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Why Over a Million Pounds of Food Safety and Quality Data is Wasted Every Year

Posted on April 24, 2018 by Jennifer Kinion

stack of binders

Blog post courtesy of Roger Woehl, Chief Technology Officer, SafetyChain Software.

Safety and quality teams at America’s food companies have a responsibility to prepare and deliver useful information that can be easily consumed to ensure the health and growth of their business. Sadly, everyday, tons of valuable food safety and quality data is gathered but then wasted. It sits unused on worthless paper until it is old, stale, and then tossed out like so much moldy bread. This data has the power to help create bigger, stronger, more competitive companies, and yet the potential of this data to save millions of dollars goes unused. Why?

Diligent food safety and quality teams invest great energy to prepare the food safety and quality programs that drive the health of their business. Like recipes, programs define what data is needed and what quantities are required to meet the objectives. Teams create the forms, schedule the completion times, oversee the collection, and finally review and sign the results before sending it to storage. Occasionally the data is pulled and meticulously prepared into spreadsheets and reports to help feed the information requested from managers or auditors. However the vast majority of the food safety and quality data is never seen or used to help improve operational efficiency, reduce waste, drive continuous improvement, or myriad other factors that impact top and bottom line health.

With so much time and effort applied to program data collection and preparation, why is so much data wasted?

The Right Tools for the Task

Imagine for a minute what it would be like to support industrial scale food processing in your home kitchen. You have the refrigerator, stove, oven, and utensils to perform tasks, and you have the recipes needed to create the right end results. However you would not have the scale of tools and infrastructure to prepare food at production volume. Attempting this folly would result in thousands of pounds of wasted food.

As silly as this analogy sounds, this is exactly what many food companies are doing when it comes to preparing the food safety and quality data that drive business health. Industrial scale data processing requires industrial scale tools.

A New Generation of Tools

A new generation of Food Quality Management (FQM) companies, like SafetyChain, are bringing industrial data management to quality, safety, and operating efficiency. They support data preparation for food companies, across the supply chain, from small to large. They leverage modern technologies like cloud, mobile apps, big data and IoT to achieve new levels of cost efficiency and effectiveness.

An industrial scale FQM platform is like a powerful kitchen that has all the tools to ensure that data is collected and processed to produce easily consumable sets of information to serve the business needs. It manages the volume, processing, and distribution to ensure the right information is available in real time to everyone that needs it.

Just like a well-equipped industrial kitchen has all the tools to produce many types of meals from many different recipes and ingredients, so does the FQM Platform provide the tools to support many different types of programs, from safety, to quality, to operations.

The FQM platform provides tools to define programs and build the needed data fields. It provides the tools to define specifications and the real-time methods to collect and receive data, from mobile forms to automated sensors. It provides a compliance engine to perform real-time data inspections to ensure inputs meet defined criteria. It applies notification tools to ensure teams stay informed in real time. It delivers schedules to ensure data is collected on time. It maintains a vast, cloud-based storage unit to ensure data is fresh and accessible anytime, anywhere.

Finally, and most importantly, a modern FQM platform provides the data analysis tools that create real-time charts, dashboards, record views, documents, and audit reports. These web-accessible data views deliver a steady stream of reliable, useful information to feed company demands, from the plant floor to the executive suite.

If America’s 30,000 food companies used just 50 pieces of paper per day to capture data, then 5.5 million pounds of data will go to waste this year. Thousands of improvement opportunities will be missed, and untold millions of dollars will be lost. In the past, such losses and missed opportunities could be tolerated because the right industrial tools did not exist to solve the problem — surprisingly paper, pen, and spreadsheets were the most cost-effective and reliable data technology for the complex demands of many food production functions. Technology, however, is advancing as modern FQM tools brings new cost-effective technologies to the food industry. The early adopters will enjoy competitive advantage, and late adopters will scramble to keep up with the new status quo.

Modern FQM data collection will bring new efficiencies to the food industry as it harnesses the untapped potential of the millions of pounds of data that is collected and wasted every year in America. Those forward-thinking companies that embrace the power of data will be the first to reap the competitive benefits, and they will be well poised to leverage the next wave of emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and blockchain.   

Thanks to modern FQM tools, the future of the food industry looks bright and we can look forward to a day when not a single ounce of useful food safety and quality data goes to waste.

Let's Do the Math

1 pound of Paper = 100 sheets

30,000 Food Plants in the US, operating 365 days per year

Assuming an average of 50 sheets of paper per plant per day

= 5.5 Million pounds of Paper Wasted

About SafetyChain Software

SafetyChain is a Quality Management System (QMS) that helps food and beverage companies improve productivity, profitability, and compliance with a flexible, user-friendly software platform that captures, manages, and analyzes real-time operations data. Learn more at https://safetychain.com.