In recent years the focus on and importance of quality management has intensified.
Market demand for product quality, safety, serialisation and fully traceability has increased. Food Standards Australia New Zealand statistics indicate recalls in food and beverage increased by more than 44% from 2017 to 2018.
Consumers today can’t help but be aware of food recalls with 24-7 media cover and the power of social media to both spread the news and influence the brand.
In a Harris Interactive poll, 55% of consumers indicated they would switch brands temporarily following a recall, while 15% of respondents said they would never purchase the recalled product again and 21% would avoid purchasing any brand made by the manufacturer of the recalled product.
Never has there been a more pressing time for quality managers to ensure they can produce accurate product data quickly and count on their quality processes to guarantee product specification adherence, every time.
How do we solve these quality management problems?
Until recently, age-old problems in quality management such as paper-based systems, data recall and process adherence have been challenging to fix. Digital solutions are providing the answer, specifically track and traceability solutions and a thing called ‘workflow automation’.
We present three of the most common quality management challenges our Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) clients face, and how automated workflows are helping to solve them.
Problem 1: disparate, paper-based information systems
Nukon’s FMCG customers have a common problem: they run their production work orders, preventative control plan or raw materials workflows by compiling information from a Manufacturing Information Systems (MIS) such as OFS, Manufacturing Execution System (MES), Warehouse Management System (WMS) and a number of other information sources and formats such as Excel spreadsheets.
The shift supervisor or production manager has to make sense of the information, plan the work order, then print paperwork from multiple systems and Excel files and distribute this to the production line. The operators then execute the orders from this paper. Quality checks are also recorded manually on paper.
Automated execution of the workflow solves this by integrating these data sets and spitting out a workflow that is sent to operators electronically. It coordinates different IT and OT systems, people and machines to run the process. The integration of disparate information improves the process itself and allows managers to analyze the workflow from a centralised dashboard. Here, they can find where and when nonconformance events might be occurring more often, and improve the overall workflow and thus the Process Control Plan.
Problem 2: Traceability and quality data integrity
This challenge is related to the paper-based quality systems inherent in manufacturing today.
Many businesses overlook the storage and management of quality data because once a product has passed inspection, the data is only needed in the event of a product recall or audit. But in a 2014 Procurement Leaders survey, 60% of consumers surveyed either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that manufacturers are not transparent about where their goods come from. With product transparency important for consumers, quality managers and CIOs need to be able to produce the data quickly, safeguard it from fire or theft, and ensure the integrity of the data itself.
Some problems we notice in data management include:
Manual data entry: Quite often, data from the paperwork is manually keyed into Excel or other systems like an ERP so reports can be run on the data. This is time-consuming and can be prone to error.
Poor filing systems: After a production run has been completed, paperwork is received by a data clerk to be put in filing cabinets. Finding the correct paperwork can be difficult if faced with quality audits or product recalls.
These practices leave the business unable to respond to external demands in a timely, responsible manner.
Solution: Improved data collection, storage and analysis
Workflow solves this problem by providing the tools to record information, and the backend database to store it. The removal of paper in the workflow means operators enter quality data via barcode scanning, photos or entry into a phone or device. This leads to faster collection and consistent entry of data, and can alert the management team whenever an issue occurs.
The workflow’s centralised database ensures that all quality information is kept safe, orderly and accessible. Once this data is collected, Nukon can develop dashboards and reports that allow managers to quickly identify and rectify production issues, and look up product batches quickly in the event of a product recall customer complaint.
Problem 3: Adherence to Process Control Plan (PCP)
Quality managers’ biggest challenge is in ensuring the PCP is carried out the correct way, the same way, every time. Given what we all know about human nature, this feels like an impossible task, even for the most dedicated team.
Operators often use paperwork to understand the work order and product spec, and which quality checks need to be completed. They only know the business process from training and SOPs, which means the way work is carried out can vary from operator to operator.
Managers often have no way of identifying and understanding how these variances impact on the PCP.
Solution: Accurate execution of quality management process, every time
Automated workflows are executed by a workflow engine. The engine does not change its behavior like people do, so quality plans can be tightly managed and executed.
The workflow prescribes set tasks to the operators to ensure there is no variation in the process. Alert notifications are sent to operators when tasks are required to be completed to allow them to act at the right time, and then carry on with their usual work. This forms the foundation of Nukon’s connected worker concept.
The competitive nature of the FMCG market means maintaining a high-quality product is a crucial way to preserve shelf space. Product reputation matters, which is why it is so important for quality managers to be able to preserve and access data.
By implementing digital solutions, such as workflow automation, businesses are able to deliver improved product traceability while also retaining accurate quality data.
Nukon is a digital transformation consultancy and delivery specialist, helping to guide companies towards greater performance visualisation and digital operations.
Nukon specialise in delivering independent, custom-designed solutions that combine strategy, analysis and technology to give visibility into key business processes, so they can be optimised.