Friday, July 22, 2016

Food Recalls and Traceability: When Someone Else’s Problem Becomes Yours

By now, most are well aware of the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act, or FSMA. The most sweeping change in food regulations in more than 70 years, FSMA aims to prevent food borne illness rather than reacting to it. This differs from the policies of the past which focused on responding to contaminated food recalls rather than focusing on how to keep those problems from happening in the first place. Much of FSMA concentrates on assessing risk-based hazards, establishing preventative controls, and quite a bit of documentation. You must document identified hazards, why you’ve identified them, how you plan to control them, and that you’ve actually done it.

Looking Forward & Back
A subset of this documentation process revolves around traceability. Traceability involves keeping track of where ingredients came from, what products they went into and where those products were shipped. Often times a food processor will find a problem themselves and track down the products in question or issue a recall if needed. However, an issue could be found farther upstream, posing a severe problem to users of that ingredient downstream if documentation and traceability steps are not in place. Your products could be the subject of a recall through no fault of your own. Merely using a contaminated ingredient could throw your business into a tailspin. The ability to track all of your ingredients at least one step forward and one step back is absolutely critical. Documenting the lot and batch number of each and every ingredient will make the recall process significantly easier for all parties involved. You could do everything right and still find yourself knee deep in a massive recall.

A Real Life Example
Much media attention has surrounded the major flour recall beginning in late 2015.  The E. Coli outbreak, which began with General Mills flour, has since spread to eight SKU’s of Gold Medal flour, Wondra flour, Signature Kitchens flour, Krusteaz Blueberry pancake mix, and most recently, two flavors of Betty Crocker cake mix.  As of July 8, 2016 approximately 30 million pounds of product has been recalled.

Tracking Product is Easier Than You Think
Imagine the difficulty in locating a product which you distributed in June and produced in March with ingredients you acquired in December. Confusing right? While tracking this may seem impossible, it would be quite manageable with proper and adequate documentation. Knowing exactly what went into every batch, where it came from and eventually where it was sent would make any recall faster and more efficient, even if you didn’t do anything wrong.

Preparation is Key
So what’s the take away and what can today’s food processors do? First and foremost, get to know your suppliers and trust them. Did anyone do anything wrong in the flour recall of 2015? No. General Mills is one of the worlds most trusted and recognized companies, but things happen. Companies must put policies and processes in place to cover themselves. Document everything coming in and going out of your facilities. For larger processors an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system may be required. ERP systems are great for handling HACCP protocol, traceability, quality assurance, quality management, and document management. While these systems can be costly and not for everyone, larger companies can surely benefit from their all-encompassing features which can prove their worth in the unlikely event of a recall.

Smaller companies who cannot afford such an expensive piece of software must be more aware of their processes. They must be more diligent when recording ingredients going into their products and where products are being distributed. Resources like those through the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center assist small to medium size food processors get up to speed with FSMA regulations and how to be prepared for the unthinkable. You don’t want someone else’s problem to be your problem.

Contact the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center
The Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center offers more than 25 years of manufacturing assistance in top and bottom-line improvements for food processors. Our Food Processing
Professionals are ANSI Certified in Food Safety through NSF to exceed your operational needs without compromising food safety. To speak to one of our experts, call 888.414.6682.


Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.mmtc.org.

Friday, July 15, 2016

5 Technological Trends Sweeping Across the Manufacturing Landscape


5 Technological Trends Sweeping Across the Manufacturing Landscape
For the past 20 years, technological changes have had a major impact on both our economy and society. From the internet spike of the 1990’s to the development of Smartphones and Wi-Fi in the 2000’s, technology is constantly evolving… and at lightning speed.
Impact on Manufacturing
Manufacturers can get ahead of the game and better address demand by adopting the latest and advanced technologies. By incorporating new technology into their facilities, manufacturers are able to improve and enhance operational activities, processes and the overall quality of their products, while saving time and cutting down on costs.
Technology has driven the manufacturing sector to a whole new level of optimal functionality where innovation and opportunities are pursued constantly. A few of the top technologies that are trending across the manufacturing landscape include:

Additive Manufacturing / 3D Printing

Additive Manufacturing is commonly known as the formal term for 3-D printing. Generally, its technologies build three-dimensional objects by adding layer after layer of material.  These materials include but are not limited to plastic, metal, and even concrete.
The machine works hand in hand with 3-D modeling software, commonly referred to as CAD (Computer Aided Design). Once a sketch of an object is created, the software generates data which is read by the 3-D printer and starts laying down layers of liquid, powder, or sheet material to create the 3-D object. This technology results in better time and waste management of resources, as well as enhanced productivity within the workplace.

