Break Down Data Silos and Ensure FSMA Traceability Compliance with Icicle
Traceability is a complex interdepartmental problem that is only getting more complicated with the pending modernization of traceability standards. Companies operating in or importing to the United States will soon begin the scramble towards compliance as FSMA’s Rule 204 for Traceability is set to be finalized this November.
In our past articles on this particular compliance challenge, we’ve covered how the new Rule fits into FSMA’s vision of a “new era of smarter food safety,” highlighting the relevance of automation technology, and we’ve looked at the top 4 considerations for buying FSMA-compliant traceability software – something that will almost certainly be necessary to track all the data required by the incoming traceability standards.
This article more specifically examines the communication challenges posed by Rule 204, and outlines the ways that automation technology provides compelling solutions for food manufacturers aiming for compliance – and therefore (continued) access to the crucial American market.
Get Familiar with Required Key Data Elements on the Food Traceability List
In order to reach its goal of modernizing traceability, the new FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act) traceability rule requires manufacturers, processors, and holders of foods on the Food Traceability List (FTL) to establish and maintain a reliable traceability system with detailed records containing Key Data Elements (KDEs) related to various Critical Tracking Events (CTEs). This system must be able to track every item in the food supply chain “one step forward, and one step back.”
Once it goes into effect on Jan. 6, 2025, FSMA 204 will apply to all foods on the FDA’s Food Traceability List (FTL), a more expansive list than previous traceability requirements:
- All kinds of fresh-cut fruit and vegetables
- All types of tree nut butters and peanut butters; but not soy or seed butters
- Finfish (including smoked finfish)
- Fresh as well as freshly-cut leafy greens
- Fresh cucumbers
- Fresh herbs
- Fresh melons
- Fresh peppers
- Fresh sprouts
- Mollusks, bivalves
- Ready-to-eat deli salads
- Shell eggs
- Soft Cheeses
- Tropical tree fruit
The KDEs required by the FSMA intend to make it easier to prevent and track food contamination when it happens. However, the sheer volume of data that companies need to maintain at every step of the food manufacturing and distribution process is staggering. Here are some of the KDEs for reference:
- Details on where the foods are grown or imported from
- Where and when they were received
- Quantity and units of measure used
- Traceability and descriptor identifiers
- Location description identifiers and lot codes
- Record types and numbers (ie invoices) for ingredient/food transfer between companies
- Names of the transportation company and details about any shipments of the products
- Details about the transformation of food products or the creation of new food products, details about the farming and harvesting of food products (as detailed as name and contact info of the harvester, date and time of the harvest, details about cooling and packaging food products for shipment).
From this brief glance alone, we can see the communication challenge unfold. How will your regulatory staff be able to gather information from every point of production, in some instances from the literal seed to the customer’s table? Information needs to flow seamlessly from your suppliers to your staff and then to your customers. Within your organization, communication is now essential between every department or team that comes into contact with the food supply chain.
You Need a Centralized System to Track and Trace KDEs Across All Aspects of Your Business
On the most basic level, implementing a FSMA Traceability system is about achieving total supply chain visibility. Centralized data collection is a crucial step towards achieving compliance.
A barrier between inter-department communication managing data across multiple software or manual systems. A warehouse logistics system can be a data silo as much as any binder on an office shelf. Unifying inventory management, food safety, traceability, production, sales, accounting, and more allows you to reap the benefits of a single software system that delivers the visibility promised by “the new era of food safety.”
With a centralized system, for example, any adjustments to your SOPs become accessible to every employee who references that procedure on the production floor. You can adjust scheduled tasks to make sure employees stay on top of the modified procedure, and have another team member or manager validate that tasks have been completed. Switching to a new vendor or ingredient is also more streamlined. You’ll be able to replace an ingredient across multiple product formulas and generate your latest food safety documentation based on your most recent information to relieve food safety and QA staff from having to redo paperwork.
Integrating data from procurement, inventory and sales orders allows you to maximize efficiency with production forecasting and purchasing suggestions to ensure the highest possible fulfillment rate for your products. Automating the flow of information to the departments that need them ensures that your food manufacturing business makes the most of available resources at any given time.
