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Ensuring Regulatory Compliance with Enterprise Solutions in the Food Industry

Contributors: Rob Wojtowicz

In the food and beverage industry, it’s critical to embed Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) throughout the supply chain and manufacturing processes to ensure regulatory compliance with enterprise solutions. As described in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), food and beverage manufacturers are required to create and implement a HACCP plan to address food safety. This plan is created by analyzing and controlling biological, chemical, and physical hazards, and it covers the entire supply chain – including all processes from raw material production, procurement, and handling, to manufacturing, distribution, and consumption of the final product. In this post, we will explore how compliance with these regulatory requirements can and should be integrated within your enterprise solution in today’s era of smarter food safety 

Benefits of Integrating Regulatory Compliance with Enterprise Solutions

Integrating regulatory requirements with enterprise solutions offers several benefits for a variety of stakeholders – consumers, manufacturers, and companies in the food industry.   

For customers, integrating compliance within the solution can help to ensure consumer trust, promote product transparency, and guarantee food safety and quality from farm to fork. For manufacturers, the enhanced quality process controls within the enterprise solution can allow for quick detection and resolution of food safety issues, resulting in less waste and greater visibility into product quality along the supply chain. And, from a regulatory compliance perspective, the ability to respond to a food safety issue is essential. As such, conducting mock recall audits or supplier assessments from your enterprise solution can enable you to rapidly and efficiently trace food sources throughout the supply chain. Furthermore, if a recall actually does occur, having an effective enterprise batch traceability system in place can help reassure consumers that the issue is being addressed promptly and that steps are being taken to prevent it from happening again in the future. This will limit damaging a manufacturer’s reputation and reduce the likelihood of long-term financial losses. 

To achieve these benefits, however, these six quality-related capabilities need to be leveraged to achieve regulatory compliance with enterprise solutions: 

  1. Batch Traceability 
  2. Batch Characteristics Capture and Transfer 
  3. Expiration Management 
  4. Critical Control Points 
  5. Supplier Verification and Source Certification 
  6. Rapid Recall Response 

Batch Traceability  

Batch traceability is the capability to observe the movement of a food product and its ingredients through all steps in the supply chain, both backward and forward. Traceability involves recording and linking of the procurement, production, processing, and distribution chain of food products and ingredients. This includes sales orders and their linkage to the batches used for fulfillment and the input component and output batches resulting from a production/process order. Lastly, the linkage of batches and associated vendor lots received from purchase orders also need to be recorded. 

Batch Characteristics Capture and Transfer 

For every batch in the enterprise system, there are essential characteristics. In the food industry, some typical characteristics include:  

  • Sourcing Attributes: Country of Origin, Harvest Area, Vendor Lots, Farm, Boat 
  • Physical Attributes: pH, Moisture, Concentration 
  • Sensory Attributes: Smell, Color, Texture, Taste 
  • Microbiology Attributes: TPC, pathogens, yeasts, and molds  
  • Labeling Attributes: Allergens, Scientific Name, Storage Requirements 
  • Packaging Attributes: Use by date, Handling Instructions 

Defining these characteristics and ensuring they can be used in searches and reporting are essential functionality for leveraging your enterprise systems to meet record keeping regulatory requirements. 

As batches are processed, they can be consumed and transformed in many ways. Batches can be split or merged, and they can be consumed either as a component during production or as the result of a material transfer occurring after a quality check when a material is downgraded to an off-grade material. In all these cases, it’s important that the batch characteristics are transferred.  

For example, consider harvest areas: If a raw material is harvested from a specific area and it’s important that the finished product identifies the harvest area, the transfer of this characteristic is required. Leveraging the ability to transfer characteristics from batch to batch in advanced ERP solutions is a key capability for meeting food traceability requirements. 

Expiration Management 

Within the food industry, it’s crucial to carefully manage both shelf-life date and expiration date during inventory and production planning to ensure product quality and safety. The ERP system’s expiration date management functionalities allow capture and tracking of expiration dates and shelf-life dates. With this capability, items that are nearing their expiration date can be quickly identified and appropriate actions taken, such as selling them on clearance, using them within other markets, or donating them before they expire.  

The system should also prevent the sale or use of expired materials, ensuring that only fresh and safe products reach the customer. 

Critical Control Points 

Modern ERP software integrates testing and inspection results, which helps prevent or eliminate hazards identified during the manufacturing process. Identifying non-conformance is an important aspect of effective HACCP protocols that requires distinguishing, implementing, and reporting corrective actions. This includes the ability to define inspection characteristics, test plans, specifications, and test limits, and then link them to inventory events and other activities within the food supply chain with an impact on usage decisions and product disposition.  

Supplier Verification and Source Certification 

Monitoring and verifying supplier raw ingredients are of the highest quality and meet established limits is fundamental to making sure that the customer receives quality and safe food products. An effective ERP system maintains the required documents and audits for vendors as well as ensures materials are handled properly to maintain effective inventory management of raw materials. Knowing where materials are produced can guarantee that the sources are certified.  

Food labeling can also require that certifications be tracked. For example, tracking the certification of facilities where a product was produced and stored determines the product’s certification. Additionally, allergen management requires this information as well as inventory control of raw material segregation to avoid allergen cross-contact or cross-contamination. 

Rapid Recall Response 

With a properly implemented modern ERP system, in the event of a raw ingredient or finished good recall, information is immediately accessible to locate contaminated items and reduce the impact of a contamination event. Mock recalls regularly conducted by staff utilizing the recall functionality in an ERP solution ensure familiarity with procedures and allows a rapid recall response. A mock recall tests your ERP system by tracing a product’s journey within your supply chain. In addition to tracing the product, a mock recall tests your ability to remove the unsafe food from the market when it may have reached the consumer. This involves notifying the impacted consumer, retrieving the affected products, and deciding the disposition of the product. This is where it’s also important to have a comprehensive and well-understood written recall plan accessible within the ERP. 

Ensuring Regulatory Compliance with Your ERP 

For regulatory compliance within the food industry, the functionality being deployed within your enterprise systems needs to align with the organization’s HACCP plan and GMP and should be included within your enterprise solutions roadmap. Since new regulations and quality requirements are released over time, the planning of the enterprise solution roadmap should include stakeholders who have expertise on upcoming regulatory requirements. 

In the vital world of food safety, Clarkston has experts to help – from assessing your organization’s current operations, to creating an enterprise solutions roadmap, to implementing an ERP that maintains your product quality and keeps your consumer safe. Connect with us today to get started. 

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Tags: Traceability, SAP ERP, Quality Management Systems