Lean is a set of techniques used to manage a work environment by eliminating waste, organising the workplace, streamlining procedures and establishing clear, visual standards.
In a food and beverage processing plant, lean initiatives help to improve safety, eliminate wasted space and supplies, and reduce errors that will undermine your business profitability.
In addition, the food and beverage industry is governed by strict health and safety regulations, and lean techniques can help you create better control of your processes to reduce or even eliminate the chances of flouting the regulations.
The 5S Approach
The 5S approach is designed to create a clean and clutter-free production area, and emphasises the importance of maintaining an orderly workplace and using visual cues to reduce the amount of wasted time that is spent searching, looking, waiting and asking, optimising productivity for your processing plant.
Below are some simple ways you can apply the 5S principles to your processing plant:
Sort: Reduce processing plant clutter by sorting through all of the items in a given location into essential equipment and unnecessary items. Mark all unnecessary items with a sticker, and move the tagged items into a temporary holding area where management can determine how to dispose of them.
A visually neat workplace enhances efficiency by reducing the time and effort in locating equipment.
Set in Order: Determine the best location for the remaining items, and use equipment ID to clearly identify the flow of ingredients through the processing plant. Use location identifiers such as labels and tags to clearly identify the storage place for every piece of processing plant equipment, and ensure that labels are clearly displayed.
Set inventory limits and re-order triggers using replenishment indicators and inventory labels to implement a just-in-time (JIT) re-order system for your raw ingredients.
Shine: Prevent massive wastage of ingredients via contaminated equipment. Clean your entire processing plant to eliminate the sources of contamination frequently, and use cleaning as a form of inspection to detect equipment abnormalities and impeding failures before they occur.
Put in place operator control labels, maintenance and cleaning labels, and warning labels to ensure compliance to all food and safety health regulations.
Standardise: Create guidelines and procedures for maintaining the first three S principles. Use visual controls like check sheets and schedules to provide daily, monthly or quarterly instructions on how to maintain order.
Display operating procedures and maintenance instructions, using labels and tags at the point of use, to ensure that your staff follow safe and efficient practices consistently.
Sustain: Regularly communicate and train employees to maintain the processing plant’s adherence to the 5S standards. Scoreboards, slogan banners and improvement displays can inform staff of key initiatives, track performance and recognise their achievements.
Nick Saltmarsh, London, UK
Track & Trace
Lean techniques go beyond the visual workplace, and include any systems that cut time wastage and improve energy and efficiency. Track and trace technology reduces the time and effort it takes to pinpoint and rectify errors in the food and beverage processing plant, helps maintain inventories at efficient levels and can trigger re-order statuses for the replenishment of raw ingredients for JIT management
The barcode system was first commercialised in 1974 on a packet of chewing gum. Over the past four decades, the barcode became ubiquitous as a track and trace tool, from supermarket to F&B production lines.
Barcodes offer simplicity, universality and low costs—unmatched by any other track and trace technology. The benefits of implementing a barcode system make a powerful argument for any food and beverage company wishing to:
- Improve production efficiencies
- Improve management and reporting
- Improve accuracies and reduce mistakes
Often, retail stores and supermarkets employ barcode for fast checkouts by scanning barcodes instead of the manual input of price tags, to improve customer experience by shortening checkout time.
By integrating the barcode checkout process with the backend inventory system, the store manager knows which stocks have been selling and require replenishment, greatly improving the logistics process and preventing loss of sales opportunities when inventories are not replenished on time.
Retailers also depend on barcodes on their membership cards to identify consumers and create profiles for customised marketing efforts and to understand consumers’ shopping patterns.
Nate Grigg, Salt Lake, US
Track and trace barcode solutions help businesses track and trace the goods from production to sales and distribution. For food and beverage processing plants, barcode stickers on the products help to track and trace mistakes and faults along the production line quickly. This greatly simplifies the process of identifying the problem and rectifying the error and problematic batches, and in turn increases productivity.
With today’s track and trace technology, you can monitor and track the sales and distribution of your products with unique unit level security codes and labels to gain a better understanding of your sales performance.
The serialised codes also allow you to run promotions and marketing activities (such as reward and rebate programs) and connect directly to your customer base via the code verification process.
An experienced track and trace solution vendor can even implement real-time analytics to help you locate and identify market activity using easy to access business portal interfaces with heat map dash boards, alerts and business reports that offer real-time details.
It is easy to see the potential of how the barcode system will help your business, but you should understand that the barcode label represents only part of the track and trace process. It is critical to work with a vendor that can deliver a system that fits into your process instead of the other way around.
Here are four key considerations when selecting your vendor:
1) The vendor should have labels that work on various substrates
Do you need labels that are freeze-proof, heat-proof or greaseproof? Food and beverage processing will put special demands on labels and printers.
Consult your vendor to ensure their labels can adhere securely and withstand your operating environment. You want a solution that does not limit future application, and this is especially critical if the labels are to be used in extreme environments, such as on frozen foodstuff.
2) Look for a track and trace solution that is simple and efficient
Numerous staff in your organisation will use your barcode track and trace solution, so it is critical that it is simple and efficient in order to be effective.
Ask for case studies to ensure your vendor has a good track record in delivering such a system for your needs.
3) A good vendor must provide the best hardware and software
A barcode track and trace solution comprises of the label, label printer and software. Your vendor should have a range of label printers that comes with user-friendly labelling software to customise labels if required, instead of pushing you off-the-shelf solutions.
We cannot over emphasise the importance of the vendor having good supporting software systems and data collection tools to integrate barcode systems with backend logistic software for a seamless and complete track and trace solution!
4) The solution should suit your workflow
Your workflow probably records the batch numbers of your products, so use a vendor that can provide a solution that can create serialised labels using your supplied number sets or standard alphanumeric serialisation sequences.
It also reduces implementation cost and makes the system more flexible, and makes it easy to integrate with your existing workflow.
Tamper Indicating Technology
Food and beverage products can adversely affect consumers’ health, and consumer confidence will be increased tremendously when they are assured that the products they are purchasing have not been tampered with.
Sabotage of your products at any stage, from production to delivery and sales, can bring your business to a halt with subsequent investigations and fines, and you can take the proactive step to deter such attempts with tamper proof labels.
Tamper evident labels and tapes are used as security seals to provide visible evidence of label switching, reuse or illegal entry into packaging, unauthorised service, product dilution, or alteration.
Protect your brand with security labels that show clear evidence of tampering and protect against fraudulent remarking. Some labels are designed to provide a visible and irreversible pattern on the label when removal is attempted, while others break into pieces to show signs of product tampering or attempted removal of the security seal.
Implementing a lean processing plant for food and beverages manufacture may seem like a daunting task, but the benefits are well worth the effort. There are vendors who can assist you in the implementation of lean operations, with consultants who can recommend you cost-efficient solutions.
Implementation of lean can be a science in itself, but many of the techniques are logical extensions of any food and beverage production facilities.
You should start your first steps towards a lean processing plant by inspecting your current operations, and using visual aids such as signs and labels to improve your efficiency and cut waste in your processing plant. You should also consider implementing track and trace systems to improve chain of custody tracking of your food and beverage products.