By Michael Lyle, InfinityQS International Inc.

In the United States there are approximately 21,000 food manufacturers. Dairy is the largest subgroup of these manufacturers, creating stiff competition. The differentiator for consumers often comes down to the brand having a strong reputation for quality and value.

But in order to achieve this, dairy processors must pay close attention to every detail of their products’ lifecycles – from the farm through the manufacturing process and to the consumer’s table. To fulfill this commitment, dairy manufacturers must re-imagine quality data as a strategy to succeed. This means attaining visibility of the very data that alerts manufacturers of quality issues and using it to gain operational insights to promote improvements in yield, compliance and resource utilization across the enterprise.

The case for automating, standardizing data collection

An InfinityQS survey of 260 manufacturers found that 75% of respondents are still manually collecting data. Even worse, 47% of those rely on pencil and paper. In order for these manufacturers to gain a competitive advantage and drive profits, they must automate and standardize data collection processes and create a centralized repository for the data that is accessible to all stakeholders within the organization.

When data is unified from all sources, it is possible to visualize more than a single aspect of operations. The outcome is real-time visibility of the entire enterprise, from end to end,  including suppliers, incoming inspection, raw materials, in-process checks from shop floor operators and the quality lab, process data, packaging and finished products.

Gain operational insight by visualizing the data

Turning to a Quality Intelligence approach that unifies data from across the entire enterprise and leverages advanced analytics enables dairy processors to gain insight into operational variances over time.

This visibility allows quality teams to notice small changes or trends in processes or machine performance that indicate the early stages of an issue. By leveraging intelligence, manufacturers can proactively catch issues earlier and identify potential opportunities to increase output, decrease costs and improve quality across manufacturing operations.

Optimize processes across the dairy enterprise

The resulting insights can be applied to streamline, optimize and transform processes and operations across the enterprise, elevating product quality, improving efficiency, impressing customers and creating cost savings. The insights make it possible to determine how to apply best practices as standard protocol throughout the enterprise for global performance improvement and results. It’s clear which factors matter and which don’t. Processes are streamlined and consistency and efficiency increase throughout and across production sites, producing a real, measurable impact to the company’s bottom line.

Michael Foods turns to a Quality Intelligence solution

Michael Foods Inc. is a multinational producer and distributor of egg products, refrigerated potato products, cheese and other dairy case products. In order to maintain a strong focus on the wants and needs of its customers, the company realized it needed to take its data collection and analysis to the next level. Michael Foods turned to InfinityQS for a real-time Quality Intelligence (QI) solution with a centralized data repository and a Statistical Process Control (SPC) analysis engine.

Using this software, Michael Foods is moving toward a completely paperless environment on the plant floor. The company benefits from visibility into individual lines at each of its plants, tracking weight and dimension data of the products as well as temperature and set-point data on the machines. Production lines now run within tenths of a gram of target for weight control. These efficiency improvements are a testament to the larger gains that can be realized from the transition to a more data-driven culture.

  • The company paid for the enhanced SPC project through resulting productivity gains.
  • Real-time monitoring and alerts maintain process control to reduce over packing and waste. 
  • Graphical displays, extensive charting and real-time feedback empower operators to make data-based informed decisions. 
  • Operational intelligence identifies and eliminates variation between shifts and streamlines communications among operators to improve production efficiency. 
  • Standardized settings reduce the startup time required to stabilize a process for normal production.
  • QI helps plant managers and quality executives identify overarching trends to improve operations. 

Using quality data to connect the enterprise and attain end-to-end visibility allows organizations to achieve exponential improvements in the quality of their products and in the cost structures of their businesses. With the right motivation, a Quality Intelligence solution and cloud technology, any dairy processor can capitalize on these opportunities to positively and quickly impact its bottom line and establish a lasting competitive advantage.

Michael Lyle is the founder and CEO of InfinityQS International, a global authority on data-driven enterprise quality.