The future of rodent control is here. The traditional, time-consuming method of manually checking traps just got a lot smarter thanks to the science of IoT (Internet of Things).
What does IoT enable when it meets a device like a mousetrap? 24/7 monitoring, real-time capture alerts and up-to-the-minute program verification. This means that instead of getting caught up in the cycle of checking and scanning empty traps, now there is the ability to immediately respond to a capture alert and spend the time needed to identify the root cause of the problem. The result? Improved efficiency, audit readiness and protection for your business, brand and the public health.
If you’ve been considering the idea of going digital, it’s likely you have a few questions. The following are the top three things you should know about going digital with your rodent monitoring system:
Technology matters. Before taking a shot in the dark, you need to understand that many types of technology exist on the market, each with unique features and varying levels of detection sensitivity and accuracy. Understanding the pros and cons of available systems is a vital ingredient for success.
Not all network platforms are created equal. Network connectivity in complex environments is a key feature to look for when considering digital rodent systems in order to ensure your system is working reliably 24/7. Everyone is familiar with cellular and WiFi networks, but did you know that these communication platforms can be challenged in factories, food processing facilities, convention centers and other complex environments? (Other network platforms exist and you can refer to this article on wireless modules that operate in the sub-GHz bands to compare their features and characteristics).
False positives are common in many technologies available today. False capture alerts destroy the value proposition of remote monitoring and cause headaches and unnecessary labor. Be sure you understand this key performance metric and invest in a system that has solved this issue.
How to build a smarter, safer and more sustainable food supply chain: This was a big topic at the 2018 Food Safety Consortium last month. David McCarthy of IBM Food Trust led a panel of experts from the retail side of the industry in a Q&A session about their biggest challenges in the supply chain, the role of digital and how to achieve a higher level of transparency.
What are the main areas in the supply chain where there’s a major need for improvement?
Sean Leighton, vice president of food safety and quality, Cargill: One of the biggest challenges that I see from a supplier perspective is people’s assumptions around what is the supply chain—our mindsets, our ability to talk with each other on “what do you mean by ‘supply chain’”?
What is food safety’s role in the supply chain?
Cindy Jiang, senior director of worldwide food safety, quality and nutrition, McDonald’s Corp.: The supply chain is a supply network; it’s not linear. The most fundamental thing is to ensure there’s no disruption—that the supply chain can provide goods and food product to your customers. When you’re looking at the supply chain, [there’s a] change between the traditional thinking and the digital demand. How do you provide information in an effective way to your customers?
Howard Popoola, vice president, corporate food technology and regulatory compliance, The Kroger Company: Our supply chain means nothing if we aren’t able to deliver safe foods to those consumers in the last mile. Consumers are thinking about the experience that they’re going to have with this product. They’re not thinking about whether it’s safe or not. They’re thinking about the meal they’re going to make at home with the ingredients that they purchased.
The biggest pain point from the retailer’s perspective, when you look at us as being the last in the chain, is in transparency [and] knowing where the products are coming from. Transparency is very big for us. And it takes more than the retailer to open that door of transparency to the consumer.
What are the challenges you’re seeing in providing transparency?
Scott Horsfall, CEO, California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement: I think a big challenge right now and in the future is communication.
Leighton: I think the winners….are going to be the ones that try to achieve consumer trust. The future is no place for the three ring binders…it’s digital. Where does the data sit? How can you provide access to them through customers?
How does the digital transformation play into providing transparency?
Popoola: The consumers have already trusted the food industry. There are millions of people walking into retail stores buying product. If the trust isn’t there, they wouldn’t be doing that. We erode that trust when [a consumer] has a terrible experience with that product.
How are you seeing digital transformation across the supply chain?
Jiang: Digital is one of the top three initiatives of McDonalds; how do we connect with consumers? When serving 70 million customers each day, how can we get to the transparency to understand the supply—digital is one of the answers. From the supply chain standpoint, we’re looking at the analytics. We cannot think about only one solution. We have to have different solutions to get the end results.
Popoola: I think the food industry has to see itself as a big ecosystem. If we don’t see ourselves as an ecosystem that strives for the one thing,… digital is always going to be a mirage. We have to look at what is digital and understand the fact that [we have large and small companies]. It’s not going to be one size fits all.
How long will it take the food industry to get to a completely digital operation?
