What Does Inventory Control Have To Do With Food Safety?
The announcement of our new inventory control feature brings with it a particular brand of satisfaction. It’s one of those features that grew as a natural extension of Icicle, strongly backed by user request, and pushing the boundaries of what Icicle can do beyond food safety management.
Imagine you are receiving a shipment. With our enhanced traceability feature, you are already tracking the flow of goods through the production process so you can know which batch of which product was sent to which customer. You are already tracing everything one step forward, and one step back, and it’s only a short step from traceability to tracking quantities, which is at the core of inventory control. But this can be complicated when you’re working across facilities and you need to know, not only how many units of products you have in stock, but where each is located.
Announcing Inventory Control with Icicle
Our users asked, and we were very pleased to answer. Inventory management is closely connected to traceability; in fact, some GFSI schemes like SQF are already demanding that you keep track of every gram of product. If you can’t account for missing product, you can be penalized.
Most small and mid-sized companies don’t have inventory controls in place. Larger companies often use an ERP system, but these are expensive (a sophisticated ERP system can cost millions of dollars) and complicated to implement. Because Icicle is built to seamlessly fit within a facility’s operations, adding two more attributes (quantity and location) when you scan lot numbers for traceability was a natural development of the system to meet the needs of users. This inventory management system allows users to look at any particular ingredient and see how much you have, where it is, how it’s being used, and where it went.
This is exciting for us on the Icicle team because it means that our users get the benefit of having an integrated inventory control system without having to do any additional work. Even the information is presented in a graphic and user-friendly way, so that you can see what your inventory level is and where inventory is located through bar graphs.
Better still, having inventory control does two more important things for facilities of all sizes.
1) Reduce Food Waste
Proper inventory control can help minimize waste by making sure that the books are balanced for incoming and outgoing products. Users can see, in a centralized location, how much of a product came into a facility and how much went out. But automation technology can take inventory control much further to optimize the production process and reduce waste.
Icicle can use the information on products to notify the user if an ingredient is about to exceed its shelf life in order to prevent spoilage. It is also possible to set a minimum shelf life for different ingredients. This means that if, for example, and product has a shelf life of six months, but it arrives as an ingredient to a facility with only one month of shelf life remaining, then Icicle can flag the product for the receiver as below the minimum shelf life set for that ingredient in that facility. The receiver can then decide if there is enough time to use the product and take action accordingly.
Flags in the system can also be set for things like minimum and maximum reefer temperatures that relate to food waste. Let’s say that the incoming ingredient is a refrigerated product, like milk. The milk arrives after travelling a considerable distance by truck and the truck was not properly refrigerated. The temperature of the milk is too high, substantially reducing the shelf life of the ingredient. The same interface that warns the receiver about exceeded thresholds for shelf life also provides warning if a delivery truck is too warm (for something like milk) or too cold (for something like leafy greens) based on the pre-set minimums and maximums.
2) Combat Food Fraud
Food, by nature, is perishable. Many legitimate things can cause a food business to discard ingredients and/or products: spoilage, quality control, and contamination, are all reasons why you might lose product. For this reason, it’s important that inventory control has the ability to make adjustments for shrinkage that occurs, and Icicle’s inventory management does just that.
However, sometimes shrinkage results from more nefarious causes. When you scan a product, an intelligent system will check it against the stock. In many places, we want to believe that it is more likely for discrepancies to result from honest mistakes or even carelessness. But food fraud is prevalent in the food supply around the world, and many countries like China have identified this as a particular problem for regulatory authorities and public health.
Legislation and initiatives have emerged in the UK, the USA, and others to combat food fraud and intentional adulteration. Having an automated system track more than inventory, more than food safety, but product integrity provides companies with a rock solid audit trail that is ready and waiting for retrieval at any time. Monitoring inventory can also help prevent offenses within a company related to discrepancies in stock, not previously available to those small and mid-sized companies who can’t afford an ERP system.
Integration for Food Safety Excellence & Product Integrity
Inventory management with Icicle provides an extra layer of oversight for food safety to make sure that traceability is being properly enforced. With the launch of this new feature, Icicle users benefit not only from comprehensive food safety management with integrated enhanced traceability, but also inventory control – all in the same package. Icicle can also be integrated with ERP or other financial accounting systems to complete the circle, making it exceptional as a one-stop solution for food companies of all sizes.