Design a Seamless Flow of FSMA Traceability Data with Smart Scanners and GS1 Barcodes
Tracking and tracing inventory throughout the supply chain has to be visualized as a flow – indeed, the exact opposite of a data silo, which introduces blockages and opacity into the chain. Capturing traceability data doesn’t mean trapping it into cells in a spreadsheet, but enabling the accurate representation of that flow of information.
So picture a shipment arriving at your warehouse from a supplier. Tracking KDEs is a task for your warehouse staff at receiving, just as it is a task for racking and picking later on, and during production and perhaps through multiple transformations, before packaging and shipping and any other steps that may be involved for your part of the food industry.
Many facilities already use barcode technology for one or more of these steps, but Icicle’s automated traceability system enables you to incorporate GS1-compliant barcodes into your production workflows that are universally compatible with suppliers and customers alike. With a compliance traceability software system, GS1 barcodes can be used to capture many of the KDEs you need for traceability compliance.
They can also be integrated with smart scanners, so you can take the opportunity to improve warehouse logistics and inventory management while meeting mandatory regulatory requirements – all with a relatively low cost solution.
Standardize Your Workflows to Eliminate Human Error and Improve Communication for FSMA Traceability
Even with a centralized system that is able to efficiently track inventory throughout your production processes, you still need actual people to do the work that automation tools can capture and optimize. Icicle ERP’s innovative design allows you to standardize workflows at various intervals and levels of production, from assigning tasks with notifications and reminders, to tracking and scheduling employee training, to employing digitized inspection checklists.
Instead of data silos, with Icicle you can break down barriers for greater transparency and accountability. Your QA staff will appreciate the ability to assign a task to another department as much as your maintenance team will appreciate advanced scheduling features, helping every part of your business collaborate and communicate smoothly.
But most importantly for your FSMA Traceability chain, standardized workflows reduce the risk of human error – a risk that can carry catastrophic consequences with even the most minor error. Icicle ERP can introduce reliable, automated record-keeping in many forms, like:
- Integrating your centralized system in Icicle with sensors that can capture KDEs like temperature, etc. without the need for human intervention at all;
- Scheduling notifications to prompt employees to complete certain tasks at certain times/locations (including issuing work orders);
- Enabling secure access to real-time data and up-to-date templates, across departments;
- Using smart suggestions features to streamline paperwork without compromising accuracy;
- Eliminating manual data entry for the flow of inventory with barcode scanning; documentation requirements to automatically flag or reject data input errors;
- Employing an automated trust, but verify approach by assigning Approvers and Verifiers to capture production run data.
With such protections in place, you and your entire staff can gain heightened levels of confidence in your traceability chain, while reaping the benefits of overall improved workflows – even across departments, facilities, or any other part of your organization.
Empower Management to Make Better Decisions with Real-Time Insights
Centralized information pulled from real-time workflows yields a true treasure for any business: real-time data on every aspect of your operations. Icicle provides several dashboards to help managers keep an eye on the big picture, identify and intervene in problems early, and leverage data for analytics, forecasting, and other reporting features.
From the Sales Dashboard, to the Production Dashboards, to the QA Dashboard and more, Icicle aggregates data from across your operations to deliver managers the insights they need to make informed decisions. This information is also accessible to authorized users from any secure, internet-enabled device – making it easy to work remotely while keeping an eye on the essentials.
When it comes to traceability, this means that your QA team can manage root cause analyses, corrective actions, and preventative measures using real-time data, allowing them to make overall improvements to your production processes, and, by extension, your traceability chain.
Stay On Top of Your Data Through Icicle’s Automated Traceability System
Keeping up with FSMA Traceability is an imperative aspect of managing a food manufacturing business. Icicle makes traceability simple to manage and convenient, all while maintaining a comprehensible and robust system that keeps all key data elements and supplier information ready for audits and inspections.
Members of the Icicle Community maintain audit-readiness with automated systems that go above and beyond FSMA Traceability requirements. Discover how an integrated and automated approach to food production data management puts you back in the driver’s seat to drive business growth and profitability. Boost competitive advantage and join the Icicle Community today!