Traceability – the ability to track and trace all your ingredients, materials, and packaging. coming into your facility, and all your products going out – has become a new game with the advent of more sophisticated technologies and increased regulatory oversight. As such, traceability is no longer just the concern of your food safety coordinator, but an interconnected chain throughout your entire production process.
Imagine having to manually record and document everything every time you swipe your credit card without banks automating that process for you. At Icicle Technologies Inc., we know that the ideal way to manage traceability is to not do any work at all.
Industry, Government, and Consumers Demand Traceability
There has always been two simple reasons to care about traceability, to contain the economic cost of recalls and because it’s required. Government agencies around the world create and maintain food safety regulations and enact recalls for unsafe products. Over 20 million pounds of food were recalled last year in the U.S. alone and over 18 million pounds were the result of Class I recalls, which means that there was a reasonable probability that consumption of those products would cause health problems or death.
Couple the actual dangers of food consumption with the growing global concern for healthy eating, allergen awareness, clean labelling, and sustainability, food companies must consider the consumer’s priorities when it comes to buying food and leverage their traceability systems to meet these priorities. If that isn’t enough motivation, grocery stores and other retailers are taking note for you. According to Food Online, “Many retailers and supermarkets are even going as far as to switch their suppliers due to the strength or weakness of a traceability solution implemented by the food manufacturer.”
Not only is your traceability system important to the prevention of and response to recalls and hazards, it has become crucial for your brand’s image and marketability. (Not to mention the fact that food recalls cost companies millions of dollars.)
Control Inventory in Real-Time with Tracking Barcodes
The ideal way to respond to a recall is to prevent a recall altogether. Your facility and procedures may be safe but there is no guarantee that your suppliers are always compliant. For that reason alone, it’s important to track the movement of all the elements of production to ensure that you have a clear picture of your facility at any given moment. If you do, that means that in the event of a recall, you will be able to pinpoint affected products with surgical precision before they spread or are shipped to customers – minimizing the financial impact of a recall.
One of the ways that Icicle’s traceability provides this level of oversight is through integration with inventory management. Some facilities run the same lot code for many production runs since implementing more specific lot control can be a huge burden when tracking things manually. This is one place where automation really pays for itself.
Icicle’s automated traceability program makes it easy for you to attach lot codes to items and trace them through the entire production run through barcodes and integrated scanners (including GS1 barcode support). This not only makes your production process more efficient, it goes a long way to limiting the scope of a recall, should one occur.
Leverage Your Data with Mass Balance Calculations
Mass balance calculations show the movement of items throughout your facility and where everything is in the event of a recall, but undertaking these calculations is extremely onerous to accomplish by adding up lines to a spreadsheet – or columns in a binder.
The data is critical. If one of your suppliers recalls an ingredient, you need the information necessary to determine which of products are affected and to account for every drop of recalled product. You need to know which products the recalled item was used in, which lot numbers of your product were affected, how much was shipped, how much was lost due to shrinkage, how much you still have in inventory, where the items are in inventory, how much was thrown away, and more. This can be very difficult for food producers to calculate and manage, leading many to recall more product out of an abundance of caution rather than risk the possibility of missing something and putting public health at risk.
By integrating enhanced traceability with other features like inventory management and vendor management, Icicle leverages that information in order to conduct automatic mass balance calculations to tell you which items and precursor products were affected by a recall, up to two levels deep. And Icicle can do this in under two minutes.
Integrate Maintenance Management
Traceability shouldn’t be an isolated part of production management. Icicle integrates with many other features to deliver up-to-date, dynamic documentation that draws from a variety of sources. One of these is Maintenance Management: recalls for contaminants like metal or plastic shavings, undercooked foods, and spoiled foods are all due largely to improper maintenance of processing, cooking, and refrigeration equipment.
Icicle’s integrated food management platform not only reminds users of routine maintenance and flags hazards in equipment areas, it integrates its Maintenance Management module with its Traceability module, providing you the data you need for root-cause analysis and compliance information for inspectors, on-demand.
Be Prepared for Inspections and Conduct Root-Cause Analysis Without the Headache
Every step of the way, from receiving through production and shipping, Icicle tracks each ingredient and product, records every procedure and lab test, and keeps detailed records down to employee names (and their training records, too!).
If you are faced with a recall, the information needed by yourself and inspectors to understand what caused the hazard is already compiled for you within Icicle’s platform. You can find the cause, fix the problem, achieve compliance, and be back in operation much faster than if you were hunting through the data and records yourself. It doesn’t hurt that your data is always ready for regular inspections and audits as well.
Increase Accountability to Decrease Costs
Using all this data adds value to your day-to-day operations through maximized production efficiency. We’ve improved upon the best solutions, which calculate production data based on preset targets. Other systems assume that all of these targets are being appropriately met. For example, if the recipe calls for 10 pounds of an ingredient, then the product should contain 10 pounds of that ingredient.
Icicle’s traceability system goes much further. It knows, in real-time, if these targets are actually being met in practice and where adjustments need to be made so that all ingredients are accurately accounted for, leaving no “unaccountable losses” to confess to your auditor. We leverage this data to provide interfaces like production forecasting.
Looking Ahead: Best Practices for All Food Production
Icicle brings you and Icicle users in countries around the world integrated software that delivers enhanced traceability. And the platform is always growing as we put data to work on an even bigger scale so that aggregated, anonymized data delivers huge time savers like our Smart Hazard Suggestions intelligent algorithms.
From receiving to production runs to shipping and especially through recalls, Icicle brings together the entire production process to ensure a safe, quality product for your consumers, today and every day.