The traceability of products from material origins through manufacture to final destination is a key system requirement in many industries, whether as a compliance-critical requirement, or an analysis tool for continuous improvement strategies.
According to Richard Dyke, vice president, with ERP provider SYSPRO Canada, “the most critical piece for our clients is knowing you have the right things being shipped out the door and documenting that with complete reliability and minimal work.”
The essence of the changes to the Safe Food for Canadians Act aims at strengthening Food traceability in Canada.
“Both makers and importers of food must be able to follow an item or a group of items from one point in the supply chain to another. And in the case of a recall, to be able to quickly and efficiently collect and dispose of contaminated products. Finally, to document and enact the procedures and controls needed to make food safe in Canada, including mandatory record keeping requirements,” said Dyke.
“For many food processors, their current challenge is to find a solution to traceability that is both cost-effective and a good fit for their current business operations,” he said.
In a recent report on Manufacturing Innovation in Atlantic Canada, SYSPRO investigated manufacturing trends, government incentives, academic and private alliances and growth along with a series of SYSPRO customer stories, local insights and future predictions.
“At one end, our clients want to be able to enter a forecast, in terms of what’s in demand from the client, from industry, and getting the right supplies at the right time. They also want the ability to do two-stage receiving-i.e. quarantine the order while doing quality assurance tracking, managing expiry dates, managing lot by lot,” he added.
SYSPRO’s lot traceability and serial tracking functionality afford this full visibility to the origins, build and customer destination of products and batches, so that there is the means to rapidly trace and analyze the source of defects, should they occur, Dyke noted.
“For so many of our clients in food and beverage lot traceability, and the order of lots is mission critical, and we build confidence into that. Whenever we buy raw materials you need to keep track of the lot they were from. As you put them into production you create a new serial number to track them. As you ship them out the door you need to track the lot number as it goes out, and remaining inventory. You need to be able to type in the serial number and see where all that product resides, and you need to be able to identify the client, order date, etc. and see what is potentially left in the warehouse for disposal or quarantine. You also need to be able to trace backwards on ingredients, i.e. sugar. Our total recall abilities allow you to do so in a minute or two versus a week or more with a paper backed system,” Dyke said.
Saint John, New Brunswick-based Crosby’s supplies molasses and sweeteners to retail and industrial markets under the direction of Jim Crosby – a fourth generation molasses purveyor.
While molasses continues to be the mainstay of the business, Crosby’s also has an expanding line of dry-sugar-based products and syrups. Sold across Canada, the New England states and other international locations including Korea and Iceland, Crosby’s imports over 6,000 tonnes of molasses a year.
Crosby’s has been working together with SYSPRO to tailor its ERP software which helps it to stay competitive in the highly regulated food and beverage industry.
“Since partially implementing SYSPRO’s traceability module, we have reduced the average trace time by 50% from 16 hours down to 8 hours – and we have set a goal of significantly further reducing trace time down to one hour,” said Kelly Moore, Comptroller at Crosby Molasses Company Limited.
Expiry date and shelf-life information can also be recorded and powerful queries enable both upward and downward searches by stock code, lot number and transaction type.
SYSPRO’s integrated nature enables full backward and forward traceability, as well as comprehensive record-keeping to meet strict compliance requirements, noted Dyke. Shelf-life management is facilitated through expiry dates and you can use SYSPRO’s customization and custom form features to record other compliance-code dates, as well as to capture storage and transport compatibility codes.
“Flexibility is very important for our users. SYSPRO ERP software works for us providing information. Unlike other similar software solutions, we don’t have to sweat to get the information out,” Moore said.
“SYSPRO lets you look at different ways of building things, testing, and performing a ‘what-if’ analysis. It also helps with co-and by-products, whether it’s keeping track of rejects/outcomes of the quality control process. We also work with the warehouse management end-if I promised a client I will have a batch of goods delivered to them, how do I make sure what I’m shipping out manages that by oldest stock first? This gives you the tools to that, and the visibility into the inventory, and control over who is picking what,” Dyke said.
The company also does a lot of work with documentation control, such as with export declarations, generating forms that are used in the compliance process.
