WMS systems dont just facilitate a healthy profit, they enable full traceability

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When people consider investing in warehouse management systems (WMS) they normally do so on the basis of making their business more effective and profitable. In food industries, focus is on more than just lean production. Its about ensuring public health and safety through total traceability of raw materials and finished products.

Many industries today rely on having total traceability in the unlikely event of something going wrong. One example is the automotive industry, where traceability helps when products have to be recalled. Another is the food industry where it ensures that the foods we eat are as safe and as hygienic as they can be.

One example is Swedish Cerealia Unibake, which produces different types of cereal-based products for the food industry. The company produces goods that are made from a variety of ingredients, then packed, transported, stored, sold and consumed within a limited time frame.

It is crucial for Cerealia Unibake to have total control of quantities of ingredients when baking: which batch these ingredients came from, where they originated and how long they had been there. The problem they faced, however, was that baking wasnt controlled in the WMS system. Another problem was that goods purchased in bulk like flour and yeast were stored in several large cisterns which were often refilled before they were completely empty.

PDAs facilitate information management
Cerealia Unibake implemented the Astro WMS system from Consafe Logistics to ensure full traceability for every part of the bulk preparation, storage and delivery processes. Once the system was implemented the challenge was to get personnel to input information into it. The solution was to equip personnel with hand held PDAs. These PDAs have an interface that is very easy to use. Today, documents are printed from the bakery system using bar codes. These bar codes are scanned into the PDA. Operators read the recipes transferred from the bar codes onto their PDA screens. They can then bake according to that specific recipe. For instance, they can add 100 kg of yeast and scan the yeast pallet every time they take yeast from it. This tells the system exactly how much yeast is left, when it needs to be replenished, and how old the remaining yeast is.

Cerealia Unibake has implemented two PDAs per production line, one at the beginning, when goods are picked at the warehouse, then one at the end for packaging. Cerealia Unibake has implemented traceability for ingredients, plastic packaging, clips, cartons, etc. When goods are finished they are transferred to a pallet. A signal is automatically sent to the warehouse that the pallet is available for collection.

Traced every step of the way
Cerealias system fulfils all requirements on traceability, and they are very proud of what they have achieved. The Astro system logs everything in the most minute detail. The attached Retrospect traceability module then enables the company to study all the traceability information they may need. Using Retrospect, the company can see which goods have come in and which goods could possibly be contaminated in any way. It then traces which pallets were replenished by those goods. This enables the company to conform to all regulations regarding traceability of goods.

In the unlikely event of a customer complaining about goods delivered, the system traces the specific ingredients containing the problem along with all other pallets or individual packaging containing those ingredients. The system provides complete information about who got what and when.

Trace everything from one label
Peter Lindgren, logistics manager, Cerealia Unibake, recounts a situation where one of their largest customers arrived holding just a label. The customer demanded to know who the batch was delivered to, what was in it, when the delivery date was and what ingredients it contained. Happily we could answer all the customers questions in detail. This demonstrates that we are ahead of the game when it comes to following all health and safety laws to the letter.

Meeting tough legal requirements
EU requirements mean that manufacturers are forced to implement a modern IT solution for both Warehouse Management and all aspects manufacturing. Using a well-developed WMS system enables all people in the sales chain to have full control of best-before- dates. Obviously, goods need to leave the warehouse long before they reach their best before date. The types of dates and alarms that can be set with a system like Astro are many. They let companies specify events such as last sales date, first warehousing date, etc. In the same way, the system will activate warnings according to what specific action needs to be taken, allowing companies to sell out goods as special offers.

By implementing tough traceability requirements on suppliers systems, companies are able to mix goods, both in the warehouse, and on display. However, the original labelling is crucial. If the original label isnt on reusable pallets or containers when they are returned, then they must be thrown away, creating additional costs for suppliers.

Without added preservatives
Modern WMS methods combined with deep freeze transport allow companies to market their food products as containing no preservatives. While raw materials are not frozen, all finished goods are. Bread is often thawed in the store just before it is sold.

Paul Steele is a freelance journalist. Here he writes on behalf of Consafe Logisticsone of Europes largest system providers in the supply chain execution business. The company, headquartered in Lund, Sweden, develops and implements IT solutions, consulting services and training for leading companies in Europe, the USA and Asia.

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