Big Data and Food Safety: The New Power Couple

How Big Data and Food Safety Can Transform Your Business

There’s no doubt about it, big data is one of the hottest trending topics in the technology world today. Still not sure what exactly ‘big data’ is? You’re not alone. The most commonly accepted definition, although the actual scale of size is disputed, is that big data consists of datasets too large processed by traditional methods or technology, like spreadsheets or legacy ERP software. In this article published by Food Quality and Food Safety, food safety expert Dr. Martin Wiedmann explains that big data can best be represented by the 4V’s: “high volume, high velocity, high veracity, and/or high variety”. Although big data has largely come into the world of technology as a means of gathering customer information, remarketing, and predictive analytics. And as big data’s reach has increased across the world of enterprise software, it has naturally entered into the food safety conversation although many food and beverage manufacturers have questioned the value of big data when it comes to their shop floor. We’re here to tell you why big data and food safety can, and should, be put to work together in your manufacturing facility.

Connecting your production machinery and workflows to the ‘Internet of Things’ allows you to amass real-time, precise data on all of your manufacturing operations and production lines—this can only mean good things for your food safety standards and your quality control operations. Combine this historical manufacturing with quality records, demands, and factory conditions, and you can turn your facility’s data into a predictive powerhouse, identifying and eradicating any risks or potential hazards before they ever become a problem. If that sounds like something your business could use, keep on reading for more on the powerful potential of the emerging relationship between big data and food safety!

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Monitoring Across Supply Chain

Linking all of your manufacturing equipment to the IoT gives food and beverage producers unprecedented access to production processes and data—all of your workflows tracked and overseen by the same system at your employee’s fingertips. Your supply chain can only be strengthened through this kind increased connectivity. Recording devices on all shop floor equipment can communicate with each other and the ERP system, and notify other components of their process if there ever is a food safety risk. As soon as that warning comes up, you can use the very same system to eliminate the hazard.

With the help of ERP and real time ‘big data’, You can both monitor and manage your entire supply chain from a single location. And when you are running your enterprise software through the cloud, any device with an internet connection can be used as that access point. Key stakeholders and executives can walk the shop floor, tablet in hand, and become more involved and active in the manufacturing and quality processes that are so central to their business.

Expert Traceability

Big data allows manufacturers more power than ever to prevent serious food safety infractions from happening—and to find the root problem and eliminate it quickly if they do. Collected and processed data from every production line, right down to where the ingredients came from, exactly how they were mixed, and where the product was sent next on your shop floor. With big data, your shop floor can achieve the coveted end-to-end traceability, so that you know the origin and destination of every single thing in your facility.

Say you are notified of a product contamination, and need to not only pull all stock containing that product, but also eradicate the source of the outbreak. The solution will be stored in the masses of your manufacturing data. There you have a tremendously valuable backlog of information which knows where every ingredient has come from, what has been done to it, what production lines have worked on it, and where in the workflow that contamination originated. That makes it supremely easier for you to track and pull all possible products and shut down the workflows containing the pathogen before they ever leave your shop floor.

And if your product is shipped out of your warehouse and sold on to distributors or warehouses before the problem is found, barcode scanning and lot tracking will provide with extensive sales data that is invariably valuable in the unlikely situation there is an outbreak, as you will know exactly where the affected product went, simplifying your recalls and public notification processes and allowing you to get straight to work to fix the problem.

Predict Hazards Before They Happen

Predictive analytics is one of the most exciting frontiers opened up by big data, and that’s no different when it comes to the conversation about big data and food safety. With historical information on the productivity and safety of all of your production machinery on hand, manufacturers can have the power to utilize big data and food safety principles to bolster compliance standards and prevent outbreaks from happening in their facilities in the first place. Food manufacturers can input the physical makeup of common toxins and bacteria into their ERP software and set the production system up to identify and immediately communicate outbreaks throughout the facility, shutting down the production line and pulling all affected stock, without you ever having to touch a button.

Manufacturers also know the ideal environments for the growth of foodborne pathogens—be it a certain temperature or pH. The system can then be built to notice changes in the atmosphere that might indicate an increased risk for pathogens, alert the necessary users, and consequently strengthen up quality control and testing around that particular process. With the emergence of bacterial genome sequencing, modern ERP software has the power to detect ever smaller amounts of the pathogens in a sample by analyzing detailed genetic and microbial information. With this kind of power, it’s no surprise that big data and food safety should be getting mentioned in the same sentence more and more these days.

Consumer Trust

Consumer trust is one of the most valuable things to hold as a food manufacturer—it is difficult to earn and even easier to lose. By combining big data and food safety strategy, you can rest easy without the worry of a business-collapsing outbreak. You can even leverage your move into big data as a marketing point; let your customers know how much you invested in the quality and safety of your products and they will give you their confidence, and business, in return.

It may seem like there are more recalls than ever these days, and it’s hard to turn on the news without hearing about some kind of retail or manufacturing food safety scandal. However, the increase in product recalls actually heralds a new era in food safety and regulations where manufacturers can predict possible risks and outbreaks before they ever happen; meaning recalls are preventive. And if customers see you being proactive about potential risks in your facility, they will be making beelines towards your products on the shelves.

Wrap Up

Although it still remains an emerging field when it comes to manufacturing, leveraging big data and food safety principles to transform your production processes is an easy and innovative way to push your facility to new heights, grow revenue and cut costs all while maintaining the strict quality standards you expect.

If you’d like to learn more about big data and food safety, or are a food and beverage manufacturer who wants to learn more about ERP and generating an IoT environment on your plant floor, contact an expert at Datix today!

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