BSF had several challenges, all centered on inventory visibility. We introduced several new technology tools to complement our legacy ERP system. The goal was to use technology to provide visibility that did not exist. We gained a quick win by expanding the role of our JDA Warehouse Management System (WMS) to manage our production Bill of Materials, provide the visibility into Work-In-Process (WIP) inventory, and manage the movement of inventory for Work Orders into and out of manufacturing. Before taking advantage of the full WMS functionality this was accomplished by weekly inventory checks of the raw materials and WIP inventory and tracked on spreadsheets. Now it’s fully integrated with our ERP and we have real time inventory visibility of the manufacturing process.
Another tool was IQFusion- a SaaS-based manufacturing execution system (MES). By integrating this tool with our legacy ERP we were able to automate the collection of the labor and material inputs into manufacturing processes via hand-held devices to feed a manufacturing execution system. This software also gave us visibility and the ability to measure the utilization of the assets used in the manufacturing process.
Cloud storage allows us to have a scalable solution to maintain greater volumes of data for longer periods of time so as to support the food traceability initiatives
The third example was a vendor management software to collaborate and negotiate the purchase of BSF’s inventory. Like IQFusion we integrated this SAAS based solution to give us visibility into our purchasing and inbound transportation. Another benefit is better management and collaboration of the purchasing and shipping documents with our vendors. Our vendors use secure web portals to login, view and update their shipment details as well as communicate with our purchasing team. All of these examples help make the invisible ‘visible’.
The greatest challenge we currently face is data accuracy. The various tools and systems in use along with the proliferation of databases and redundant data challenge us to fill the visibility gap and manage data synchronization. How do we keep all of this data accurately synchronized across multiple platforms and databases? It all comes down to integration and the ability to overcome storing duplicate data across multiple platforms, systems, and databases.
Supporting Food Traceability Initiatives
One trend, while not new, is using the ‘cloud’ to take advantage of the pricing and scalable infrastructure to store more data, images and larger file types. Cloud storage allows us to have a scalable solution to maintain greater volumes of data for longer periods of time so as to support the food traceability initiatives.
Customers expect full traceability—from farm to fork and this places have more emphasis on more data for longer periods of time. We are also beginning to use cloud resources for disaster recovery and development testing environments on the infrastructure side as well.
Emphasizing on Traceability and Food Safety
I feel that the big challenge is the proliferation of vendors with narrow application solutions. The food & beverage industry is focused on traceability and food safety and the niche players are not offering a full supply chain solution. They are very good at very narrow silos of activities but can’t manage the full spectrum. This results in a piece meal approach with multiple software tools based on our customer’s requirements. There are very few industry wide adapted solutions that fit well for a small to medium sized company budget.
Study Others before You Act
Take a hard look at the solutions that software vendors are offering and see how they work with other systems. Very few are aware of their place in the supply chain and how they must interact with other vendor’s solutions to come up with a full solution.