Automated production tracking in pet food industries

Written by Michael Riefler

dog nose for tracking tracing

Tracking & tracing (but not with a nose)
– Photo courtesy of Randy Son of Robert

Managing Foodborne Crisis: How Traceability Keeps Your Pets Safe From Foodborne Illness

The recent salmonella egg scare is just the latest in a string of food-related illnesses linked to contamination. In 2006, E. coli found in spinach left 205 people sick and took three lives. In March 2007, pet food tainted with melamine was responsible for kidney failure in nearly 500 pets, leaving hundreds of cats and dogs dead.

Over the years we have seen many pet food recalls due to cross-contamination, dangerous toxins and unsafe levels of heavy metals found after hundreds of family pets were sickened.

Often times those recalls were massive and affected many different brands, leaving government regulators and millions of concerned pet owners questioning the source of the pet food ingredients, the source from which the raw materials came from, and the location where the products were packaged.

The ability to trace those ingredients, parts and lots to the source is essential to food safety in the food manufacturing industry.

Pet food manufacturers today depend on only a few large food companies as customers.

Rising costs of raw materials, heightened consumer awareness of food safety, and stricter government regulations mean increased competition and lower profit margins for the manufacturers.

This means that company profitability depends on efficient operations.

Pet food manufacturers must either accept lower profit margins or increase efficiency and decrease costs. Raising prices is no longer an option to fix falling profit margins. Today’s businesses must also be able to ensure brand protection – no processor or distributor wants the bad reputation associated with selling a tainted product. Customers are likely to stray from brands known for bad quality.

Automated Traceability

Fortunately, the same systems that ensure food safety can also be used to streamline operation through a practice called Automated Traceability. Traceability allows for mock food recalls. Food companies conduct these recalls on a quarterly basis to ensure that a real recall will run smoothly. Even one failed mock recall may result in a customer switching to another supplier.

For many food processors, the current challenge is to find a solution to traceability that is both cost-effective and a good fit for their current business operations.

ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software solutions provide powerful lot and serial tracking functionality which provides the at-a-glance “source to sale” tracking to ensure food safety.

Advantages Of Automated Production Tracking Systems

The advantages of an automated production tracking system within ERP systems are significant:

#1 Instant Traceability

  • Provides end-to-end traceability for every action that can impact food, starting with orders placed with suppliers and ending with the receipt of finished goods.
  • At any point in the supply chain, a food processor can trace back to the source of ingredients, or forward to the final product.
track down all steps

You must be able to track back all steps to the source
– Photo courtesy of Jenny Downing

#2 Confidence

  • With instant traceability, food processors can gain the confidence of customers, auditors and regulatory inspectors.
  • By establishing confidence among these people, processors can establish a competitive advantage that can add real, measurable value to the business.

#3 Better Bottom-Line Performance

  • Food processors have the ability to improve the financial performance of the company.
  • Detailed visibility into product line costs, manufacturing efficiency, inventory spoilage and other operational metrics can expose hidden opportunities for improvement.

Thanks to automated tracking systems, the source of contaminated pet food in 2007 was traced back to wheat gluten in Wangdien, China. Companies were then able to quickly identify and pull the affected items off store shelves and prevent any of the remaining stock from ever leaving warehouses. In the end, fast and efficient recalls helped assure pet owners that their furry friends were safe from the risk of coming into contact with the contaminated packages.

Automated traceability systems must not detract from the flow of the supply chain, which is why a system integrated barcoding is important. Food items must be linked from source to destination. This is best accomplished by the real-time recording of lot numbers at the source, along with the quantity actually purchased or consumed at the destination.

According to studies, entering barcode data is at least 100 times faster and more accurate than traditional keyboard entry, producing a dramatic increase in efficiency and productivity. As a result, barcoding can eliminate the need for additional warehouse staff and yield tremendous returns in a short period of time.

ERP software can provide an integrated solution for all inventory, warehouse management, sales, purchasing and work-in-progress transactions, reducing data entry time and increasing operational accuracy. Gone is the need to perform post-processing paperwork.

barcode pet food traceabilitySophisticated barcoding systems come as a web application and are fully interoperable. This means that the program is compatible to run on any piece of hardware utilizing Internet Explorer, such as desktop or laptop computers, handheld barcode scanners, and even cell phones, enabling businesses to access data from anywhere in the world.

In addition to barcoding, top ERP companies provide other solutions that increase efficiency, maximize throughput, and enhance product safety for businesses.

The ability to provide the right product at the right time is vital to success of businesses working in the pet food industry. Automated traceability enables those pet food manufacturers to consistently deliver high-quality goods to meet market demands. And when a foodborne crisis hits, manufacturers can be prepared to manage comprehensive recalls with an ERP solution, preventing contaminated food from ever reaching the family dog’s food bowl.

This article was written by Michael Riefler and edited by Lauren Tasker on behalf of SYSPRO USA.


Since its inception in 1978, SYSPRO has been delivering state-of-the-art business solutions to some of the world’s leading companies. As a global leader in the production of world-class ERP software, the company now caters to the specialized needs of 14,500 licensed companies in more than 60 countries worldwide.

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