dispatches from GFSC 2016 in Berlin

Quality data must be brought back down to factory floor – Tetra Pak

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Alexander Bromage at the Tetra Pak stand for the GFSI Conference in Berlin
Alexander Bromage at the Tetra Pak stand for the GFSI Conference in Berlin

Related tags Food safety Food

Collecting data on quality processes is beneficial but the next step is transferring that to the factory floor to make a difference, according to the food safety manager at Tetra Pak.

Alexander Bromage told FoodQualityNews that it works on the digital support of the quality system.

“We have a system called Quality Diagnostics Today which connects the quality data from the filling machine with the performance data from the filling machine. It allows us to layer that data together and create a way of analysing data, it’s new for us and it’s patented,” ​he told us during the GFSI food safety conference in Berlin.

“We’re constantly looking into the technology streams that can help us get more data, better quality data but without increasing the workload…everyone wants to improve their quality but that quality needs to pay for itself as well.”

Factory floor knowledge

Bromage said he comes from Lean Six Sigma background so data and the stability of it is key.

“Big data is very good from a point of view where you are looking at something in a reasonably stable situation but with food manufacturing you can tend to look at a situation which can be intrinsically unstable. The processes can be somewhat unstable, it is not a highly automated process in all cases, therefore it can be difficult to get value out of that data,” ​he said.

“Clearly the trend is to gather more data, correlate and analyse data and IoT (Interent of Things), get everything pushing data out. We are working with all of that but the main focus for us is to bring it back down to the production process.

“Fundamentally, you can do all the data analysis you want, although we find that can be a skills gap, but if you don’t have the processes to improve and sustain that improvement then the analysis is of no value at all.

“That is where we feel our offer is unique compared to some other consulting companies or service providers where they will offer to do a lot of data analysis and correlations but they don’t have the knowledge on the factory floor to recommend what needs to be done to solve a problem.”

‘Quality or food safety issues bad for them and us’

Bromage said customers are requesting increasing performance as they don’t like having quality or food safety issues.

He added such issues were not good for them or it, so the firm is helping customers understand where poor or a lack of performance has come from and trying to make sure it can be improved.

The design of Tetra Pak’s concept was to have an aseptic packaging system that allowed long shelf life and a safe environment for food to be kept to be consumed, said Bromage.

“We do as much as we can in terms of the packaging system that we provide but we know and understand, as our customers do, they have to do more than just buy a machine from Tetra Pak to deliver safe food with a high quality level,” ​he said.

“We’ve always worked with our customers to help them there, what we are doing now is we are trying to formalise that and maximise our ability to help.”

Bromage said cleaning is a decent proportion of the time that a system such as a filling machine could be producing product.

“You want that machine to be producing product as much as possible if you are a capacity-constrained customer or you have a capacity constrained format which runs on that line for example. But you don’t want to reduce the cleaning as that could increase your risk of quality,” ​he said.

“We’re working on making sure that we have ways of helping our customers make sure that they have the shortest cleaning time and less frequency whilst still maintaining a safe environment for the clean and efficacy of clean.”

Bromage said there were two things customers were demanding from the firm.

“One is digitalisation which I have mentioned already and the other is the increasing complexity of value chains and the new retail models which are emerging which is changing the way that dairies and the whole value chain of food is going to be transformed,” ​he said.

“The things we get the most requests from customers is ensuring they are truly compliant, not just on paper but in reality. We have a laboratory in Stuttgart which is constantly testing to make sure our physical products are safe and we’re covered and we can cover our customers.

“Also under compliance, we’re strengthening our view in terms of the importance of validation, when things change and when things move.”

Meanwhile, the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) has added Amazon, Tesco, Auchan and Dole to its board – chaired by Mike Robach, VP of corporate food safety at Cargill.

Other members include Danone, Tyson, Mondelez, Nestlé, Walmart, McDonalds and The Coca-Cola Company.

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