Jiang: Looking at the total industry digitized—the majority of the work can be done within the next five years, [by] looking at leading companies. But in terms of total digitalization of the ood network in the U.S., I think that will take another 10 to 20 years.
Horsfall: I think there’s a challenge with much of the farm community to get to this point. There’s also this issue with how you transmit the information. [Horsfall predicts] 10-15 years for the industry.
Leighton: Even a 100% digitized food industry has limited value if the players in the industry can’t pull together to deliver meaningful insights from it all.
What are the most promising innovations solving transparency?
Jiang: When looking at innovation, not just technology (technology is an enabler)— the most impactful innovation is human innovation: How can we work together? The GFSI platform started 20 years ago, and now it’s so impactful around the globe. [Now we’re] looking at how to harmonize food safety standards.
How can we standardize and harmonize… for ingredient suppliers?
How [can we] use the GS1 platform, numbering system to track on where the ingredient is coming from and how that product is made for us—what’s in my product?
Think about the human collaboration and how to improve where we’re at.
Poopola: I would like to tackle this from a different perspective: When we built technologies (whether off-the-shelf or customized) 20 years ago, we thought [it would be around for] the next 100 years. It’s clear today that the technology you have in place might be obsolete in five years. We have to look at the technology we’re building and acquiring today: Will it be relevant in five years?
Leighton: It’s hard to wrap my head around…deep learning and AI [artificial intelligence]. The insights we can gain from machine learning and predictive analytics. Could AI be human’s last invention?
Horsfall: In produce industry, which hasn’t always been in the front, I think that’s changing. [We’re] trying to bring AI and new technology to bear.
Many times food companies will simply say, “We have to change our culture” or “We’ve always done things this way”, but this attitude will not remedy potential outbreaks or help develop food safety protocols.
As author and businessman Andy Grove once said, “Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.” This statement could not apply more to the food service and manufacturing industry.
The first step to change is convincing your organization from the top down to buy in; getting your executive team to accept the cultural change from manual paper-based approaches to digital food safety is paramount.
Common objections will be the investment and positive record of accomplishment. Taking a proactive and preventative approach to everyday food safety compliance will have a positive ROI over time while ensuring the utmost brand protection.
Presenting the potential damages of being linked to a foodborne outbreak is a great place to start. It typically will open the eyes and slightly intimidate each audience member. After all, executives and board members do not like to hear “profit loss”, “stock plunge”, and “tainted brand image”.
While this can all seem overwhelming, it does not have to be. Preparing a strategy and evaluating the processes needed to fulfill this goal will help alleviate the red tape to get this off the ground.
However, before we prepare a strategy, it is important to understand the basic premise behind food safety and how technology can enhance it.
In essence, food safety fundamentally revolves around individual human behavior. Human behavior in turn, is largely driven by culture. In order to successfully develop a food safety culture, an operation must possess impeccable leadership and incorporate the highest standards of food safety.
Most notably, the HACCP plan and individual processes created are a reflection of the human behavior that shapes and molds the culture of an organization. In large organizations, the challenges are often compounded by an increased number of locations and stakeholders (employees, suppliers, customers, etc.) Within these operations, food safety culture and human behavior can potentially become compromised due to the nature of the organization, or attitude and work ethic of the stakeholders.
Technology can assist in the development and maintenance of larger food safety cultures through the use of extensive and dynamic procedures. Human behavior can be shaped by the resources available in today’s food safety tool box. We can now overcome the arduous “pencil whipping” of safety checklists via handheld, wireless and cloud-based technologies. Such technologies are ubiquitous today in the form of apps downloaded from the internet, cell phones, reporting platforms and omnipresent communications.
History has shown that in challenged cultures, individuals often behave as though they are not a part of the whole, and operate as one, rather than as a team that is linked together under one vision and shared effort. However, during the processing, handling and storage of food, we need all stakeholders to act as a collective operation and function as one. The growing adoption of technology is the fundamental turning point that can help drive human behavior and food safety culture in a positive direction.
The introduction of FSMA has brought both challenges and opportunities to the food safety industry—the requirement to document and record actions of a larger food safety plan is one of them. Conceptually speaking, you are only as good as your records say you are. In this context, we are faced with both the challenge of maintaining a positive and efficient food safety culture, in addition to the burden of increased regulatory compliance.
However, FSMA and the innovative technological era have guided the industry to a crossroads of sorts. I suggest embracing the FSMA mentality and implementing food safety technology into your operations. This will not only protect and preserve your organization, but perhaps more importantly, it will define your food safety culture, and implement a positive change into your brand.
