Improving product flow in a food manufacturing facility
Improving product flow and reducing inefficiencies such as lack of automation and reducing the potential for injuries is crucial for a food manufacturing facility.
Improper product flow can be detrimental to a food plant’s operations in more ways than one. These inefficiencies can cost money, waste time, jeopardize food quality and introduce safety hazards on the production floor.
If there is an issue with efficient product flow, there are some common indicators there may be a problem:
- Surplus inventory — If there is an unusual amount of raw ingredients in storage, it may be a sign products are not moving along quickly enough.
- Excess work in progress (WIP) — A high volume of partially finished product sitting around is a common red flag of processing inefficiencies.
- Numbers aren’t adding up — If output is less than expected and/or if there is difficulty tracking product losses, there will likely be interruptions in the process.
Oftentimes these symptoms go unnoticed in a facility, because they creep up gradually and become accepted as the norm.
Four ways inefficient product flow threatens a business
The ultimate goal is continuous product flow with minimal interruption from receiving and storage to packaging and distribution. The more breaks in the chain of processing, the greater the risks. There are four major consequences of poor process flow.
1. Increased risk of accidents and injuries — The more often employees have to physically transport product across a facility, whether by hand or with a forklift, the more often they’re at risk of being injured.
2. Wasted time and money — Like any other inefficiency, less-than-optimal product flow creates a ripple effect that impacts the bottom line. Every time product is handled and comes off the line, it has to be weighed and checked for quality control. When the process isn’t streamlined, throughput isn’t maximized, processing takes longer, and revenue decreases.
3. Greater opportunity for product damage and contamination — When a product has to move from one area of the facility to another, there is a possibility of contamination from foreign materials or allergens compared to a continuous, controlled environment. Handling the product manually or with a forklift also increases the chance of it getting damaged. Plus, when product gets stuck in between phases, there’s a greater risk of spoiling, especially for foods that require refrigeration.
4. Less freedom to incorporate automation — Without a continuous flow where product moves seamlessly from start to finish, the processing is more complex than it has to be. The more complicated the process, the more opportunity for error and the more personnel required to manage it all. This unnecessary manual intervention and oversight restricts the ability to introduce more efficient robotics and automation into the facility.
The solution: Streamlining product flow with a facility assessment
A comprehensive facility assessment can identify the kinks in a chain as well as the low-hanging fruit where the process can be optimized. For example:
- Space isn’t being used efficiently
- Manual handling of product that can be eliminated
- Segments where automation can be incorporated
- Opportunities to link receiving, processing, packaging and shipping areas
Partnering with an experienced third party to conduct a facility assessment is ideal, because they bring a fresh, objective perspective to your campus and can identify issues that are common for a variety of food and beverage facilities.
Jonah Petoskey, senior project manager, Stellar. This article originally appeared on a Stellar food industry blog. Stellar is a CFE Media content partner.
Original content can be found at stellarfoodforthought.net.