TR Cutler | Leading Baked Goods ERP EVS

By: Thomas Cutler

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggests the grain category is the largest segment of American dietary consumption, encouraging consumers to eat at least five ounces of grain products every day. From snack cakes, energy bars, cookies, crackers, rolls, donuts, pastries, pie, pizza crusts, cakes and muffins, and fortified breakfast cereals, bakery manufacturing covers a very broad range of foods. Since the average American eats more than 50 pounds of bread and more than a 100 pounds of cereal each year, it represents billions of dollars in revenue for bakers; the worldwide market for bakery products is now greater than $300 billion annually.

According to Evan Garber, president of Bakery ERP specialists Escape Velocity Systems (EVS), "The unusual production characteristic for most bakeries is the practice of frequently mixing dough in a small kettle; many dough's are then used in one batch run. For each batch of dough the production team is aware of the ingredient lot number, but at the other end of the production line, quality control typically goes though a process of elimination to determine from which dough their test samples came."

In the feature entitled, Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker, Escape Velocity Systems (www.evs-sw.com) is profiled as the leader among ERP vendors who serve this niche market. In the current issue of Business Excellence, the article authored by manufacturing journalist TR Cutler, details the nuances of the technology requirements of the baked goods sector.

Bakery ingredient items can be given lot attributes which can be entered by the QC department, however. Since flour is typically the key ingredient, most bakeries have to analyze the properties of each flour lot to determine absorption rates to maintain high quality standards. Getting the correct moisture in batches is an art with scientific elements.

Flour lot #1 has attribute absorption of ten and Flour lot #2 has attribute absorption of eight. These attributes stay with the lot throughout production life and can be used by production planners to estimate a compensating water content needed for a batch. "It's important to track lot expiration dates," Garber noted. "QC must also be able to determine that the real expiry date is different than the date calculated for a batch and be able to change it. The most important factor is that QC must be completely integrated with the rest of the organization's ERP shelf life. Many bakeries' QC departments are on separate systems, including Excel spreadsheets. The value proposition that bakery technology solutions must bring to food safety and quality is that QC is integrated with the rest of the ERP."

Indeed if QC determines that a lot is bad and records it in the system, the lot is automatically put on hold and cannot be used in manufacturing or shipped out. If QC tests for attributes of a lot and records them in a bakery specific technology solution, the production planner can see the attributes of the lot and plan for compensating ingredients (such as water or gluten). Shelf stability and expiration date management applies to many food products, none more than baked goods.

"Serving this large and lucrative market requires knowledge of bakery management and maintenance of hygienic production of baked goods," insisted Garber. "Sanitation processes, allergen control programs and bioterrorism defense strategies must be well defined and followed to ensure the bakery and the public are not at risk." Generic technology solutions for the food sector will not suffice; hyper-vertical applications are necessary to meet the mandated compliance requirements from BioTerrorism Act to HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points).

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