Food manufacturers aren’t strangers to the risks associated with food handling. Mislabeled items, contamination, mishandled products and other incidents that trigger a recall may result in extraneous use of resources, time and money.

The complex processes involved with food manufacturing call for a system to help facilitate, manage, and optimize every aspect of the plant to reduce the need to issue a recall.

In this article we’re discussing the importance of user experience when it comes to food-specific ERP software and reducing recall rates.

What causes food recall?

Large companies like Mondelēz Global, Vienna Beef, and Hill’s Prescription Diet have experienced first-hand what the impact of a food recall looks like on business. Depending on the severity of the recall, it can be challenging to make up for the loss.

However, this issue goes beyond news headlines. It’s a growing problem across food manufacturers, especially for those in the meat and poultry industry. A report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund found that between 2013 and 2017 overall recalls have increased by 10%. What’s more, recalls have increased by 83% for meat and poultry manufacturers and processing plants.

So what is happening within the plant to trigger a food recall?

Some of the factors that contribute to these incidents include:

  • The product is deemed hazardous or potentially hazardous by safety standards.
  • The product is altered or mislabeled.
  • FSIS inspectors find unsafe or mislabeled food in the facility.
  • There is sufficient data provided by state or local public health departments that confirm unsafe food or food practices within the company.

Food safety standards and procedures are established to not only eliminate risk but to give shop floor employees a guide to follow. These processes can be defined and enforced with the help of an ERP system. However, when workers evade steps in the process, there’s an associated risk. Shortcuts may offer the quickest solution, but they can often lead to potential errors.

It’s imperative that food manufacturers are not only vigilant about employee adherence to processes but that the system is easy for them to use. The user experience of the software must be excellent. Emphasizing the importance of employees following best practices at all times can be the difference between safely operating and a recall.

How valuable is user experience when it comes to food recall prevention?

Imagine a cookie company recently placed 50 orders of flour from a vendor to test a new recipe. When an employee enters the lot number into the ERP system, he/she could view every time that lot number was entered, what orders used it, and who it was shipped to—simplifying origins and usage traceability.

The ERP system makes it easy to identify every instance where that particular flour was used, and because the system requires the user to enter item and lot information at every transaction, it’s easy to stay organized. If there was a recall with that particular lot number, workers could easily see where that flour has been used and pull the right products from the facility faster.

This visibility goes hand-in-hand with prevention because the users can quickly locate and eliminate contaminated items before they come into contact with other products.

That isn’t possible unless all of a company’s employees grasp how to use the platform. ERP software can include all the most popular features, but if employees don’t understand how to use it, the company is at a higher risk for issues that warrant a recall.

How can food manufacturers prevent recall with their existing food-specific ERP software?

ERPs are powerful tools but only when they are used to their fullest potential. Let’s take a look at some of the ways food manufacturers can get the most out of their existing food-specific ERP software.

Invest in ongoing employee training

As a business grows and evolves, processes are likely to change. If the processes change, employees will need to be trained on those changes and how they fit into the larger picture. Employees should be adequately trained on how to execute quality checks and safety tests in addition to processes run through the ERP system.

Well-trained and knowledgeable employees are the foundation of a high-functioning, safe shop floor, not to mention, they boost the bottom line. HR Magazine reports that companies who invest $1,500 on training per employee can expect to see an average of 24% more profit than companies who spend less.

It’s crucial to not only invest in employee training but to invest in process adoption as well so that employees are both confident and informed while using the ERP system.

Enforce food safety standards into an ERP

Safe food handling practices need to be an integral part of day-to-day operations. The more defined company processes are, the more the floor can benefit from ERP software. This means the likelihood of food safety issues decreases.

Also, workers can manage issues quicker and more efficiently if they do arise. With processes designed to make sure employees are following the right safety protocols for the company, they can identify where things went wrong and make preventative adjustments for the future.

Conduct regular process audits to ensure optimal floor function

Audits act as another safeguard, along with proper employee training, both of which help to prevent food recall. Regularly reviewing shop floor processes will not only help identify areas of improvement, but it’ll also confirm that the floor is operating adequately.

These best practices connect back to user experience and how a company implements processes alongside already existing ERP software.

Excellent food safety means remaining vigilant to the best practices

Food manufacturers must invest in regular employee training to reinforce the required food safety processes within the ERP system. Though convenient and occasionally effective, shortcuts around these standard procedures are detrimental in the long run and lead to food safety issues.

If an employee operates with only the knowledge of shortcuts, or quick solutions to side-step more complex issues, they’ll never understand the importance of the process and open the door to new food safety risks. Just as students are taught long division before short division in school, learning the fundamentals of a process helps employees comprehend what’s happening in the background and why each step is in place.

Lastly, training floor employees to adhere to the right processes ensures all pertinent information is recorded accurately in the ERP system, which minimizes the opportunity for error.

To learn more about how a food-specific ERP system can optimize your organization’s, food safety processes, contact our team.