Safety in the Food and Beverage Industry

Published by Graham Foss on
The AG Solution allows companies within the Food and Beverage Industry to comply with standards and regulations in the following challenging areas

From Kitchen to Automation

The starting point of the Food and Beverage manufacturing industry was the domestic kitchen. Food prepared for larger groups than a family required larger kitchens. As populations grew and demand for affordable mass produced food increased, larger companies began to automate parts of food processing and preparation, especially at end-of-line areas, such as packaging and palletizing.

Today, in the UK, the Food and Beverage industry is the largest manufacturing sector, bigger than automotive and aerospace manufacturing combined.

The Food and Beverage industry, like all industries, has increasingly become more defined by robotics and automation. While most of the Food and Beverage industry are Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs), there are many factors pushing towards increased automation, such as the increasing scarcity of suitable cheap labour, health and safety laws, and advancement in robotics.

With the additional factor of increases in regulation, such as FSMA (Food Safety Modernisation Act), which affects everyone doing business with the USA via the FSVP (Foreign Supplier Verification Programs), all forms of the Food and Beverage industry can expect to become more reliant on automation and computer based systems that manage every part of the process across the supply chain.


Safety: For the Workforce

The Food and Beverage industry has a moral and regulatory obligation to safeguard its workers. The dangers vary from the clear and present, such as heavy machinery, toxic chemicals and slippery surfaces to the slower threats, such as dust inhalation, hearing loss and repetitive strain injuries.

One of the most important tasks for management in regards to health and safety is to maintain records of risks and accidents, to properly maintain a record of all machinery and the software that runs on it, to train safety personnel to the correct level of competency and to make all this information available so that the correct accident prevention procedures and methods can be produced and then followed.

It is also essential that all changes to, and faults in, the machinery and work methods are controlled in a suitable fashion, so that all consequences of the changes or faults can be assessed before they are actioned.

Personnel should be properly trained for all the tasks they carry out on the factory floor. Methods should be in place to assess their competency and identify training gaps.

Industry and safety regulations should be followed, and inform every part of the process and working environment.

Safety: For the Consumer

The Food and Beverage Industry is unique to all others, in that its product is ingested by the consumer. A manufacturer must take every reasonable step to prevent an outbreak of such things as listeria and salmonella. It is estimated by the Food Standards Agency that there are over half a million cases of food poisoning each year in the UK, salmonella being the cause of most hospital visits.

The larger the manufacturer, the larger the potential outbreak could be. This is why it is essential that all machinery is properly maintained and cleaned, personnel are properly trained and procedures are properly followed.

New Technology and the Future

Compliance with New and Updated Standards

In the USA, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which was put into law in 2011 is now starting to hit its dates for compliance. What this means for everyone else all over the world is that the Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVP) comes into effect. The impact is expected to be large as foreign supplies to the USA will now have to comply with FSMA regulations.

The biggest burden on the Food and Beverage industry is reportedly no longer environmental, but bureaucratic. Already ultra-thin margins are being pushed even further by increased overhead due to regulation. Major factors include stringent hygiene and safety standards, product waste prevention and the need for transparency across the whole supply chain.

Systems and applications are required to help with FSMA compliance, covering all of HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) and HARPC (Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Preventive controls) – systems that help food manufacturers look at how they handle food and introduces procedures to ensure their product is safe to eat.

New ways of thinking

Globalisation and the need for regulatory compliance (such as FSMA) has resulted in farmers and food and drink manufacturers investing in technology, automated systems and advanced software solutions.

As standards and technology advance, so must the methods by which compliance and monitoring is managed, and as machinery become more intelligent and more interconnected, the “Internet of Things”, and regulation more strident, there is a role for technology to not only control the manufacturing process, but also manage the process of compliance.

The Food and Beverage industry has reached an incredible new phase where consumer demands, such as food being naturally produced, good for the environment and nutritional, are meeting new technology that is designed to interface with food production at every point in the process, from farm to fork.

ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software, in conjunction with sensor-to-cloud IoT (Internet of things) brings almost real-time data on food quality and regulatory complaince to the user. Blockchain technology can now track crop lifecycle from the moment it was planted to the distribution centre, then on to the retailer and then finally the consumer, giving transparency across the entire supply chain.

Technology has been, and continues to expand beyond the confines of the factory floor to the very moment a seed is planted until it is served on the consumer’s plate.

Health and safety must also be considered through the entire supply chain. Monitoring, auditing, record keeping and analysis becomes more important as the reliance on sofware and the quantity of data collected increases.

What Asset Guardian Offers

Asset Guardian already provides a solution for protecting the integrity of process critical software assets.

Asset Guardian can assist with the drive on regulation and technology in a number of ways:

  • By providing a fully integrated suite of Change Management, Fault Logging, Document & Correspondence recording, Software and Hardware Control tools.
  • By providing a full audit trail of every action taken in Asset Guardian.
  • All Software logged into Asset Guardian as part of a change control process is available for use as part of the client’s Disaster Recovery Plan.
  • Personnel and Competency recording and tracking.
  • Provide Analytics to improve, develop and maintain processes.
  • By regularly assessing updated and new regulations and checking for compliance.

Safety, managed through compliance to regulations, has more focus than ever before. While this is clearly the right way forward, it is undeniable that this is increasing pressure on the Food and Beverage industry. The good news is that there are solutions available to help alleviate this pressure.

This is a transformative time for the Food and Beverage industry as it integrates 21st century technology into production and manufacture.

If you would like any more information on Asset Guardian, please fill out the contact form below and a member of our team will be in contact soon.

Written by Graham Foss. As one of AGSL’s team of Technical Consultants, Graham Foss is responsible for implementing the company’s product development and technology strategy. Before joining AGSL in 2016, Graham was employed for 12 years as a lead software engineer at Aker Solutions Subsea Ltd, where he worked on projects in the North Sea, North Atlantic and Norway. Graham holds a degree in Computing from Edinburgh’s Napier University in Edinburgh, where he graduated with distinction. A Chartered Engineer, he is a member of the Institution ofEngineering and Technology (IET).