not completed required training.|
|Seasonal demand forecasting||The system should track historical sales and make recommendations for seasonal sales production. The system should account for lag time in ordering ingredients, processing and delivery then recommend dates for ordering, production and shipping.|
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