Laboratory testing is a crucial part of the research and development (R&D) process within the food and beverage industry. Before any product reaches the market, it must undergo many varied tests performed by different groups, different departments and even different companies.
The tests are frequent and rigorous — they can range from chemical and biochemical testing through to nutritional analysis and shelf life testing — and the reason for so many tests is simple: organizations need to be certain all ingredient properties and characteristics of a product are compliant with regulations and meet quality and flavor standards.
But with such a large range of tests, and so many individuals and stages involved, are organizations managing the complex R&D process as efficiently as they should be?
Managing the Testing Process
With tests often conducted by multiple laboratories, orchestrating who is testing which aspect of an ingredient, along with managing the data generated from these tests, is a significant challenge. All tests need to be coordinated, planned, scheduled, communicated and tracked. Data from each of these tests must then be found and aggregated ready for analysis — which isn’t easy when different locations are involved.
The data produced from these tests is invaluable, and will impact the decisions made during the development process and the overall creation of a product. Results from a sensory test, for example, can provide valuable feedback on recipe improvements and modifications. By planning, scheduling and quickly reviewing a sensory panel, it is possible to increase the speed of recipe change decisions further down the line.
In the food and beverage industry, organizations need to be reactive and quickly create products that satisfy consumers’ tastes and demands while remaining compliant. So, how can businesses streamline lab testing and strengthen data aggregation?
Streamlining Lab Testing in the Cloud
Testing the quality and characteristics of ingredients and products is a time-consuming but extremely important aspect of the R&D process. Increasingly, forward-thinking organizations are choosing to adopt cloud-based software to help orchestrate and assign tasks to both internal and external laboratories. Using cloud computing to map, track and schedule work with instant updates can streamline the vital data generation process, with minimal IT resources — saving both time and money, which can be spent on other valuable stages of the R&D process.
By taking advantage of the cloud, organizations can easily access data from anywhere, while also improving collaboration with external partners and laboratories. Communication and planning can be improved to better schedule, better track, and then more quickly collate, review and approve the next decision in the research process — all from a single platform that provides a clear, integrated view of all ongoing workflows. Advanced data management software also allows organizations to spend less time on administration and focus more on analyzing any data that has been generated.
Strengthening Data Aggregation
In addition to managing the testing side of scheduling, tracking and communication, organizations need to find and aggregate all the data produced from ingredient, recipe and product analysis for review.
Cloud-based data management software solutions that combine test requesting, external collaboration and test management can help address data aggregation challenges by defining how data is captured and reported for each test. Automating the data capture requirements at the start of any lab testing process drastically reduces data analysis time for organizations, and advanced data management solutions will also have dedicated functions to visualize the ongoing progress of essential lab tests — giving researchers a complete view of work, from start to finish.
Some of these tests generate massive amounts of data that require specific expertise to be analyzed. Organizing and formatting this data in a way that is easily digestible significantly impacts the timeline of the research process.
Using data wisely to improve the final product is a key outcome of effective data aggregation, and having a data management platform in place to collect and order information enables organizations to quickly identify what ingredients of a product need modifying.
There are also authoritative bodies such as the FDA and Codex that set standards for industry testing. These organizations have consumer health and safety as their number one priority — so food and beverage companies need be sure they are conducting the necessary tests to meet these requirements and standards.
Companies using advanced data management platforms can also embed rules and tests when assigning workflows to laboratories to help manage the required data, increase productivity and reduce time to market.
Cloud-based software solutions are quickly becoming the norm in the food and beverage industry. It’s easy to see why — the right solutions can assign, track, capture and communicate data efficiently across multiple locations, regions and countries, ultimately enhancing all stages of the lab testing process in R&D. The only catch? It’s all about choosing the right system.