quality Jonathan Evans looks at a fresh approach to the produce supply chain
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Fresh produce remains the key driver of footfall to supermarkets, but with consumer loyalty at an all-time low, any incident relating to food quality or safety could be enough to send your consumers knocking on your competitors’ door. For many businesses, securing and growing market share around their fresh offer is core to strategy, and maintaining and improving consistency on that quality offer is pivotal to that success. Interestingly, a recent study commissioned by IGD confirms that despite the global economic crisis, consumers have not neglected their values in favour of lower priced products. Whilst 58 per cent of consumers agree that saving money is the most important thing to consider when food shopping, 54 per cent are willing to pay more money for high quality produce. Prof. David Hughes, emeritus professor of food marketing, once said; “The enormous challenge is to add much more customer value than cost in an increasingly competitive, global food industry environment…of course price is vitally important; but, if customers want to pay more, don’t disappoint them!” Quality has historically been the domain of a technical department and often works as an island within the rest of the business. Quality on fresh is now being propelled to the heart of most businesses and that performance is core to the commercial strategy. Having better visibility on that qualitative performance for all stakeholders is the challenge and alignment between departments on the quality criteria that underpins the offer is fundamental. Subsequently, businesses within the supply chain need to clearly communicate the quality criteria with their suppliers, and couple this with constant measurement on performance and the sharing of results; these are all key elements that can drive significant improvement. Technology and its implementation, not just within a
Jonathan Evans Jonathan Evans is managing director of Muddy Boots Software Ltd. As an agronomist, Jonathan observed a need to efficiently record and maintain accurate records on all aspects of crop and field production. With the help of Technical Director Jeremy Pile, Jonathan established Muddy Boots Software in the mid-1990s. Issues surrounding food safety led Muddy Boots to link field data to the final product - a logical step in the development of food traceability and, more recently, compliance and quality assurance systems.
single business unit, but across a supply chain, will play a significant role in improving transparency and enabling better collaboration; giving businesses deeper insight into the factors that affect performance within their supply base. Greenlight Quality Control (QC) is one of a new generation of software solutions that will transform the way in which supply chain partners will collaborate more effectively. The basic principle is that a company’s product specification on the quality characteristic is held in a single location on the web and is accessible to authorised users that are able to edit and view the quality parameters within the quality attribute specification (QAS). This may be an internal company user or, in many cases, organisations can request their suppliers to do it. Once completed, the QAS alerts the user responsible for approved sign-off and, subject to this stage gate, the QAS is set to ‘Live’ and any mobile / tablet device that is authorised to this service is instantly updated with the corresponding product assessment. Subsequently, in-depot / factory checks are always being completed against the latest QAS; one of the benefits of cloud computing. With Inspection Teams using a consistent method and the same check type for measurement, accurate product category and supplier performance data is generated, which provides the foundation on which to identify issues and drive improvements in product quality. With this ‘real time’ approach, suppliers receive instant notification of rejections and consistent feedback on good and bad performance. Sharing the data with suppliers is crucial in driving positive engagement and behavioral change and this consistency ensures all stakeholders keep focused on the quality agenda. Ultimately, with everyone aligned on the exact criteria of quality, ‘a right first time approach’ starts to emerge; driving cost savings through
reduced failure. In the same way that any connected device can see the QAS service at internal depot / factory, suppliers can also participate and connect to the same service. This is a concept we refer to as Active Quality Chain, where the methodology, process and measurement practices are all consistent throughout a supply chain and are aligned through a common technology platform. Where there is not only transparency on what is expected, but greater visibility on what’s coming through. From the ground up, the product is being assessed and reassessed to ensure it is meeting the specification at each stage gate. Driving this process deep into a supply chain means decisions on product quality can be made at earlier stages before significant added costs, especially around logistics or rework, are incurred. This Active Quality Chain process is currently being adopted by the most forward-thinking grocery retailers and suppliers. These businesses understand that in order to ensure consistency in their quality offer at the lowest cost, a more collaborative approach with suppliers is required. Where visibility on performance is shared, a deeper trusting relationship, which focuses on continuous improvement and security of supply, can be developed. What becomes exciting is the quality of data that is generated. Whilst it has significant operational value in dayto-day decision-making, the opportunity is that the historical data can be used to predict or trend possible eventualities or outcomes. Subsequently, teams and resources can be utilised in a more pro-active capacity, rather than a reactive capacity. Ultimately, this integrated approach to technology and the management of quality will support improved quality performance and will also deliver deeper collaborative relationships with suppliers, but don’t just take our word for it!
Case Study Greencell, an experienced supplier of fresh fruit and vegetables to the UK market, identified a requirement to implement a more efficient quality control process within the business. Subsequently, they implemented Greenlight QC to capture data on the go and improve the visibility of quality assurance data. Jonathan Berry, head of technical at Greencell Ltd., discusses how technology is being used to underpin their quality offer: “Delivering taste and good quality produce is key to what we do. In order to maintain our relationship with our customers it is fundamental that we supply fruit and vegetables of consistently high quality, which meet and exceed their exact specifications, every time. “Traditionally, the main challenge for us was around accessibility of data. We had difficulties in retaining and accessing historic data and there was a strong reliance on our internal IT department to manually produce reports for us. As a result, it was virtually impossible to have an accurate up-to-the-minute overview of our quality performance and so identifying trends or putting improvement plans in place was a real challenge. “We were working in a ‘reactive’ rather than ‘proactive’ manner, and it became clear that we needed a robust system that could improve access to quality control data. The objective was to use this data meaningfully to drive process improvements that
reduce customer complaints and rejections and help to improve and develop the quality of the raw material received from our own growing operations. This can only be possible through targeted actions based on the information and trends mined from Greenlight Quality Control. “Muddy Boots was able to integrate with our existing technology system which means that we now have one single accurate source of product quality data. For us, this will significantly speed up data gathering and will result in time saving efficiencies through avoiding duplication of data entry. “The Greenlight technology standardises reports from intake to dispatch, which improves visibility on the quality of the product and drives efficiencies throughout all sectors of the business, including Commercial, Quality Assurance and Technical departments. In addition to this, the flexibility of reporting on grower, supplier and product performance at different times of the season will allow us to identify trends and issues within our supply base; giving us a complete overview of our product quality offer and ensuring it is aligned with those requirements of our customers.” Greencell supplies fruit and vegetables to leading retailers such as Waitrose and Sainsbury’s, as well as foodservice companies and schools. With 35 per cent of the UK avocado market, the business is the largest supplier of this product in the country.
Muddy Boots Software Ltd
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Muddy Boots Software Ltd. is a leader in quality assurance solutions for sustainable food and farming. The company’s Greenlight Quality Control software has been recognised by Coles in Australia for providing a support system that created the greatest service improvement, cost saving and enabled the greatest increase in business income over the past 12 months. Subsequently, Muddy Boots was named the ‘Coles IT Vendor of the Year; Support Category 2011’. For further information, visit: