HACCP Doesn’t Have to Be a Burden with Icicle Food ERP
Many food companies look upon government food safety regulations as a burden that must be borne – but is this actually the case? What if the common food safety methodologies, combined with the right software, could transform the regulatory burden into a competitive advantage? Let’s take a look at how food industry ERP software like Icicle can help make HACCP and PCP requirements the backbone of your business’ operations – and success.
The Importance of the HACCP Methodology and Preventive Control Plans (PCPs)
HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) is a methodology for food companies to ensure that their products are safe for human consumption. It forms the basis for most food safety legislation and regulation in the world, including all GFSI-recognized certifications, and over the last few years it has been extended and modified to emphasize prevention (PCP, VACCP, TACCP, etc.). The basic principle of the HACCP methodology is to identify potential (chemical, physical, biological, radiological) hazards at each stage of production and implement controls for those hazards.
The resulting Preventive Control Plan (PCP, previously HACCP Plan) is a detailed and complex beast that requires constant updating and rigorous compliance. The costs of maintaining this documentation, required by law, adds up quickly: the food safety/quality professionals who produce and monitor it, keeping all employee training up to date, recording lab tests, budgetary preparations for potential recalls, time spent preparing for audits and inspections, and so on.Mistakes carry a much bigger price tag in the form of recalls. Just last week, Tyson Foods issued a recall for nearly 9 million pounds of chicken products after a USDA investigation into a listeria outbreak traced tainted products back to their facility in Missouri, USA. PCP plans based in HACCP help companies maintain high levels of compliance, create a food safety culture within the company, and protect public health.
Digitizing and Automating HACCP with ERP Software
If a PCP exists only on paper, food companies are missing a significant opportunity to leverage the data that is collected for HACCP purposes and turn that data into better products and better profit margins. Software like the Icicle food ERP system makes this possible; but unlike most HACCP software programs, Icicle is not a digital binder. Icicle builds a dynamic model of your business that is based on the HACCP methodology, making it easy and simple to maintain a complete, up-to-date, and cloud-based preventative control program that is working for you 24/7. In fact, in Icicle you can generate your Preventative Control Plan (including HACCP) at any time with just one click.
Even more importantly, Icicle doesn’t stop where HACCP ends, but instead feeds all that valuable information into all aspects of food production: to your warehouse team, QC staff, production workers, suppliers, auditors and inspectors, and beyond. Here are five ways that Icicle lifts HACCP requirements from a burden to a distinct advantage.
1) Train Your Team Members Systematically and Consistently
HACCP works best when it is connected to a food safety culture in the company. By digitally connecting SOPs and SSOPs to the production process, Icicle makes it clear – step-by-step – what needs to be done at each stage of production and by whom. All SOPs are digitally integrated into the Icicle model of your business, so they are easily centralized and integrated into workflows.
Dean Blignaut, the Co-Founder and President of TMRW Foods, took this to the next level with Icicle ERP. Before opening their state-of-the-art facility in Port Coquitlam, BC, he and his team carefully designed the production processes for their innovative meat alternative products and trained employees on those processes until they got it down perfectly. Tasks and reminders were clearly marked in Icicle, available for team members to review and complete at each stage.
We have a really high standard here, and we wanted to ensure that that standard was set and that it was nurtured and fostered while the team was still small. Now, whenever we add people to the team, they’re basically perpetuating a really good system, because they’re learning from the others who have gone through this process.Dean Blignaut, Co-Founder and President of TMRW Foods
Since Icicle is a cloud-based system, users also have the visibility they need to each part of the system that is relevant for them and managers can oversee production from any secure, internet-connected device, any time. Icicle harnesses the power of the cloud to streamline production processes and sync up with other teams, helping them be connected through a central data hub. Need to scale up and add new facilities? No problem: Icicle can easily replicate these processes and communicate between different facilities in the cloud.
2) Dramatically Reduce (and Automate) Paperwork with ERP Software
Instead of your valuable data spread out over documents, emails, and confusing spreadsheets, Icicle keeps everything in a centralized, secure digital space. Since you are already using your Food ERP for tracking ingredients, packaging, materials, and parts in your food safety program, you can leverage that data for unparalleled traceability, warehouse management and inventory control, supplier management, quality assurance, production and sales analytics, and more. Quality verification checks become simple clicks instead of time-consuming ordeals. Paperwork is reduced across the board, and all teams are better able to communicate and collaborate.
If you add a new product to your production line, change a formula, update your packaging, or implement new procedures, your team no longer has to start all over again. All changes are automatically propagated throughout the system so that all documentation is kept up-to-date at any time, and everyone is working with real-time, accurate data. With Icicle’s ERP software, food companies can truly go paperless – no binders, no clipboards, and all usable, trendable, digital data.
Since every part of Icicle is always up-to-date and using real-time information from actual production runs, audit preparation time is reduced to almost nothing. Inspectors and auditors can be given remote access to your HACCP records for easy and safe inspections and audits. For P&S Frozen Foods, which produces highly regulated meat products, Icicle reduced their daily provincial inspection time from a 90-minute site visit to a 10-minute remote check – a reduction of 88%. When audit time came around, their staff could complete a traceability check in minutes – even to the shock of the auditor. Surprised by new TACCP and VACCP requirements? With Icicle F, P&S Frozen Foods were easily able to meet these complex new requirements at the last minute before an audit.
