Inventory management in the food and beverage manufacturing industry is critical for several reasons, with food quality and safety chief among them. For food production businesses to effectively track and trace their existing inventory, they need to optimize their lot and serial number traceability to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.
Mistakes in food and beverage production can be costly, and most companies operating in this sector can scarcely afford them because they’re already operating on thin margins. Local, state, and federal regulations surrounding food products are strict. Likewise, customers have only grown more discerning, and all the perishable items you handle are at risk of passing their sell-by dates while displayed on retailer shelves.
To combat these issues, food and beverage producers must develop a reliable inventory management strategy. It doesn’t matter if you’re a food manufacturer, supplier, or distributor, your operations depend on maximum visibility and traceability to ensure that your processes remain profitable and safe for the public.
With that in mind, here are seven useful tips to help improve inventory management in the food industry:
1. Focus on improving lot and serial traceability
Small to medium-sized food and beverage operations that haven’t yet adopted industrial automation solutions and modern food manufacturing inventory management strategies habitually struggle with their ability to adequately track lot and serial numbers. While many companies have upgraded to the technologies they need to enjoy the same advantages as enterprise-level manufacturers, a few outliers still remain.
If you haven’t implemented automated software to improve end-to-end traceability in your supply chain, you might quickly find yourself in a bind after a recall event. EZSoft’s resource planning software gives food manufacturing businesses like yours the capacity to manage lot and serial traceability in a way that ensures you won’t overlook critical expiry dates or fail to address other important matters essential to quality control.
Streamlining your inventory management means you’ll have to adopt barcode and mobile device solutions to improve operation traceability and render your overall production more efficient.
2. Implement just-in-time inventory
Adopting the just-in-time inventory method can go a long way for any business that handles perishable goods. This approach combines an array of forecasting, sales, and procurement strategies to ensure that your raw ingredients are never over or understocked. Instead of purchasing your high-demand items in volume, you can automate purchase cycles so that you’re receiving fresh goods every week.
Practicing just-in-time inventory helps reduce waste considerably because you’re not holding onto products that are due to expire and those same items aren’t exceeding their expiry dates on retailer shelves. Just-in-time inventory also accounts for other important facts such as vendor location and the types of products they carry, both of which can assist in ensuring that you have the right amount of stock at all times and that your raw materials aren’t at risk of expiring at your manufacturing facility.
3. Automate your order fulfillment
Time is of the essence in the food production and distribution industry. Manufacturers need to get their products from point A to point B quickly to stay profitable. While fast order fulfillment always starts on the plant floor, where orders are filtered and sorted according to their priority, an ERP system can help even more.
Industrial automation solutions and information controls from EZSoft can assist you in expediting the fulfillment process by reducing human intervention requirements. RFID scanners, barcode readers, and mobile device applications can all increase order fulfillment rates after coupling these technologies with the right automated software solutions and a custom manufacturing system.
4. Take regular stock of your inventory
Effective inventory management in the food industry requires routine audits that entail taking regular manual counts of your stock. This will help determine any discrepancies between your physical stock and your warehouse management software.
Even if you deploy barcode scanners at your facility to track the precise movement of all your goods, regular cycle counts can help you reduce waste and expose any areas of your operations that might be vulnerable to product loss or theft. Conducting audits like these routinely will also give more insight into your operators are handling your products and whether or not they’re discarding damaged goods according to established procedures.
5. Verify the quality of all incoming materials
Before you log incoming goods into the system with your barcode or RFID scanner, conduct a manual evaluation of the items to ensure they meet your quality standards. If you need to discard the items, you can do so on the spot, and they won’t be counted as available inventory.
You can also leverage your ERP vendor management system to keep tabs on third-parties that send you an irregular supply of faulty goods. This way, you’ll give yourself an opportunity to follow up with them on the backend for refunds and quality issues. Alternatively, should it come down to changing vendors, you can always flag problem suppliers in the system as an option to avoid.
6. Use the first in, first out (FIFO) inventory system
Like just-in-time delivery, the first in, first out (FIFO) inventory system can be an effective way to increase production efficiency. Under this approach, your facility stores and retrieves perishables according to demand. Your manufacturing software tells you where to place the items so that your high-demand goods remain at the front and your oldest items leave your facility first.
7. Train your staff in effective food manufacturing inventory management
While you might be dialed in on how to get distribute your goods from one point to another, don’t forget to train your staff on how to efficiently route your products to their final destination. Educate all your relevant staff on FIFO and just-in-time practices to maintain optimal efficiency and ensure your operations stay running smoothly.
Start implementing automated inventory solutions at your business now
If you aim to automate critical aspects of your inventory management, such as order fulfillment, but are wondering to yourself where to find industrial automation companies near me, consider partnering with EZSoft to meet your automation objectives. Reach out to the team today, or speak to a industrial automation directly at (484) 568-5040.