Integrative Improvement Blog

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Packaged food: a tried and tested recipe for increased throughput

Packaged food: a tried and tested recipe for increased throughput

Achieving operational excellence is a challenging endeavour for the packaged food industry in particular, as the products they produce have a direct impact on the health and safety of their consumers. And never before has consumer demand and expectation been as fickle as it is today, evidenced by the fast-growing movement towards ethical sourcing and sustainable manufacturing. At the same time, food manufacturers still have to handle the pressures that more traditional manufacturers face, such as the need to increase throughput, cut costs, and differentiate products from competitors.

A poll conducted as part of Food Engineering magazine’s latest ‘State of Food Manufacturing’ survey, revealed that the need to increase throughput is the biggest issue that currently keeps manufacturing leaders up at night. Apart from new product launches and lines, factors leading to increased throughput would include operational improvements such as equipment upgrades and increased efficiencies, more and better marketing, and expansions to accommodate additional demand.


Building the foundation for operational excellence

If you want to truly achieve operational excellence, then your first step must be to get control over your manufacturing data. Effective decisions are always based on data analysis and information, not speculation or conjecture, and it’s no different for manufacturing-related decisions. For instance, analyses like statistical process control (SPC) or failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) can be undertaken in real time to improve the reliability and predictability of manufacturing processes.

In an effort to synchronise operational and corporate performance, while at the same time providing visibility into operations, the entire organisation should use standardised KPIs. Large multinationals, especially those with manufacturing plants across the globe, need to make sure that performance in all plants is measured in the same way so that the best business decisions can be made for the organisation.

Maximising production performance

Once you’ve gained control of your manufacturing data, you can turn your focus to the first critical area of operational excellence — production efficiency. The data will reveal how a particular piece of equipment has historically performed, and will enable the plant manager to determine whether it is running at its peak or if maintenance is needed.

Also, by using predictive analytics and trending data, organisations are able to prevent adverse events or downtime before they occur. This on-demand information reduces unscheduled downtime, lowers maintenance costs, and improves asset performance. Data analysis can also be used to improve operator productivity. An initiative like raw materials management is often a low-hanging fruit for a food manufacturer to explore, as it helps to effectively reduce scrap, as well as maximise yield and throughput.

An uncompromising approach to safety and quality

While plant optimisation is an important goal, it cannot come at the cost of product quality. When it comes to food safety and quality, process capabilities are perhaps the most critical area of differentiation for successful organisations. Because of this, industry leaders focus on aligning their quality initiatives to support proven industry standards. These standards can be used to improve production processes and develop best practices.

By integrating quality results directly into your production system you also give operators the ability to stop quality problems from the onset, thus keeping customers happy and eliminating the risk of costly recalls.

Sustainability a potential source for savings

Improving production efficiency and ensuring top quality are important for financial success, but reducing the energy needs of the organisation is an often untapped resource in both the quest for profits and social responsibility. In addition, sustainability-related costs (energy, waste water, etc.) are a large percentage of the total operational cost in most food manufacturing companies. Understanding how your energy costs vary with product mix, production volumes, and schedules is critical to improving efficiency.

Operational excellence and continuous improvement

Continuous improvement — a concept familiar to all manufacturers — is a critical mindset to strive for. Just like CI, operational excellence is an evolving journey where there is always progress to make. This starts with regular audits to provide visibility into historic and current operational performance. The reasoning behind this is the fact, that unless you measure something, it is impossible to control or improve it. Plus, having these benchmarks available allows you to improve metrics like yield, productivity and, ultimately, profitability.

DOWNLOAD: Industry Trend Report: Packaged Food for a broad-based outlook on the latest industry trends.

The TRACC framework helps organisations build standardised and integrated good practice and performance capacity across their Plan, Source, Make and Deliver functions. Simultaneously it accelerates their collaboration and alignment capacity to build world class end-to-end value chains, enabling the organisation itself to become the ultimate source of sustainable competitive advantage.
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