How traceability software can help food manufacturers

What is food traceability software?

Food traceability software is a type of system that helps you track ingredients in the supply chain. Food traceability software helps you get a complete overview of:

  • Where raw materials come from (from which suppliers)
  • In which products the raw materials have been used (product batches)
  • How the raw materials have been processed in the production (quality controls)

In a nutshell, food traceability software makes it possible to track and trace how ingredients move in your supply chain.

Traceability software for food manufacturing is typically linked to or a part of an ERP software solution, however not all ERP systems have full-end-to-end traceability.

Many processes like tracking & tracing raw materials & performing quality inspections are still performed using spreadsheets and paper.

These manual processes quickly become a time-intensive and error-prone affair for food manufacturers. All paper needs to be documented, recorded and stored correctly. Any gaps or mistakes in the process can have devastating consequences for food manufacturers.

Traceability software for food manufacturing come in many forms and sizes

What are the consequences of not having food traceability software?

If a product is deemed unsafe all products need to be recalled from the market.

The average cost of such a recall is estimated at $10M in addition to brand damages (Food Marketing Institute). In 2008, The Peanut Corporation of America found itself in precisely such a recall. The company was found to have shipped products containing salmonella, leading to nine deaths and sickening over 600 people. More than 3,200 products were recalled and Peanut Corp. eventually filed for bankruptcy protection.

Food traceability is required by law in order to stop contaminated food from spreading

To avoid food-related scandals like The Peanut Butter Corporation. Food traceability is now required by law. Food manufacturers in the EU today must be able to document where ingredients come from and to whom the products have been sold (a term commonly referred to as chain traceability").

Food traceability software helps food companies avoid the same faith as Peanut Corporation of America. Food traceability helps identify a product mistake, contain the mistake and recall only related products. Food traceability software makes it easier to pass food traceability audits, as food companies are able to demonstrate complete food traceability with a simple search from the cloud-based traceability solution.

Food safety traceability software is key for ensuring food safety

Documenting food safety in the food industry

Beyond food traceability, food companies also need to show that their products are safe to eat. A failure to do so means that the product cannot be sold.

In order to document food safety companies must perform an array of quality control inspections. This includes daily quality control inspections such as cleaning, heating, cooling, storing.. the list goes on. The management of quality control inspections is referred to as HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point)

What is HACCP?

The aim of HACCP is to provide a framework for monitoring the total food system, to reduce the risk of food-borne illness. The system is designed to identify and control potential problems before they occur.

Why is HACCP so tricky?

Managing quality controls under the HACCP principles is a tricky and labour-intensive affair. Most food companies still use paper for documentation. Paper makes it difficult to identify and track errors in time and makes it close to impossible to track quality assurance progress. Because HACCP is so difficult, many food companies hire expensive consultants to help them document correctly. However, consultants don't remove the paper trail, quite the opposite they add to it. This is where food traceability software comes in handy. It helps food companies digitalise food safety inspections, track errors and identify root causes in food production.

HACCP controls involves many day-to-day inspections

Is Food Traceability & Food Safety two different things?

Many food businesses think that food traceability & HACCP controls are two separate things, but this is not correct. Food traceability and quality controls go hand-in-hand.  

Let's look at an example to make this clear. Imagine a product is deemed unsafe to eat, because of a freezer malfunction. All related products to that malfunction now need to be identified and recalled.  In this case, we need to trace products back to an activity, the freezer. The origin of where ingredients come from is in this case irrelevant.

Food traceability and food safety go hand in hand

What does a good food traceability solution do?

Traceability software for food manufacturing, not only tracks where products come from but also tracks how it was made, effectively documenting all related activities throughout the production process.

Good traceability software for food manufacturing is:

  • Designed to be easy to use for operators  
  • Makes it easy to link ingredients to production batches (ideally through scanning of bar codes or QR codes)
  • Makes it easy to complete quality inspections, assign tasks and track process

How do I pick the right traceability software for my food manufacturing business?

Choosing the right food traceability system depends on your size, place in the supply chain and the complexity of your production

Picking the right food manufacturing traceability software depends on your current production setup

You have outsourced your production

If you have outsourced your production, what you need  is probably just a simple ERP solution that helps you track inventory, orders & how many products you have sold.

If you are in this category: Tracezilla or Tracelink are good ERP software solutions for you.

You have a small production with few ingredients

If you are a food manufacturer with limited product complexity (small baker, butcher etc.). Keeping track of the ingredients is not your problem, quality assurance is. In this case, you need a quality management system that helps you keep track of your HACCP controls, and reduce time and money on food safety compliance. A food safety traceability system.

If you are in this category: FoodDocs or Esmiley might be good solutions for you.

OBS! If you know that you will increase your product offerings, be aware that you might need to replace the system with a full end-to-end system, and that the solution, therefore, is a temporary solution for you.

You have a small-medium sized production with multiple ingredients

If you are a food manufacturer that uses an array of ingredients in your production (candy bars, jam, brewery) you need a full end-to-end system that helps you track and trace ingredients and perform quality controls to keep track of HACCP controls.

Having a single food traceability software system for inventory management, traceability and quality controls helps you get end-to-end transparency of your food production processes, reduces time & money on compliance and protects you against potential product recalls.

If you are in this category: Flows (if EU) or FoodLogiq (if US) are good solutions for you  

OBS! Be aware of investing in enterprise solutions like SAP or Microsoft Dynamics too early. They are expensive and difficult to set up, requiring a large upfront investment for you.

You are a large food manufacturer with a complex production

If you are a large food manufacturer,  you need a full enterprise system to help you keep track of your ingredients, production batches and quality controls. Integrations will be crucial for you, and you'll need to invest in "one system" to rule them all.

Having a single cloud-based enterprise system for inventory management, traceability and quality controls helps you get end-to-end transparency of your food production processes and makes it possible for you to automate data entries (if setup correctly)

If you are in this category: Microsoft Dynamics or SAP are the solutions you are looking for.  

OBS: Make sure not to invest in a full enterprise solution too early, it's expensive, takes time to implement and requires extensive training to use

How traceability software can help give you a competitive edge on the market

A recent study from EIT Food shows how the new generation, GenZ demands food transparency. Nearly 8 in 10 (78%) would like food labels to have more precise information on the way food is processed.

In a time of inflation and shrinking budgets, transparency creates a massive opportunity for food brands to differentiate. For food manufacturers, the proof is in the pudding, quite literally, it starts and ends with documentation. Being sustainable or organic doesn’t matter if you can’t prove it!

Brave food companies can benefit massively from turning a 'documentation pain' into a 'brand gain', by openly sharing and communicating where products come from and how it was made.

It all starts with having a good food traceability solution implemented in your business.

Traceability software can help you stand out from competitors

How Flows can help you

Flows is a cloud-based traceability software solution designed for small and medium food manufacturers in the food industry.

Features include:

  • Mobile scanning & tracking of ingredients
  • Customised quality inspection forms
  • Inventory Management and much more..

Flows traceability management application helps users schedule, track and manage food production processes in the cloud. Users can also manage compliance with template workflows to implement corrective actions and centralize required record keeping. Flow's recall management feature allows users to capture and track quality issues.

Get in touch, we'll love to help you

If you want to know more about Flows and how we can help you save time & money on compliance, reach out to us, we'll love to help you.


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