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Data – the lifeblood of the food and drink industry

4th Jul 2013

In my first blog on the food and drink industry, I looked at how the use of enterprise data management and electronic laboratory notebooks (ELNs) can deliver business benefit to data intensive environments as found in food and drink companies. This second blog considers specifically how food and drink companies can use ELNs and enterprise data management to help them face their industry’s specific challenges.

Most companies focus on the efficiencies that can be gained through lean manufacturing, increased right first-time production and reduced wastage. Curiously, effective management of the development of new products is generally not treated with the same level of importance, despite it being a vital part of overall efficiency and effectiveness. When the development cycle from concept to launch is short, keeping every aspect of the project on track is even more vital.

The ability to electronically capture data, manage it effectively and store it with full context provides a ‘single point of truth’ and the foundation of generating valuable intellectual property (IP). It enables relevant data from across different groups and departments to be aggregated, providing users with self-service access to the critical information they need when they need it, reducing instances of unnecessary and costly re-work.

A data management platform secures data, fosters internal and external collaboration and accelerates development timelines. It connects people, data and systems across departmental, organizational and geographical boundaries and complements existing applications such as product life cycle management (PLM) and electronic resource planning (ERP). There are several main areas where ELNs are already showing tangible difference to the R&D groups within food and drink companies:

  1. Managing Intellectual Property and data security: for instance, capturing and organizing the specialist knowledge, experience and previous findings which can then be shared across the business.
  2. Supporting collaboration: by providing a centralized system to share product research and process data, ELNs simplify the collation of information and streamline its transfer between departments. Extending this to partner organizations such as analytical/quality control testing laboratories can reduce bottlenecks often associated with information transfer between these partners.
  3. Improving productivity and reducing development timelines: the reduction of manual paper-based processes and the ability for users to find what they are looking for at the point they need it has the direct effect of reducing turnaround times.
  4. Increasing quality and traceability: common errors, such as those introduced by manually transcribing data, can be eliminated. Users can easily trace how a final result was generated, how information evolved and how and why decisions were made.

Food and drink companies that have recently implemented IDBS’ E-WorkBook are already reporting time savings of between five and eight hours per week per user. I am convinced the industry will look back in years to come and wonder how on earth it managed without ELNs.