QA Data Collection – Sunk Cost or Gold Mine of Information?

There’s no escaping quality assurance in the food manufacturing industry. And rightly so: with the catastrophic effects of contaminants like E. coli, listeria and Salmonella, foreign materials from production equipment and undeclared allergens, it’s no wonder food manufacturing quality assurance teams across the world spend thousands of hours each year collecting, sorting and analyzing food quality data. But with the progression of technology, you can reduce the cost and increase effectiveness of data collection in your facility.

How Most Food Processors Collect Quality Data

Matrix Controls - quality assurance data collection: a sunk cost or gold mine of information?Most food manufacturers see quality assurance data collection as a necessary evil and sunk cost. They are mandated to collect ingredient, equipment, process and environmental quality data, so QA and QC technicians are sent out into production, armed with clipboards and pens to collect data. When the completed forms are returned to the QA office, they are quickly checked for completeness to make sure the data collected is within acceptable tolerances, and then filed away.

The data contained on those forms is a potential gold mine of information. It contains long-term trends, statistical exceptions, seasonal variations and other valuable information that your production management team can use to improve production throughput, product quality and consistency, and increase yields.

 

Five Huge Benefits of Automated QA Data Collection

The problem food manufacturers must face to extract value from the quality data that they’re already collecting is to get it into a format where it can be sorted, analyzed, turned upside down and inside out. As technology continues to evolve, there are a number of tools available to automate your quality control data collection, giving you the opportunity for these benefits:

  1. More Accurate Data – Manual forms are prone to transcription errors and can get damaged or destroyed in the manufacturing environment. A mobile PC based system can collect much of the data straight from the production equipment for improved data accuracy, and can immediately replicate the data to a central database for safe keeping even if the device is damaged during use.
  2. Save Time and Money – By collecting quality data automatically from devices like scales, temperature probes, PLC’s and barcode scanners, your team can do their jobs faster. This can reduce the amount of overtime needed, or can allow you to reassign some of your team to other roles in the facility.
  3. Prove Compliance – Do you ever have the feeling that some of the data on your forms might not have been taken from the production lines? Like maybe a check was missed and the data was filled in at a desk in the office instead of down on the production line? Data collected by an automated system cannot be “cheated” and will stand up the most stringent audit and compliance tests.
  4. Real-Time Responsiveness – Many companies suffer from the effects of post-mortem analysis on production issues: they are searching for what went wrong after the fact, either hours later or even the following day. Technology based systems can analyze the data in real-time, allowing your management team to respond to issues as soon as they happen. For some issues, this might even mean identifying a troublesome trend and correcting it before it becomes an issue.
  5. Information Access – How many people and how many hours do you have to assign to a mock recall or audit, digging through old paperwork looking for specific information? Using an automated data collection system, you can access this information instantly, saving you and your team time, money and stress.

 

 

Are You Ready?

Food companies across the world must collect untold amounts of product quality data to ensure compliance with their local governing bodies, whether that’s the USDA, CFIA or others. But instead of simply collecting and storing that data to achieve the most basic form of compliance, invest in an automated data collection system to achieve benefits such as better data accuracy, time and money savings, higher compliance standards, real-time responsiveness and immediate information access. With so much to gain, this is a technology that is sure to drive a positive ROI to your bottom line!