Lessons Not Learned: The Tale of the Repeat Recall Offenders

Mac and cheese enthusiasts were frustrated to hear that their favorite side dishes were getting whisked out of stores, instead of their bowls. Kraft’s March recall of Macaroni and Cheese returned thousands of cases of the product. However, the news was not only disappointing because it caused the inconvenience of returning infected boxes. But rather, disappointing because consumers had seen this identical headline all too recently. Kraft has issued several recalls, many cheese related, over the past years. But the company is experiencing some déjà-vu, as this is its second metal-related recall — the first from just a few years back in 2011. While no recall is ever acceptable, a repeat recall is especially offensive.

Here’s the thing about recalls: they can easily be prevented.

Consumers should not have to suffer through this agitating redundancy, and from their standpoint, the hope is that companies learn from past mistakes. So why haven’t companies, like Kraft, learned their lesson the first time around? One potential reason could be that food companies are often faced with the challenge of balancing quality management standards with process control.

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We find many recalls originate with cutting corners to save time, which saves money. Companies regularly ask themselves, "How can we cut costs?" Oftentimes, they will start by outsourcing maintenance and repair equipment, purchasing from different suppliers — suppliers that have different specifications from the original group. In fact, about 51% of companies are working with more than 500 suppliers or manufacturers at a time. The majority of manufacturers say they lack the visibility beyond their Tier 1 partners, making companies blind to the majority of processes outside their four walls. This operational inefficiency ultimately leaves the consumer with unwanted surprises, like shards of metal. And the company, whose original goal was to save money, ends up losing on average $10 million to $90 million. ,

Fortunately, the FDA has already begun cracking down on food safety. In recent years, they have set regulations like the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) which highlights the importance of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP). These efforts are forcing food and beverage companies to learn that when it comes to quality management, it is no longer good enough to simply respond to contamination — they must prevent it. As companies juggle regulatory requirements and internal quality policies, they are dually trying to streamline processes and reduce costs. However, without an automated solution, they often fall short. The good news is that the technology to enforce these regulations is already here and successfully helping prevent recalls.

Solutions like enterprise quality management software (EQMS) are available to help food manufacturers identify issues before their product leaves the facility. When integrating an EQMS with other existing IT systems, product quality and safety is effectively managed and final product meets customer expectations.,

Many companies have been using EQMS to monitor compliance and regulation for quite a few years. However, companies in the food and beverage industry have been slow to adapt to the EQMS solution, as they are still managing quality processes via paper-based or spreadsheet-based processes. As a result of this antiquated process, information is not being shared efficiently across the enterprise, quality processes end up being inconsistent and corrective actions are not effectively implemented.

An EQMS system that integrates with existing IT systems and provides the functionality of cloud-based connectivity to supply chain partners finally starts to gain that true visibility they are currently missing. EQMS tracks and manages processes so when issues occur (say, foreign material in a finished food product) an investigation can be done and a corrective can be implemented to solve the problem and prevent future problems. This allows food companies to eliminate repeat recalls with the added benefit of increasing operational efficiencies.

The results? Businesses have been able to present tangible benefits of implementing an EQMS solution in just the first three years of implementation. They saw a 70% reduction in deviations by 60% (this would impact inventory available issues and scrap costs). Quality backlog was almost eliminated (which resulted in fast release of products for orders or changes in production being implemented sooner to reduce repeatable issues).,Not to mention the 50% improvement savings they gained by the end of that third year.

At the end of the day, preventing recalls is about working smarter, not harder. Automation allows food companies to keep track of their processes across the entire supply chain in the most efficient manner, proactively preventing them from shipping out contaminated products, avoiding recalls and keeping consumers happy.

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