“The key to success in our clients’ experience has been understanding very well what the regulatory bodies require and being able to mimic that in your computer system.
For example US border services requires that we know exactly how many miles from border end point to delivery point. I find that we have a strong client community. We have user group sessions where clients talk about common issues of concern. In the SME market where we play there is a great deal of ‘collegiality.’ When we’re dealing with clients we can often suggest who they should talk to. For the latest changes I see that people seem to be rapidly up to speed-they take a great interest and want to make sure they have it right. It makes a big difference to the bottom line,” said Dyke.
“For example once the order is ready to go out the door on our end, we can dial into the shipper system, schedule the order, retrieve the shipment order number, and the shipper system spits out the paperwork and documentation,” he said.
“When it comes to getting an audit done, the auditor just has to verify that procedure has been set up and followed through. It makes the certification process a lot easier.
But a certification audit will be unique to each individual client. SYSPRO works with a variety of other systems-some will want integration through to a UPS or FedEx type of system. SYSPRO itself is a pretty complete practice-it handles everything from basic accounting needs through to warehouse management. For the transport partners, we often end up integrating it into their systems-planning and automatically scheduling pick up and deliveries,” said Dyke.
Business intelligence is another big trend in terms of what’s impacting clients.
“The environment is becoming very competitive so being able to spot trends and purchasing patterns, like product sizes etc., and having the ability to slice and dice data and to get at critical points is increasingly important for anyone in the sector-you need the right tools to drill down and find the answers,” he said.
Additionally, improvements in forecasting, scheduling and order fulfillment can have a positive impact on customer service. The same automated system that addresses the ‘overhead’ requirement of traceability can also be used to improve bottom-line profitability and competitiveness.
“Compliance requires linking ingredients to end-items. This is best accomplished by real-time recording of lot numbers and the actual quantity consumed. Using bar coding, computer-based batch sheets generated by the ERP system will link consumption to end-items with accuracy,” he said.
Another SYSPRO client, Natural Factors, headquartered in Coquitlam, British Columbia produces millions of tablets and capsules every month. On a daily basis, the company packs an enormous variety of finished goods into thousands of bottles, and fills hundreds of sales orders. At present, Natural Factors carries thousands of active stock items, with new formulations continually introduced. The company’s corporate structure includes company owned distribution centers and manufacturing facilities.
Natural Factors began automating its systems in 1992, at which time the company chose SYSPRO Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software for its total supply chain management and financial tracking capabilities.
Today, SYSPRO continues to provide Natural Factors with complete control over the planning and management of its operations, including sales, accounting, manufacturing and distribution. As a manufacturer of naturally-sourced nutraceuticals and supplements, Natural Factors places enormous emphasis on quality control.
“The sales order entry functions are straightforward and intuitive. In addition, they’re integrated with inventory and inventory management. At any time, and at any stage of the supply chain, we can get accurate, real time information on our products.” Jaime de Sequera, Chief Information Officer, Natural Factors.
As batches are produced, each one is given a specific, serialized lot number. That identifier allows Natural Factors to know everything about its product, including where the raw materials came from, when they were received in inventory, who received them, and to what job the raw materials were allocated, he said.
“Lot Traceability builds a very useful database,” de Sequera says. “In the event that a problem occurs, we can trace the product back to its source. Without that function, we would have much less control over the quality of our products.”
When the US Department of Homeland Security (under the Bioterrorism Act), issued guidance for the entry and release of imported food products into the United States, Lot Traceability provided an additional dividend, the company said. Essentially, the Department of Homeland Security wanted assurances that Natural Factors had the systems in place to provide relevant information if there was ever a problem with a product. SYSPRO’s Lot Traceability provided that capability.
In 2005, Natural Factors decided to switch SYSPRO from its original Unix platform to Microsoft’s SQL Server 2000. The migration to Windows, which took two months, allowed Natural Factors to leverage Microsoft’s .NET component architecture to deliver SYSPRO’s e.net solutions. This new wave of Web services enables functions such as remote sales order entry and inventory status determination using remote devices such as palm pilots and cell phones, noted the company.