For any food or beverage producer, quality assurance is, of course, going to be a huge part of your food safety policies. You dedicate huge portions of your budget and employee time to assuring that your product is always up to both stringent brand standards and your discriminating customer’s expectations. One of the key ways that quality managers can ensure they aren’t spending all of their time getting better from emergencies and reacting to quality failures is accomplishing closed loop quality management on their manufacturing floor. So, what is closed loop quality management? And what can you do to get your food and beverage business on the path to achieving it? That’s what we’re going to get into today.
Food and beverage producers undergo a cyclical process manufacturing system; producing similar goods to a specific recipe in bulk quantities. Because of this, the quality assessment process is cyclical and always recurring. Essentially, closed-loop quality management is the practice whereby manufacturers close the gaps between all the stages of their management process, reducing risk holistically by fostering collaboration between the stages and understanding that the more communication between the levels of production, the less permeable the manufacturing cycle is to safety risk—i.e. a ‘closed loop’
So, what does closed-loop quality mean? It means that the quality and safety of your product is not just your quality team’s job: every single employee and machine on your shop floor play a direct role in your final product, so it only makes sense that they are responsible in some part for its quality. Closed-loop management means cross-communication and shared information across your entire manufacturing chain so that everyone is on the same page when it comes to your brand's mission and quality demands.
One of the many ways modern businesses are investing towards total closed-loop quality management is through enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, which can incorporate data and information from all areas and team members on your shop floor; consolidating all of your policies and quality checks into a single source of truth for your manufacturing processes and employees.
Quality measures need to be orchestrated at the highest level to be truly effective. If multiple departments are doing different things and working in silos, not communicating their quality checks to other stages, you will inevitably open up holes (and serious risks) in your quality process. One team might think that it was another’s responsibility to check the product for a certain allergen or other known risk, then that team might pass the blame onto someone else for missing an error if it does happen. This cycle of blame is futile and can have devastating costs should it result in a massive recall if a contaminant does show up in your product. An ERP instance gathers all of your back-end data and QA processes into a single system; meaning everyone who accesses to that system knows exactly what is going on at every stage in your process, and what part they play in getting the product to market. Because ERP has the capacity to log huge amounts of data concerning your production process, active devices, and employee activity, no quality issue can no issue can go unnoticed or remain unattributed.
With ERP, you can track quality and assurance checks whenever you need to during your manufacturing process; from the research and development stage through any suppliers you may deal with right up to your end product. Any defects will be flagged and analyzed, then the rest of your teams notified so that everyone can work together to make sure that that error doesn’t happen again. These corrective changes can be mapped across systems and facilities, allowing you one place to update policy, rather than running around trying to make sure everyone knows the new actions that need to be taken. Instead of being a risk reactive food and beverage manufacturer who is consistently having to clean up messes and pay the price of recalls, ERP systems will help you become a risk preventative company.
The value of having that single source of truth can be especially advantageous to manufacturers with multiple plants and different offices either nationally or internationally. All your teams will be linked by a unifying system so that you can enforce quality measures across facilities and ensure that they are being followed at all times in all plants. Quality checks can be automated and enforced within ERP. Say something in an automated checklist is missed, or there’s a temperature reading not lining up to requirements your ERP can be programmed to shut down manufacturing on that line right away until the error is rectified. In the end, ERP will take away all the hassle of trying to synchronize and then enact a company-wide quality place. No more paper checks or worries that in the event of a recall or audit you won’t be able to produce all of the necessary information everything is stored in the system for you.
ERP software can be a powerful tool to help your food and beverage business reach new heights on quality management and ‘close the loop’ on food safety. With the help of a modern enterprise system, you can move your critical quality processes off of paper or clumsy, Excel-reliant legacy software and into space where your data can realize its full value.