Data, data, data. We hear about it often in the worlds of big business and tech, but the truth is that we’ve only scratched the surface of how digital information can be used in our own industry. According to a 2018 whitepaper by PMMI, manufacturing as a whole (and particularly the food and beverage sector) is far behind other industries when it comes to implementing big data and reaping the benefits – and food manufacturing has a lot to gain from leveraging data.
Let’s explore how data can be used to combat food safety failures, improve interdepartmental communication, and discover cost-inefficiencies.
Enhance Your Food Safety Program In Every Way
Let’s face it: food safety is a major headache for food businesses. In most facilities, the necessary data needed for audits and inspections is collected manually and then transferred to excel when some extra time is available. Gathering all that data this way is not only time-consuming, but also lends itself to errors and forgetfulness. As a result, you end up with data that may technically satisfy the requirements of your regulatory agency, but certainly won’t empower you to thrive.
However, despite being the source of many headaches, this is actually a low-hanging fruit for experiencing the benefits of data. What if you could take your readings of temperature, moisture, weight, item counts, and other variables and make them work for you when you’re not even looking at the information?
By automating your systems and integrating IoT devices into your operations, you can automate the collection of data and have it uploaded to your own data hub instantly. Not only does this free up hours and hours of time each month, but it sets the stage for predictive analysis software to accomplish a few things:
- Identify Patterns: Data-analyzing systems can read patterns and learn what’s normal and what is not. This lays the foundation for the systems alerting you when something’s wrong or headed down an irregular path.
- Foresee Food Safety Failures: A strong food safety plan goes a long way when it comes to preventing errors, but when everything is monitored manually, you’re bound to miss things. Data software, however, reads data in real-time, can find abnormalities without delay, and alerts you when set ranges are broken.
- Isolate Problems When They Occur: When a brand new mistake is made or the system is still learning to read the analytics, food safety issues can still occur. Thankfully, with a strong set of data behind you, your software can help you discover the source of the issue and identify the affected products faster than you could on your own.
Leveraging data in this way is a big and easy win for managers that feel like they’re constantly putting out fires.
Connect Departments Via A Central Data Hub
Disconnected departments may seem like a relatively insignificant irritation in the grand scheme of things, but there’s a real cost to allowing things to stay like they always have been. Sure, food manufacturers have gone along for decades without the internet and central data hubs, but that doesn’t mean you should or that stagnation won’t come with a hefty price tag.
Here’s the problem with the long-standing status quo: disconnection means information has to be shared manually between departments, and we all realize how this ends up eating time and frequently results in miscommunication. By adopting a central data hub, you give every department access to the information it needs to thrive – no lost emails, confusing excel sheets, or running between offices necessary.
Consider the possibilities. Your shipping and receiving staff document incoming and outgoing ingredients just like they always have. Your production staff can instantly see what’s arriving and record the necessary quality control checks. Your quality assurance officer can run a full traceability and food safety check without having to bug other departments for information.
But here’s the big win: when audit-time arrives, all of that data is connected and laid out for your regulatory agency to inspect as soon as they arrive (or even remotely). Compared to the old way of doing things, leveraging data appropriately makes audits feel like a breeze.
Discover New Insights into Yields, Trends, and Your Bottom Line
Perhaps the most dramatic long-term benefit of leveraging data comes in the form of insights about your bottom line. By tracking food safety and quality markers but also yields, downtime, and waste, you can discover trends that are costing you money unnecessarily. Questions you’ve struggled to find answers to will all of the sudden be illuminated with new, ever-growing insights.
- Why has machine downtime risen 13 percent over the last two months?
- Which production step is responsible for this defect?
- Why do we seem to be producing more waste this year?
- Why has our OEE decreased?
- Why is Factory Line 6 less productive than the identical Line 7?
Data won’t instantly give you answers to these questions, but it’ll give you real-time, accurate information that’ll be much more insightful than the smattering of data that was inconsistently collected before. And in these scenarios, problems solved equal better margins.
Leveraging Data is Crucial for the Future
These three benefits alone can revolutionize your business, but they’re still only the beginning. As the food industry evolves to use data more and more effectively, the positive impacts for data-collecting facilities will only grow.
In the words of Guy Weitzman, “With endless opportunities to capture insights on efficiencies, machine performance, energy usage and so much more, one thing is sure: Manufacturers who don’t take the leap and use IoT to access big data insights will be left behind.”