Master Data Management: The Next Key Ingredient in Food Manufacturing

Master data management technology allows food manufacturers to integrate their data across disparate systems into one solution, reducing opportunities for error and making it easier to track product and customer information.

Like many industries, food and beverage manufacturers are adapting to a data-driven economy. This shift is opening doors to new markets and greater profitability, and everyone wants a piece of the pie. Sixty-eight percent of food manufacturers planned to increase their technology investments between 2017 and 2018, according to a recent Food and Beverage Monitor report from RSM.

Central to this digital transformation is the ability to track and record data in an increasingly complex supply chain. After years of inefficient product management — mostly powered by Excel spreadsheets — food manufacturers have realized the need to cut human error out of the equation and find more sophisticated means to collect, share and track information to gain greater transparency across the supply chain.

Enter strategic master data management (MDM) technology. MDM allows food manufacturers to integrate their data across disparate systems into one solution, reducing opportunities for error and making it easier to track product and customer information. Major brands have adopted MDM to replace legacy systems, homegrown solutions and countless spreadsheets. 

To fully understand the impact MDM has had on food manufacturing, consider its two central benefits: mitigated risk and increased quality.

Mitigated Risk: Getting to the Core of Production Woes

Two of the most terrifying words a food manufacturer can hear are “mandatory recall.” But with ingredients coming from more producers and making more stops before reaching the grocery store, recalls are becoming a new normal in the food industry. Finding the source of an outbreak can be like seeking a needle in a haystack — a potentially deadly needle in a very large and complex haystack.

MDM provides food manufacturers with a single view of their product, supplier and distributor information, ensuring they’re well equipped to track their products from origination throughout the supply chain. This allows food manufacturers to determine trouble spots and alter operations before the product is a consumer hazard.

In the event of a recall, however, by leveraging MDM, food manufacturers can react quickly and manage the process smoothly, protecting their customers as well as the bottom line. By tracking where ingredients were sourced from and used, where products were created and packaged, as well as where they’re sold, food manufacturers can quickly determine which specific batches are affected and issue a highly targeted recall. This reduces the risk of an outbreak without forcing manufacturers to remove unaffected food from the shelves.

MDM also helps companies avoid recalls caused by violations of legislation, such as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA). As federal regulations strengthen in an effort to protect consumers, food manufacturers must ensure their standards abide by the law. But, if data is stored in disparate systems, it can be difficult, as well as risky, to ensure products are manufactured and distributed properly.

Increased Quality: Delivering the Experience Customers Expect

Classic brands don’t earn their reputations overnight. They require a great deal of data to maintain their time-honored taste and customer loyalty. In order to establish a product and build a following, each experience a customer has with a product needs to be the same as the last.

MDM helps manufacturers both perfect their recipe and keep it consistent. Product MDM enables food manufacturers to incorporate one of industry’s fast-growing trends — product lifecycle management (PLM) — into their data hub. Through PLM, development teams can maintain all production data, from planning and ideation to sampling and sourcing, in one system, increasing collaboration and cutting down time-to-market. Companies can use the visibility from in-market product performance data around consumer preferences and sales data collected and cleaned by MDM to find a recipe that connects with consumers, and drive better decision-making about future products.

Once a manufacturer has settled on the perfect recipe, adopting an MDM solution allows the production team to ensure consistency from their ingredients, raw materials and formula. Because the data is stored in a central location, management can easily grant access to those who need it — allowing manufacturers to maintain data quality through staff turnover or corporate acquisitions.

Data is No Longer a Side Dish

Manual processes used to rule the factory — but no more, as food manufacturers have become reliant on data to streamline processes and reduce costs. That requires adopting new technology and business approaches to ensure you’re gleaning all the insights possible from your customer, supplier and product data.

If you’re still tracking materials through spreadsheets, collaborating via email, or have no method of viewing your expenditures in comparison to your sales trends, master data management as a strategic approach to product-360 will give your team the visibility, connectivity and traceability it needs to mitigate risk, deliver a superior product and drive customer loyalty.

Maja Milutinovic is Director, Solution Strategy at Stibo Systems