Managing the supply chain

Related tags Food manufacturers Product lifecycle management

The food processing division of German-based Handtmann Group is the
latest processor to install product lifecycle management (PLM)
software. Technology provider Agile has created an integrated IT
environment for the division that is designed to improve

The initial implementation - which combines centralised viewing, document and change management - went into production at the end of January.

"Manufacturers worldwide are increasingly seeking a flexible, scalable way of managing their product record across their extended enterprise in order to control their increasingly complex business environment,"​ said Gisela Wilson, director of Agile's product lifecycle management solutions. "Benefits from PLM solutions include improved innovation management, more efficient intra- and inter-company collaboration, faster time to market, cost reductions, and higher product quality."

Handtmann's Maschinenfabrik​ division manufactures food-processing equipment for the sausage industry, and is aware of the need to increase efficiency and co-ordination across the supply chain. The company believes that PLM software will allow it to integrate multiple business applications, such as CAD and ERP, to create a central, enterprise product record.

"Employing Agile's PLM solutions will allow Handtmann Maschinenfabrik to reduce the number of systems used to track our Unigraphics and Microsoft office files, and in the future, will provide us with Baan integration and powerful workflow capabilities for modeling our business processes,"​ said Erwin Muller, head of IT at Handtmann Maschinenfabrik. "Agile's solutions are based on best practices developed through time and experience. The result is functionality that solves our data management needs today, while providing us a platform for future growth."

PLM software is increasingly being used in the food processing industry. Another software company, Formation Systems, recently launched a best practice solution called Optiva that it claims can provide customers with a functional, value-added product development system in as little as 30 days.

Indeed there is growing consensus that food manufacturers will have to utilise cutting edge technology more in the future if they wish to remain competitive. Stringent legislation, consumer concerns about food safety and growing pressure from retailers have forced food manufacturers to look at every possible means of ensuring traceability and efficiency throughout the supply chain.

This can be seen in the recent Coca-Cola recall of its bottled water brand Dasani. The recall of over half a million bottles in the UK took less than 24 hours, and although deeply embarrassing for the soft drinks giant, the recall could have been much more damaging had the company not put in place adequate traceability measures.

"The general comment about this Coca-Cola recall was that it was very efficient,"​ Simon Lawson, Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) account manager with systems integrator Capula, told "Not many companies are as efficient as that, and this could have ramifications with EU legislation on traceability coming into force in 2005."

This legislation states that food manufacturers have to be able to show that they can trace products right through the food chain.

"A lot of companies will have traceability systems in place by then, but the problem is that they are often manually linked,"​ said Lawson. "The problem is speed, and this is becoming apparent as expectations are raised. In the US, the Bioterrorism Act obliges manufacturers to be able to respond in four hours, and this is colouring expectations in the UK."

Related topics Processing & Packaging

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