Cool Monitoring with FOODsprint

Feature Article | May 27, 2009 by Carsten Lüdtge, senior editor

German Ordinance Governing Frozen Food (TLMV)

This is one of the German food industry’s most important regulations, and it puts three European directives into practice. It not only defines the requirements for the products and their storage, but also governs packaging, transportation, labeling, and monitoring.

Among other things, the TLMV stipulates that manufacturers must at regular intervals measure and record the temperature at which frozen food is stored. This involves drawing up a precise plan with measuring intervals.

For frozen food manufacturers, logistics is a critical point. In Germany, the temperature of –18°C must not be exceeded, as stipulated by the German ordinance governing frozen food (TLMV).

In accordance with the TLMV, deviations from this maximum temperature are permitted in exceptional circumstances only. For the most part, the temperature must be maintained throughout the entire supply chain – from production through shipping and delivery to the grocery retailer, to being sold to the consumer.

Manufacturers are responsible for complying with the TLMV until they pass the products on to the carriers. They then deliver the goods to the shops in refrigerated trucks and are also required to record the temperature during shipping using standardized measuring devices. Retailers have to continue the measuring once the products are put in their freezers.

Long supply chain increases risks

FOODsprint in Brief

  • Preconfigured industry software for midsize food manufacturers
  • Based on the SAP standard
  • Complies with all the established regulations (including FDA, GMP, HACCP)
  • Integrated and end-to-end batch records, recipe administration, quality assurance, production planning and control, and warehouse administration
  • Price and condition determination for grocery retailers, simple management of second-rate articles
  • Sales promotion mapping
  • Specific functions, including for sales (via telephone): purchase orders can be directly converted into production orders

The long supply chain means that there is a considerable risk of regulations being infringed. Such infringements may be caused by high outside temperatures or defective cooling systems. In the exceptionally hot summer of 2003, for instance, many carriers had problems complying with the TLMV, with some frozen goods never making it to the supermarket.

That’s why an efficient system for monitoring the cold chain is imperative. With support from an enterprise software solution designed especially for the food industry, the temperature is regularly measured and recorded at installed checkpoints.

Because the FOODsprint solution records and documents batches right down to the lowest level, the software – which is based on SAP Business All-in-One and was developed by cormeta – is also suitable for monitoring the cold chain. All you need to do is enter the temperature into the system. The values are then automatically assigned to each batch and updated throughout production and storage.

That way, it’s possible to track the goods at any given stage, using the batch numbers to find out how cold the products were at a particular time. And a mouse click is all that’s needed. If an incident occurs or if goods are called back, the source of the error can be localized quickly: Where and when was the maximum temperature exceeded? Is it possible that temperatures weren’t recorded at one point, or were only recorded at irregular intervals?

Tracking and tracing using standard codes

An industry solution such as FOODsprint has the advantage of not requiring an external laboratory information management system, or LMIS. The equipment is connected up directly and the data is transmitted straight to the ERP application. This process is repeated once the goods have left the manufacturer. The temperature is measured and recorded again when the frozen food is transferred to the carrier – for example on the ramp, just as the products are loaded into the refrigerated truck.

At this point, the carrier assumes responsibility, and the manufacturer can check at a later stage whether the correct temperature was maintained during shipping. This is done using Global Trade Item Numbers (GTIN) and Serial Shipping Container Codes (SSCC), which are generated by the manufacturer and assigned to the relevant batches. Manufacturers, carriers, and retailers use these codes based on the GS1-128 standard in their communication with each other.

The codes can be used to track and trace the current status of each shipment, ultimately establishing whether the partners have kept the goods at the correct temperature.

All eyes on the batch record

A look at the IT situation in the frozen food industry shows just how important an integrated ERP software solution is. Many companies don’t have one at all, and this makes documenting the batches extremely difficult. In such cases, a mix of several different software solutions is used in production, warehouse management, and other areas, none of which are interconnected. In some cases, paper is still the main tool.

However, if the data – in other words, the temperatures that were measured – is not recorded and processed electronically from start to finish, it won’t appear in the batch record.

The right processing stage at a click

With patchwork solutions, many questions remain unanswered. What happens, for example, in the time between production and freezing? Or between freezing and storage?

It would be necessary to check each individual system for errors. In an emergency, when the cause of damaged goods needs to be ascertained fast, this is an arduous task.

But not with FOODsprint. Here, the temperature information is displayed in the batch record, from start to finish. For each processing stage, the record can be generated with the click of a mouse in a matter of minutes.

Enabled for EDI and RFID

The industry is starting to rethink. Under pressure to keep costs down, IT optimization is an attractive proposition. What’s more, the demand for convenience and frozen foods is increasing – and with it the volume of orders. Companies want to eliminate integration gaps in their IT systems because those gaps are undermining traceability.

In addition, ERP software makes it easier for suppliers and retailers to exchange data. Most industry solutions are EDI-enabled – and some, like FOODsprint, are already enabled for radio frequency identification, or RFID.

No one is sure when this technology will become standard – but rest assured that it’s just a matter of time.

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