3) Minimize Waste and Maximize Profit with Inventory Management and Production Forecasting
To ensure PCP compliance, you have to make sure that your team verifies and documents details on expiration and best before dates. That means that you have to track the freshness of your ingredients before they go into production – but why stop there? By integrating food safety and traceability with inventory management, Icicle can help you minimize waste by assigning lot codes (on GS1 scannable barcodes) so the system can automatically ensure a FIFO (first-in-first-out) order during production.
With this information, Icicle’s expiration management interfaces extend your product shelf life to the maximum and helps you reduce any waste of purchased ingredients. Icicle will send automatic notifications when an ingredient is about to exceed its shelf life, preventing spoilage. Special requirements can be set to maximize shelf life too.
For example, if you are getting a shipment of milk (which needs to be refrigerated), Icicle can mandate a temperature check (which can be integrated with automated sensors) and if the temperature is too high, substantially reducing the shelf life of the ingredient or risking spoilage, the receiver can catch that problem at the gate. That same interface can also be connected to remote sensors in trucks, so that a warning is automatically delivered if the truck is too warm for the milk (or too cold for a product like tomatoes or leafy greens).
For Icicle user Honest Dumplings, the record trail from Icicle’s inventory management interface allowed them to get a refund from their supplier on a shipment of spoiled meat.
Let’s kick it up a notch further: Icicle takes all this information and feeds it into a sophisticated production forecasting interface, which suggests production quantities and timing based on existing inventory, booked sales, planned production, and pre-set inventory thresholds. Icicle’s purchasing suggestions can then help you plan the quantities and timing of raw material purchases based on that information (plus remaining shelf life) so that you never fall behind on production.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Honest Dumplings was able to use this data to secure their meat supply and meet the rapidly increased demand for their delicious frozen dumplings. A couple months later, their business tripled.
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.Chris Lerohl, CEO of Honest Dumplings
In 2021, the Icicle team put the final touches on an advanced production costing interface that allows companies to automatically calculate actual production costs, at the specific lot level. The system even calculates the actual per unit cost in real-time.
4) Use ERP Software to Maximize Uptime and Improve Workflows
Equipment maintenance is also a part of PCP compliance; extraneous materials (also foreign matter) like bits of plastic, metal, or glass is one of the main causes of food recalls. If HACCP is only a requirement that has to be checked off a list, that’s where it ends. With Icicle food ERP, you can automate and optimize your maintenance schedules to minimize disruptions and maximize uptime through the maintenance management interface.
- Create predefined maintenance templates to guide workers through maintenance tasks.
- Manage a queued work order system and assign recurring tasks to teams or members that will automatically appear on employees’ task list;
- Submit Work Requests for unexpected problems, which can then be promoted by maintenance managers to Work Orders using predefined templates.
Each production machine is logged in Icicle with an operational status (online, scheduled offline, unscheduled offline) and the system collects maintenance analytics. This information is displayed in user-friendly dashboards. Users can conduct a root cause analysis directly from the dashboard to determine causes of unscheduled outages, assign corrective actions, and determine preventative measures.
Icicle’s inventory management can also notify users when maintenance materials and parts fall below preset stock levels. Instead of having the data collected for regulatory purposes just sitting in a binder, Icicle’s maintenance management puts that information to work and into contact with other areas of the business. That means that maintenance management can do things like connect to inventory management and notify users when materials and parts fall below preset stock levels.
5) Open New Markets By Achieving Third-Party Certifications (like SQF)
More and more of the major retailers are requiring their suppliers to go above and beyond the minimum government regulations and adopt higher standards for both food safety and quality. These third-party certifications (like SQF) build upon the HACCP model and have become indispensable for the global food industry, providing higher protection against liability and brand damage as well lending confidence in product quality. Another level of regulatory compliance comes from specialty food certifications like organic, non-GMO, vegan, kosher, halal, etc.
With Icicle Food ERP, work is never doubled and the significant amount of work (and paperwork) for obtaining these certifications is drastically reduced. Icicle can pull data from your operations to meet the requirements of most major certifications, including GFSI-recognized programmes, with the following:
- Reusable templates with corresponding corrective actions;
- Generation of PCP, HACCP, TACCP, and VACCP plans;
- The ability to conduct assessments (including TACCP and VACCP);
- Vendor management to maintain supplier certifications;
- Remote access for virtual audits;
- CCP monitoring and alerts;
- Automated incident management;
- Task management and user teams;
- Streamlined visitor access;
- Automated traceability.
With these features at his disposal, Vice President of Operations and Co-Founder of Free Yumm Terry Goulah was easily able to balance the requirements for SQF, non-GMO, gluten-free, and allergen free certifications for Free Yumm’s tasty and kid-friendly snacks. After his first SQF audit, Terry told us:
To be honest, I don’t think we could have done it without Icicle. They were impressed that we could show them any information they wanted, like where those products went. From my standpoint, that made the audit go very smoothly.Terry Goulah, Vice President of Operations and Co-Founder of Free Yumm
Conclusion: Leverage HACCP for Better Business and Better Profits
HACCP is a data-driven methodology to food safety, and that means that food companies are required by law to collect that data and maintain it. But it would be criminal to stop there and let that valuable information sit in a binder on a dusty shelf. As we’ve seen, with Icicle Food ERP you can start with PCP and build out a dynamic model of your business, bringing all that data into use and connecting all aspects of production to optimize processes, minimize risks, and expedite growth.