This year, more food manufacturing companies than ever are actively seeking software solutions for food safety and quality management. The majority of food businesses still collect food safety records using pen and paper, which is a time-consuming process and is far from reliable. Fortunately, food safety software is drastically changing the way HACCP and other QA/QC data becomes collected and stored. The following are some reasons food safety software is a must-have in 2016.
1. Overwhelming Amount of Paperwork
Many employees at food manufacturing facilities—whether meats, baked goods, or beverages—still rely on pen and paper forms, checklists, and log books to manage their food safety operations. This allows operator errors and omissions to happen far too easily. Even well managed systems that use paperwork can reach a tipping point. Quality managers already have a big enough workload, and piling on the job of verifying all paperwork only increases the chances of a failure.
2. Constant Change in Food Safety Standards
FSMA, the most sweeping reform of food safety laws in more than 70 years, was signed into law in 2011. While most food manufacturers have only been mandated to register, the time of more strict enforcement is coming. Global standards for food safety such as, SQF and BRC, fall within this generation of compliance. The necessities of these programs are constantly changing, becoming stricter and introducing new categories of requirements. Food safety software offers an effective way to deal with the ever-shifting landscape by providing evolving solutions managed by a software provider.
3. Consumer Confidence
Consumer expect a safe and healthy product, and as such, a company must instill a feeling of confidence. When a product is expected to provide nutrition, energy and enjoyment any incidence of foodborne illness will only prevent future confidence in the product. In addition, the consumer is likely to spread the news among peers about how he or she became sick. It is the duty of the food company to do everything in its power to process, store and prepare food in the safest way possible. That process starts with ensuring a higher level of reliability in a food safety program, which can be achieved by using food safety software.
No food company wants to deal with the hassle of a lawsuit from an outbreak or recall. These events can cost thousands, if not millions, of dollars in damages and cause serious loss to a company of any size. Although many companies carry insurance for these occurrences, there still is the loss of sale from consumer mistrust. Investing in software can help companies increase profits by improving efficiencies. For example, companies can measure these efficiencies not only from labor savings but also from significant savings in paper and toner (i.e., saving $2000–$5000 a year).
5. Operator Error and Omission
In an age in which documentation is becoming digitalized, food safety requirements are becoming more tedious. Even the smallest employee error can have massive repercussions. The cost of added staff is one thing, but the reliability of the data and adherence to schedule is another. Relying on inaccurate data collection may result in a recall or damage to a company’s brand.
Pencil whipping (faking paperwork) occurs for a variety of reasons, from employees taking short cuts to avoidance of writing down out-of-spec data. Manual record keeping has proven over time to be prone to errors. Employees, bored with the distraction of measuring and writing down dough or batch temperatures, piece weights or metal detector tests, and fill out forms with moot numbers just to complete the form.
6. Monitoring and Notification
Being aware of control points is another way in which companies can avoid disaster. Food safety software can give companies the ability to monitor oven and freezer temperatures, metal detectors, tests or any other control point in real time. This capability also alerts users when a control point is out of deviation (doing so at a glance), along with sending custom notifications, allowing a plant to quickly address problems while simultaneously properly documenting the issue.
7. Audits: Go from Stressful to Easy
An upcoming audit can be stressful for any company, involving numerous people who are gathering an abundance of documentation. With food safety software there is no reason to scramble to get documentation together or waste precious time preparing it. Auditors can simply view a company’s software for any requested documentation. For example, a company can produce random temperature logs, metal detector times, SSOPs, customer complaints and a variety of other documentation in just a few clicks.
8. The Technology Is Available
One of the reasons why so many companies continue to use paper and Excel-based systems today is because they are unaware of the abilities and functionality available to them. After completing the formidable task of attaining a new-found level of compliance, some companies may find it daunting to continue to go to the next step of converting to a computerized system. Finding user-friendly food safety software that has good customer support, as well as solutions that are customized to user needs, is not necessarily easy. The key is to find software and a supplier that can provide the right solution for your company and food safety program, whether it’s HACCP, BRC or SQF, and ensure that it fits within an acceptable budget. Consider not only the initial cost but also the cost of implementation. What resources will be required? How much can the supplier help with implementation? Having the right answers and the true costs will assist you in arriving at the correct solution.
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