How Automation Technology Helps Food Companies Fight COVID-19

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When the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, it was hard to tell how big the disruption would be – in many ways, it is still hard to tell. One thing is clear: all businesses need to be able to respond quickly and effectively to all kinds of challenges. Icicle’s automation technology made it possible for essential food businesses to shift gears at that critical moment and even find their advantage.

Plan for the Unexpected with Exceptional Automation Technology

Automation technology is built on the expected, designed to suit the needs of day-to-day operations as they usually go. But great automation technology is adaptable, and helps you to be, too.

When the unexpected arrived for Fraser Valley Specialty Poultry this year, it was almost impossible to be prepared. Seven of Fraser Valley’s staff members at their plant in Chilliwack, BC tested positive for COVD-19 in May 2020.

The outbreak at the Fraser Valley food processing facility was one of several recorded in the early months of the pandemic, when we still knew little about how the virus spread and how workplace safety should be handled.

Despite this new and challenging situation, Fraser Valley’s use of Icicle’s automation software enabled them to quickly and efficiently minimize the spread of coronavirus. Although the outbreak occurred early on during an unexpected and unpredictable pandemic, Icicle’s intuitive and highly adaptable system helped Fraser Valley to re-open within just one week.

Icicle’s COVID-19 Prevention and Control System

Icicle is designed to evolve and respond to new challenges, and a COVID-19 Prevention and Control System was created early on during the pandemic. The program helps food companies create an effective plan by using a predefined set of guidance and control measures that can be easily modified to suit their facility.

In Icicle, users can carry out risk assessments to determine the risk of employees working in a particular area with regard to virus transmission, enabling them to make decisions about where action needs to be taken. Those actions can then be set up and monitored within a single task management system that is integrated with regular health, safety, and quality procedures and programs.

For example, a company may decide to install Plexiglass barriers between employees in the packing area after a risk assessment highlighted it as a high-risk zone. In Icicle, a maintenance project can be set up so that work orders and purchase orders can be set up, materials can be tracked and tasks can be assigned to specific workers. Managers are able to get a quick and clear overview of what’s happening across their plant and find detailed information about specific tasks at the click of a button.

Since Icicle automatically propagates any changes or updates throughout the entire system, users can quickly and easily update their existing SOPs and SSOPs to make sure they are COVID-compliant – without having to go through mountains of paperwork updating each file manually.

Automate Employee COVID-19 Screening and Record-Keeping to Enhance Safety

Fraser Valley Specialty Pountry

How did Icicle work for Fraser Valley Specialty Poultry, in the middle of an active outbreak and during the most uncertain period of the pandemic?

Fraser Valley committed early on to keeping staff safe during the pandemic with a daily health screening program of all employees and visitors. Within six months, they had around 10 000 records to create and manage. “We have kept all staff records even until now and it is accessible whenever we want with just a touch of a button,” Ghaem Zadeh, their HACCP Coordinator, told us. “It would have not become possible without applying such a powerful tool that Icicle provided us with.”

Ghaem especially appreciated the ability to filter records for each employee within a timeframe, enabling them to easily track specific markers like body temperature or check that records are complete for each individual. All of that data is available for them in seconds and can be trended over time.

Compliance here is key, and it’s not always clear which records need to be maintained under rapidly changing conditions. When we spoke, Ghaem explained that Icicle’s customizable COVID-19 Prevention and Control system made it possible to apply guidelines from their local Fraser Health Authority and update them when new control measures are introduced.

Plan Around Problems with a Data-Driven Approach and High-Level Oversight

The Honest Dumplings team

To remain agile, companies must use this period of disruption to think about how they can adapt to protect their business for the future. Automation is the perfect way to do this.

Although many companies are initially reluctant to migrate from a paper-based system to an automated one, the benefits are clear. Icicle’s user-friendly interface and simple dashboards enable managers to gain enhanced visibility of everything that is happening at the plant. Users can quickly and easily access all the information they need in one place by simply clicking on the relevant category, e.g. “Maintenance” or “Logistics.”

There’s even a dedicated COVID-19 Prevention and Control Status Report that gives you an at-a-glance summary of outstanding tasks, incidents, inspections and stock levels for PPE.

Honest Dumplings, a dumpling maker in Edmonton, Alberta, took advantage of Icicle’s automation capabilities to secure the local and quality ingredients they needed to make their gourmet, creative, Chinese-style dumplings. The key for their CEO, Chris Lehrol, was Icicle’s Inventory Management.

“Having that cloud-based system, we were able to monitor our inventory and were able to jump on securing our meat supply as well as building inventory and raw ingredients to ensure that if there was a supply chain disruption, then we would be able to keep producing. Having that information through Icicle was very valuable.”

With that insight, Honest Dumplings was able to pivot to online sales quickly and by the summer, they had tripled their business.

Future-Proof Your Business with Icicle

Icicle’s intelligent design doesn’t come out of nowhere – it is user-focused and user-driven, allowing us to help food businesses be effective and adaptable. We recently launched a new Feature Request Forum directly into the Icicle application where users can suggest new features, check out other people’s requests, and vote for them.

By interacting with its users in this way and others, Icicle gains unique insights into how to improve the software, respond to the current needs of food businesses, and develop a creative community of Icicle users – all of which is necessary for building exceptional automation technology.

The pandemic has only served to highlight the importance of adaptability in the face of unpredictable events, particularly within the food industry. Icicle’s automation software is designed to make it easier for food manufacturers to efficiently manage their processes, keep their employees and customers safe and make compliance a breeze.  

Although life post-pandemic may still seem like a long way off, business owners should be implementing flexible, automated software solutions like Icicle to future-proof their business in a constantly changing landscape.

Want to know more about how Icicle can help your business adapt and grow? Request a free demo today >>>

Or check out what our COVID-19 Prevention and Control System can do >>>

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