Advanced Materials

Advanced materials are changing the world of manufacturing. Projected to fuel multi-billion dollar industries in the future, these materials consist of unique composites of plastic, glass fibers, carbon fibers, ceramics, metals and nanomaterials which are commonly paired together to simultaneously generate products that are stronger, lighter, and faster. These industrial technologies enable commercialization and provide a superior method of producing new products more effectively and efficiently.

Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing is defined as the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer. Manufacturers are increasing their use of this technology in order to increase accuracy, cultivate process speed as a competitive advantage, and internally maximize intelligence to make better business decisions and optimize supplier, distributor and service interaction.

Internet of Things (IoT)

Referring back to the Smartphone development back in the early 2000’s, IoT is an anticipated development of the Internet where everyday objects interact, send and receive data through communal network connectivity ― giving the manufacturing sector “Smart Manufacturing”!

IoT is enhancing business models, scaling output, and automating processes across numerous industries. This technology allows manufacturers to reduce downtime, improve quality, and minimize costs and wastes.

Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology is defined as the branch of technology that deals with dimensions and tolerances of fewer than 100 nanometers, particularly the manipulation of individual atoms and molecules.

Primarily used in aerospace and biomedical areas, nanotechnology is now being utilized by manufacturers to produce lighter and stronger materials for an assortment of products, including automobiles, sporting equipment and even eyeglasses.  Nanotechnology is especially useful in the healthcare industry, as it saves energy, minimizes wastes, and enhances medical applications.

A Word to the Wise
The aforementioned technologies are increasing in popularity and are progressively becoming more and more affordable for small to medium sized manufacturers. Nonetheless, all sized manufacturers must take a proactive approach in adopting these new technologies, as it is vital to sustain competitiveness.
The evolution of technology isn’t slowing down any time soon, which is why all manufacturers must take advantage of the manifold opportunities these new technologies are throwing their way!
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About the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center

Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.mmtc.org.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Retiring Baby Boomers: Filling the Void & Attracting Good Employees

For years, the retirement of the baby boom generation has been a large topic of discussion and a looming economic threat. Now, that dreaded time is upon us. Baby Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, are retiring in droves – to the tune of about 10,000 a day!

Barry Bluestone, Dean of the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University, predicted labor shortages of more than 5 million over eight years in an article written in 2010. Even manufacturing, which lost millions of jobs over the last decade, is projected to need 100,000 jobs over the next 10 years, many of them due to retiring workers. The problem is when those workers leave, so do their skills.

Changing Perceptions
Perhaps you are already feeling the pain of losing these skilled workers. While the perception of manufacturing (dirty, challenging, unsafe) is changing by utilizing lean tools like 5S and Visual Management, other ways must be found to attract engaged workers.

Engaging Your Workforce
Workforce engagement can be interpreted as the execution of discretionary effort. It can be seen as a combination of commitment to the organization and its values, plus a willingness to help colleagues. Engagement goes beyond job satisfaction and motivation. Engagement is something the employee has to offer the employer. Engagement cannot be taught, it cannot be required and it cannot be the single reason for discharge. Casual observation will not necessarily detect a disengaged employee.

Based on workforce engagement survey responses, we know that things like accountability, respect, opportunity, recognition, and communication are critical to creating an engaged workforce. Organizations need to create an environment to attract workers who may be thinking of going elsewhere. Unlike the recession between 2007 and 2009, potential employees have choices. If the same pay and benefits are available down the street, what else does your company have to offer?

Planning for the Future
The message is clear: If you haven’t already begun working on succession planning or you haven’t already begun to look at ways to attract and keep good employees, now is the time. Start with communication and trust. Find ways to involve employees as they are the subject matter experts at what they do. Train properly - from onboarding through on-the-job training by using the Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle. Recognize and reward good work. Praise in public and, if necessary, discipline in private. Provide opportunity, and most of all, treat employees with respect. Show what you have to offer and you will be taking steps to solve the Baby Boomer exit crunch!

Contact the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center
The Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center can help minimize the vulnerability an organization faces when a key leader leaves – whether planned or not. To learn more about MMTC’s Succession Planning Solutions, call 888.414.6682 or email inquiry@mmtc.org.


About the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center
Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.mmtc.org.