Analytics have revolutionized virtually every industry in recent years, and food and beverage is no exception. Big data analytics can uncover invaluable insights, including hidden patterns and correlations. While food and beverage manufacturing and processing companies have adopted these solutions at a slower pace than others, they are perhaps best suited for the benefits analytics can yield. Here, we demystify analytics for food and beverage with an in-depth look into its features and benefits – but first, we’ll begin with a brief introduction outlining what the solution entails.
What is Food & Beverage Analytics Software?
Modern solutions for food and beverage analytics surpass the capabilities of software alone. Nowadays, these robust systems consist of cloud-based platforms that give food and beverage companies a single, easy-to-use solution for all of their food quality, safety, and compliance operations. These systems can collect and manage data, automate processes, and deliver real-time analytics for ongoing visibility into operational performance.
Historically, food and beverage companies have favored paper-based operations. From spreadsheets to binders and clipboards, longhand solutions have been the go-to tools for tracking key metrics and logging important operational data. Yet, these outdated approaches are flawed in a number of ways. Not only are they more cumbersome and time-intensive to use, but they’re also error-prone and easy to misplace. In the changing industry landscape which has been influenced by a need for rigorous, precise record keeping as a result of updates such as the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), there is no longer room for inaccuracies or missing data.
Analytics help companies go beyond compliance to make better, data-driven decisions supporting their brand strategy, better safety outcomes, and a higher degree of quality. We’ll dive into the benefits in greater detail in an upcoming section, but for now, let’s focus on how analytics software achieves all of that and more through its advanced features.
Key Features of Analytics Solutions
Each food and beverage facility is different, with unique safety, regulatory, and customer requirements to satisfy. Actively tracking your company’s ability to consistently meet these requirements will provide the foundation for continuous improvement. When you have visibility into areas where your facilities excel, as well as potential areas of underperformance, you can use data to make informed decisions.
Supported by real-time data collection, reports can give your management teams updates into key performance indicators (KPIs). They can assess performance by a specific plant, shift, time period, or product. Likewise, supplier performance can also be tracked via supplier scorecards, revealing insights into which vendors are constantly delivering on-spec, on-time shipments, and which may need to be reevaluated. Ongoing vendor monitoring is an essential component of any sound supplier compliance program, and can help your facility minimize risks from the moment your ingredients are received.
The reporting features available through analytics software also serve another distinct purpose: they help companies prepare for and navigate audits with ease. While paper-based systems can make audit preparation time-consuming and stress-inducing, the software’s reporting functionality makes it simple and effective. All of the data your company uses to inform its decisions can also be shared by inspectors to showcase the fact that your facilities have the proper food safety plans in place, that you’re carrying risk management procedures out effectively, and that you’re performing routine monitoring. This is especially important in a time where auditors, regulatory agents, and even customers expect data to be provided quickly.
Analytics software can support your quality assurance efforts in a number of ways, one of the most powerful of which is statistical process control (SPC). With modern analytics tools, data can be captured electronically, enabling real-time assessment against quality requirements. For example, tools like temperature probes can communicate results in real-time to your software solution for instant visibility. You can also monitor tolerance levels and quality metrics by item, line, location, shift, or attribute, including target weight, dimensions, and other factors. Data can even be captured remotely on smart mobile devices to support teams who don’t have access to or cannot work conveniently on computers. With real-time analysis against food safety and quality parameters, you can improve quality by using data to determine which actions are needed to minimize deviations, deficiencies, and omissions. Ultimately, SPC monitoring puts you in control of your quality, helping to improve efficiency and reduce costs resulting from returns, reworks, and non-conformances.
While the options for tracking KPIs through SPC monitoring are virtually limitless, here are just a few of the most critical food manufacturing analytics your system can help you track:
Number of Non-Compliance Events
Downtime to Operating Time Ratio
Of course, these are just a few of the many possible KPIs that can be measured through analytics. With software designed for food and beverage companies, you can track the performance of a broad range of data points to ensure your food safety and quality requirements are being met consistently.
Configurable dashboards give your teams high-level insights into the analytics that matter most to your company. Immediately upon logging in, your food safety and quality personnel will have at-a-glance updates into compliance data, performance metrics by location, and any other critical insights needed to support their role. Analytics software provides instant access to this data so managers can have it at their fingertips at all times, instead of having to manually track down information. Through having a data-first approach, you can significantly reduce the workload for your busiest employees and empower them to take swift action when needed.
Benefits of Food & Beverage Analytics Software
In general, analytics software makes it easier for food and beverage companies to maximize their resources. Having ongoing visibility into facility performance supports better program compliance, streamlines supplier management, and drives continuous improvement. Here are some of the specific ways analytics technology can help your company excel:
Identify Trends: Data that would traditionally be filed away in drawers or stored in spreadsheets comes to life with analytics software. Through powerful reporting and convenient dashboards, it becomes easy to draw conclusions based on visible trends in KPIs which may otherwise have gone unnoticed.
Improve Food Safety: With the ability to monitor against program requirements and spot non-conformances early, your food safety performance can improve continuously for reduced risk of recalls and compliance issues.
Reduce Losses: Real-time data specification reduces reworks and waste by helping your teams identify non-conformance issues faster.
Increase Yield & Throughput: SPC monitoring performed in real-time allows you to maximize your production. Specification limits are monitored, thereby ensuring every shift achieves an efficient and high-quality output on a continual basis.
Support Predictive Maintenance: Analyzing machine data can reduce downtime by keeping your teams informed about potential component faults before machines fail completely, allowing maintenance teams to perform preventive service on the components needing it most.
Reduce Costs: Real-time data analytics and dashboards drive continuous improvement across virtually every aspect of your company. The result is reduced cost of quality, maximized productivity, and more on-time customer shipment, which helps your company save and drives overall profitability.
What to Look for in a Solution
There are many options available for food safety and quality analytics software. Because food and beverage companies have such distinct needs, a solution designed specifically to meet the demands of the industry will offer the most appropriate tools for your facilities. Every quality analytics system will have the reporting, SPC monitoring, dashboard, and alert features listed above. To ensure the best fit for the multifaceted needs of your company, look for a solution with the additional key qualities:
The ability to support a multitude of plans, thereby allowing you to set up and define all of your regulatory and non-regulatory requirements and programs including FSMA, GFSI, and customer requirements
The option to set up all of the components of the Food Safety Plans and data sources associated with your programs, including SOPs, PRPs, and GMPs
Filtering capabilities for reporting to retrieve either aggregate or isolated data by location, shift, product, date, and other key attributes
Ultimately, to allow your company to improve, it is essential to have FSQA software that is highly configurable to support the specific processes and priorities of your company. With the ability to see into every aspect of your facility at any given time and place, you will have constant access to the information needed to make timely and effective decisions needed to drive your food safety and quality efforts forward. Companies that leverage the power of their facilities’ analytics are able to deliver more customer shipments on time and on spec, proactively avoid food safety and quality issues, and achieve ongoing compliance for improved productivity and profitability.