‘This has been a fascinating project to work on. Through collaboration with our customer’s technical and operations managers and Piroto’s sales and technical team we have improved traceability performance and improved productivity.’
Our customer is a well-known chocolate manufacturer with a great reputation for the high quality confectionery that they produce. As well as having their own concessions selling directly to consumers, they retail through leading grocery chains.
As with any food manufacturer / retailer relationship, our client knew that it was imperative that their traceability standards were high and food safety processes reliable. Our customer was therefore keen to explore ways to upgrade their current traceability systems to help secure multi-million pound supply contracts.
The Customer’s Challenge
Our customer was aware that there was room for improvement in their standards of traceability throughout the entire production process, and they came to Piroto to help them analyse the issues and work together to find the best solutions.
There were a number of specific problems that they were experiencing with the labels and tags delivered by their current supplier. First, tags had a tendency to disintegrate through their processes meaning that traceability could be compromised at any stage. Where adhesive labels were used, they tended to be difficult to remove and often left sticky residue; this residue could potentially contaminate the chocolate and jeopardise food safety. Plus, since labels and tags were hand written by operatives, errors occurred due to illegibility.
Piroto arranged a site visit to gain a full understanding of the issues the customer was experiencing and the conditions that would potentially affect the performance of labels and tags.
During our visit it became evident that production conditions meant that tags often came in contact with hot liquids. The current tag material was simply not up to the job, causing it to fail all too often. In addition, we observed that operatives were having difficulty removing tags from trays; this was slowing the production process.
Back at base each individual issue, and the entire process, was discussed with our technical team. We explored ways to counter the manufacturer’s current issues and provide a solution that would not only significantly improve traceability, but could also potentially improve operational efficiency. This particular client presented a unique set of conditions and requirements, challenging the Piroto team to come up with an innovative, customised solution.
What we delivered
Our first step was to specify a higher quality material for tags that would withstand contact with hot liquids. The tags were also redesigned to suit the tray type that the manufacture was using; the key objective being to make the tags much easier for operatives to remove.
Next the team tackled the problems of the adhesive residue which, combined with the need for a metal detectable labels, was a more complex issue. The technical team worked on a number of adhesive and material options, coming up with a unique metal detectable label with a removable adhesive that was perfect for the job.
To complete the specification we recommended installing label printers on-site to eliminate the issues being caused by illegible handwritten labels.
For the final part in the process we loaned our customer two printers, gave their staff on-site training and trialled the labels and tags through the entire production process.
After a final assessment of the performance of the labels and tags, and having received excellent feedback from the operatives using the printers, we rolled out two further printers across the site to complete the upgrade.
The impact on the customer’s business
By working through all the traceability issues with Piroto our client strengthened their relationship with the retailer thus securing their multi-million pound contract. In summary the customer saw the following benefits:
- the major grocery contract was not only secured but was actually increased by a further £500K
- the grocery chain reported that the chocolate manufacturer’s traceability was ‘second to none’, which, in turn, strengthened their relationship
- time taken to remove tags from trays was reduced by 80% leading to productivity improvements
- reductions in the risk of contamination from adhesive residue coupled with 100% metal detectable labels and tags improved the integrity of the entire operation
- staff found using printers as opposed to hand writing labels easier and the consequent reduction in human error helped improve productivity still further.