In the world of food manufacturing, time really is money. Machine downtime, employee errors, and food safety failures require precious time and destroy the overall efficiency of your facility. And to make things worse, margins are shrinking and competition is growing, which makes these efficiency failures costlier than ever.
Actively pursuing operational efficiency isn’t a luxury for time-abundant managers anymore. It’s a necessity for every business. You must build time into your schedule to work on the productivity of your business, from the lowest employee, to your own, to the equipment itself.
But even if you can somehow find the time, do you have the financial resources to really make a difference? Small changes on a highly-limited budget can still make a major impact on your business in the long-term. Let’s look at some of the ways you can increase efficiency without breaking the bank.
Embrace the Idea that Growth Comes from Investment
It’s tempting to just hunker down, get to work, and hope the business grows. There’s certainly something to say about focusing in and getting stuff done, especially as the boss, but that’s not how to facilitate improvement– it just knocks tasks off the checklist.
To really boost your efficiency (or grow at all), you need to be willing to invest. Whether it’s investing time for some strategic planning or investing money into updated tech, this part is essential. The same old, same old won’t get you where you want to go. Mindful investment will. And the best part is, a little can go a long way.
Automate Recordkeeping with IoT Sensors
You may not have the budget to purchase the latest and greatest production line machinery, but there are some significant ways to improve on what you already have. One way to boost efficiency for current gear is to install IoT sensors that send data directly to software or spreadsheets. This day in age, there’s no need for an employee to record temperatures, times, humidity, and other factors over and over again by hand.
The most common sensor to install is a temperature monitor. Sometimes these are placed in ovens to ensure proper heat is applied to products as QA control. Other times they’re placed in refrigerators to ensure faulty equipment doesn’t ruin your ingredients and products.
“Any operator with a smartphone is now able to view these temperatures (or receive alerts) in real-time to ensure equipment and product temperatures meet company standards and local regulatory requirements.” — Jeff Rieger at FoodSafetyTech
IoT sensors are a quick and affordable way to automate certain kinds of recordkeeping that reduces clerical errors, increases the efficiency of your employees, and makes it faster to retrieve data for auditors.
Invest in Your Employees and Company Culture
No matter what systems you have in place, if your employees aren’t bought-in to the mission and procedures that back it up, you’re going to run into productivity problems. Establishing and maintaining a company culture of efficiency is a key part of running a smooth business.
Happy employees are, on average, 12% more productive than neutral employees. They’re also less likely to result in employee turnover, which can save you thousands in training and opportunity cost. Fostering long-term, loyal employee relationships is one of the best things you can do for your business.
Here are a few ways you can invest a few hours into your team members that will show them that their hard work is valued:
- Retrain them on food safety standards. Give them lunch. Walk them through the latest industry recalls. Show them how you appreciate their focus and mindfulness when it comes to food safety.
- Standardize SOPs for fast learning. Every time an employee has to ask someone else how to accomplish a task, time goes down the drain. Spend a couple hours refining your SOP documents to streamline tasks that require minimal interpretation and make them readily available around the facility for easy reference.
- Read up on effective communication skills. It’s never too late to refine the way you communicate with employees – and it’s bound to have compounding effects. For example, 46% of employees rarely or never know what they’re supposed to do next after leaving a company meeting. Imagine all that wasted productivity. Where can you improve clarity and precision when it comes to communication?
These options tend to be very budget-friendly since there’s no or little tech investment, but the impacts can be just as large.
Adopt Food Manufacturing Software
Food manufacturing is still largely an analog industry. Notes are taken by hand, records are stored in physical binders, and cross-department communication is slow.
This is a major efficiency killer. Rather than having quality control, food safety, shipping and receiving, and inventory management siloed in their own corners, what if you could see how each department is functioning from a dynamic, centralized dashboard?
New food manufacturing software like Icicle are making it easier than ever to simplify tasks and communication by changing the way employees input data. Rather than writing notes and filing them away, employees can insert data into a computer or tablet. That data is then stored in a centralized data hub that communicates with all the departments.
This change from physical to digital can have some major impacts:
- No more sharing delays. When a record is needed, it can immediately be pulled up digitally by anyone in the company. No shuffling through folders or running from office to office required.
- Audits and traceability checks are much faster. With your inventory, vendors, and other information dynamically connected, you can quickly see which products go where, which can be a huge stress-relief when the auditor shows up at your door.
- Strong management can happen remotely. No more waiting for that phone call that everything’s on fire when you’re away from the office. Now you can see everything working just fine and make adjustments when needed from anywhere.
This fundamental shift from analog to online reduces stress, reduces communication delays and errors, and streamlines tasks across the company. And the best part? It’s still far more budget-friendly than buying all-new equipment for your line – and the impact can be just as large if not larger.