TME Helps Leading Food Manufacturer Streamline Process and Increase Traceability

TME Helps Leading Food Manufacturer Streamline Process and Increase Traceability

Challenge

A leading food manufacturer that produces premium surimi seafood, commonly known as imitation crab and lobster meat, needed a traceability and batch management solution to collect and analyze data related to batch numbers, lot numbers, recycled product, scrap, portions, weight, time and temperature. The food manufacturer previously used a paper-based manual system to track inventory and the portioning of dry and wet ingredients. The paper and pencil method, however, made it difficult to track the accurate portioning of ingredients and whether protocol was being followed. Manual updates to existing databases were irregular preventing immediate access to current reliable information.

Additionally, the customer was preparing to meet increased regulatory demands to provide detailed food product traceability to the FDA. The manufacturer required a traceability solution that could also provide quality assurance, and error-proofing.

Given the wet and slippery conditions of the factory floor, installing a desktop PC solution was not an option. The decision was made to implement a wireless system that ran on rugged portable data terminals (PDTs) that could scan data into a web-based software system.

Solution

MASS Group developed a comprehensive traceability solution by integrating TME’s inventory control system, mobile personal data terminals (PDTs), a wireless infrastructure, and modern web services to give the surimi manufacturer a flexible, easy-to-use, mobile system that was well-suited to the wet working conditions on the production floor.

Today, the company captures in real-time all inventory data and live transactions to the TME database via PDTs over the wireless network. From receiving, portioning, blending, casing, to shipping, all data is captured and digitally stored in the SQL database.

TME initiated the implementation process by importing purchase orders from the manufacturer’s existing ERP system. Warehouse personnel use PDTs to receive electronically shipments. Alternately, shipments can also be from the company’s strategic partners via EDI.

TME is configured to allow the user to select from only those suppliers with open purchase orders to minimize the amount of data that passes across the network. After the supplier is selected, the user then chooses which PO to receive against. Configurable attributes of the received shipment, such as condition and temperature, are collected to assure that the product is fresh and that the trailer is in good condition.

Next, all items are received along with the lot code from each item and a label is printed to go on the items. Much of the inventory is put on hold when received until QA is performed and the status is then changed on the PDT.

By scanning the barcode labels that are printed at the receiving dock, the customer is able to digitally track their inventory as it is transferred from one location to another and onto the production floor. The customer portions dry, wet, and frozen ingredients in separate areas. With TME software, they are now able to control and track the ingredients used at each process step by lot number.

Recyclable materials are monitored to ensure that it is kept within the strict time and temperature constraints set by the HACCP guidelines. As each product is recycled, TME creates a new lot number to track it. The recycled product is continually inspected and has its temperature recorded at mandated intervals. Any product that is not properly tracked or goes out of compliance is scrapped and cannot be used in production.

When the final product comes off of the production line, it is ready to be packaged. Personnel scan the recipe and the lot codes of the bags. TME then consumes the bag from the existing quantity in the database. Additionally, TME verifies that the correct bags are used for the correct product.

Boxes are then filled with the bags and placed on the pallet. When the pallet is full, the user enters the quantity of boxes into TME. TME then consumes those boxes and enters the correct quantity of finished product in stock.

Results

By implementing TME software, handheld computers, barcode technology, and a wireless infrastructure, the surimi seafood manufacturer created a lean manufacturing process that increased quality, yield, and cost savings.

The customer is receiving numerous benefits from the system, including:

  • Accurate portioning of ingredients
  • Reduction of scrap batches
  • Faster FDA audits. Preparing audit documentation takes less than ten minutes instead of days.
  • Window of traceability reduced from 12 hours in a manual process to less than 30 minutes.