Food manufacturers face unique challenges regarding food spoilage and regulatory compliance. Moving ingredients and products rapidly through the supply chain is vital to maintaining profitability. Food manufacturing software relieves many of the challenges of an unforgiving industry.
This guide will help you select food manufacturing software suited to your business:
Food manufacturing software helps you keep track of raw materials required to make products to ensure you keep the right production schedule and ingredients on hand in order to meet demand. Traceability is especially important in a food manufacturing system. Should contaminations be found in any of the products, manufacturers, stores, and customers need to be able to easily identify which batches were affected. Knowing which batches were affected will save you a lot of time and money when you have to track down and get rid of affected products.
Keeping recipes secure is another benefit of manufacturing software built for food companies. You’ll be able to ensure consistent, high-quality products with recipe management functionality. Along with recipe management, ingredient substitutes and batch scaling is often included. You can easily make adjustments to product quantities and recipes based on the inventory you have on hand. These fully-integrated systems can be considered an industry-specific type of ERP software.
Some food manufacturing systems can also help you plan for seasonal demand. Specific ingredients only being readily available during certain times of the year will affect pricing and product quantities. With food manufacturing software, you’ll be able to plan ahead for these variances.
|Food & Ingredient Traceability||Record data about individual ingredients, finished products, and packaging including historical location as the products move throughout the supply chain from food production to processing to distribution, as well as dates to manage expiration of ingredients or finished products.
Knowing where all ingredients came from is especially important if something is recalled.
|Compliance Management||Food manufacturing software creates reports that ensure you’re in good standing with regulatory compliances.|
|Quality Assurance (QA)||Checks random samples throughout the manufacturing process against normal values to ensure the products meet your desired specifications. Reports can be generated to see testing trends and produce Certificate of Analysis documents to prove your good have gone through QC tests. Import customs in some countries require Certificate of Analysis documents.|
|Recipe Management||Food manufacturing software stores recipe information to keep your products consistent, and can encode ingredients if you need to keep your recipe secret. You can also store ingredient substitute info, as well as batch scaling to increase or decrease serving sizes as needed.|
|Recall Tracking||Keeping track of where your ingredients came from and where they were distributed allows you to quickly notify affected customers if specific batches of products were contaminated and need to be recalled.|
|Seasonal Demand Forecasting||Food manufacturing software will track historical purchasing trends, as well as make suggestions for future sales based on seasonal trends. Certain products or ingredients may only be available or bought more frequently at certain times of the year - your software solution will be able to recommend ordering or production dates based on those trends.|
Traceability in food manufacturing software lets you track ingredients or food products that are intended for human consumption. The ingredients and products are tracked throughout the entire production cycle from primary production to processing and packaging to retail distribution and consumer purchasing.
Traceability allows you to respond quickly and recall or get rid of affected inventory if an issue arises. The earlier in the supply chain an issue is noticed and taken care of, the better. Contaminated products reaching the end consumer will cause health problems and tarnish your brand reputation.
Many regulatory agencies require traceability to improve food safety. Some compliances food manufacturers need to keep in mind include:
Depending on the size of your business, you’ll want to prioritize certain features over others:
Small and medium-sized businesses should look for software that has compliance management to ensure your business stays within state and federal regulations. Recipe management functionalities are also helpful for small and medium businesses to keep food quality consistent. Your food manufacturing system should also integrate easily with QuickBooks or another existing accounting system. If cost is a concern, some cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) food manufacturing software has a lower up-front cost and a low monthly subscription fee.
A comprehensive food manufacturing enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution will be ideal for large businesses. Functionalities to look for include demand forecasting, compliance management, food traceability, ingredient inventory control, recipe management, and QC testing. Some ERP solutions popular among the food and beverage industry include Microsoft Dynamics GP and BatchMaster ERP.
There are solutions developed with food manufacturers in mind that are built on top of existing ERP solutions - for example, JustFoodERP is built on top of Microsoft Dynamics NAV. A solution built onto a Microsoft product will often have familiar features like Outlook, Excel, or Word. There are also more “generic” ERP solutions that are marketed toward food manufacturers because they are specialized in the field and have implemented their products successfully in that environment. For example, BatchMaster is an ERP designed for process manufacturing that includes functionalities to help with research and development, QC, packaging, formulation, compliance, and traceability.
Constantly changing consumer trends: Diets and health trends constantly change with each passing year. Consumers are more health-conscious now than ever - they want to know where their food is coming from, are focusing on organic produce, and look for healthier alternatives like using spices to color food instead of dyes. There has also been a shift from fat-free foods to natural foods with high levels of saturated fats like natural oils, full-fat dairy products, and grass-fed meat. Keeping up with consumer trends is especially important for food manufacturers. Your food manufacturing software needs to have demand forecasting capabilities, so you can plan production around consumer trends. The software solution can also keep track of where ingredients and products came from, giving consumers more transparency about their food.
Keeping up with strict regulations: Federal and state regulatory agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are constantly updating regulations. Keeping in compliance with regulations is vital to keep your business up and running, as well as ensure your food products are safe for consumers. Food manufacturing software handles reporting and keeps track of regulations to ensure you meet compliance requirements.
Labor shortage: According to Food Engineering’s article, “Digitizing the food and beverage work environment”, food manufacturers see staffing issues as one of their biggest challenges. More baby boomers are retiring and as automation becomes more common, it’s becoming more difficult to find workers who are qualified to operate the equipment.
Automation in food manufacturing: Food Engineering’s “State of Food Manufacturing Survey” found that 22% of respondents installed an advanced automation system. Food manufacturers are looking into automation software and hardware to cut down on costs as demand increases.
Focus on health: More consumers are focusing on “mindful eating”. According to MarketWatch, organic food & beverages market is projected to grow at CAGR of 14.8% by 2022. Consumers look for product packaging with “free from” claims (like “free from additives or artificial sweeteners”) and healthy snack alternatives. Non-dairy and plant-based meat alternatives are also becoming more popular. Consumers are also more concerned with where their food is coming from, as well as sustainability - it is becoming more important for consumers that manufacturing processes are minimizing environmental impact.
Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA): The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law to shift focus to preventing foodborne illnesses instead of just responding to incidents. The FSMA addresses food safety among different points along the global supply chain. Most businesses needed to be compliant with preventative controls for human food by September 2018. However, extensions allowed for qualifying businesses to push some compliance dates to January 2020. For more information on compliance dates, visit fda.gov.