Food Safety In the Manufacturing Supply Chain

How are manufacturers evolving to meet quality and production demands?

As supply chain costs continue to climb, production demands increase and networks become increasingly more complex, manufacturers need ways to maximize margins while delivering their finest product to the end consumer.

At the same time, they also need to ensure stringent processes are in place for compliance with food safety regulations.

And while the benefits of regulations like FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act) are meant to serve the greater good of consumers, they require an evolution of existing operations and quality assurance systems.

This can create a variety of challenges for high-risk food producers. 

Let’s consider a variety of process changes that can support the move toward a safe, connected, and data-driven food supply chain.

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The Right Packaging

Manufacturers are presented with a choice each time they ship their products. Will they opt to purchase single-use expendable packaging? Will they consider purchasing reusable containers to offset some of the negative environmental effects and unpredictability of container availability?

While purchasing and managing containers offers immediate access to use them, renting reusable totes on an “as-needed” or ongoing basis from a third party can alleviate many associated responsibilities and risks.

With each option offering its own unique advantages and challenges, understanding the financial and supply chain impacts in each scenario becomes a critical part of the evaluation process. Here are some factors to consider:

Cost

  • Initial capital expenditure of anywhere from $500-$3000 per container
  • Investment in equipment for container cleaning
  • Maintenance & repair costs
  • On-site labor and management of containers
  • High transportation & back-haul costs

Waste

  • Idle safety stock to protect during production peaks
  • Storage when not in use

Risk

  • Product/asset loss & damage
  • Quality concerns & FSMA compliance

Partnering with a third-party provider can quickly take these burdens off of the manufacturer - offering peace of mind that they'll always have the containers needed to support production in the right place, and at the right time.

Poolers like CHEP have invested heavily in creating a network model that is engineered to cut costs, eliminate waste and mitigate supply chain risks for their customers. This allows food and beverage producers to avoid the arduous task of building infrastructure to effectively manage packaging, and instead, focus on their core business.  

The Right Technology

In 2011, the United States government passed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) to help better control and prevent the widespread distribution of unsafe food products.

FSMA allowed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to have greater visibility over all aspects of food production and aimed to shift the paradigm of the industry towards a preventative mindset, as opposed to the reactive approach that had been standard for many decades.

The regulation also drove home the importance of accurate monitoring and record-keeping for food ingredients during all stages of the supply chain.

Records proving a product was safe during the time of shipment not only protects consumers but also serves to protect companies from blame that may be passed after ingredients are combined into a finished product and distributed to the public – should that product at some point become contaminated.

As a result, standardization of these record-keeping processes became critical, as proof of accurate data may be requested by the FDA at any time.

As we move into the next decade and work through the challenges and lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA has released a refreshed blueprint to drive the industry toward even more modern approaches that match the needs of our present-day supply chain.

This New Era of Smarter Food Safety blueprint builds on work that has been done to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act and prioritizes four key elements:

  1. Tech-Enabled Traceability
  2. Smarter Tools and Approaches for Prevention and Outbreak Response
  3. New Business Models and Retail Modernization
  4. Food Safety Culture

An asset tracking program offers a number of advantages in each of these four areas. From increased supply chain visibility to reduced transportation and production bottlenecks, a strategically engineered tracking system can play an essential role in improving efficiency and reducing risk. 

As an example, CHEP provides a reusable asset tracking solution to all of our customers. Each tote is tagged and scanned as it moves through the supply chain, and scan data is accessible 24/7 through our cloud-based reporting system.

This enables the capture of key data points needed to support quality programs, along with a number of other benefits including comprehensive reporting on container history and shipping documents, as well as improved inventory management through better supply chain visibility. 

As with any change to the status quo, new FDA guidance will undoubtedly have a ripple effect, causing companies to experience challenges for which they’ll need to develop solutions. However, with the proper research and sourcing, these changes can provide an excellent opportunity to introduce new technology into the food production supply chain, helping prevent food-borne illnesses and leading to a healthier, safer American food system. 

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Food Safety In the Manufacturing Supply Chain | CHEP