Driven by Data: Pet Food Manufacturing & Data Management

If one peruses the pet food aisle at their local grocery or even picks up a bag of food, the ingredient list and number of claims on the package can often read like a human food product. New forms of protein, fewer fillers, gluten-free, low-carb, healthy joint & heart—all are claims seen regularly on pet foods. The quest for customer loyalty has increased as pet health becomes more important than ever to a large swath of the population. According to the American Pet Products Association, 70% of U.S. households are pet owners.

Clearly, the lines between food for human consumption and our canine and feline (and other) family members is blurred. Often, the same standards of production and quality exist in both industries, as well as the desire to stay ahead of the curve. Equally important is avoiding costly recalls or product delays.

 

Driven by Data

 

Food and beverage manufacturers have long been adapting to a data-driven economy. In fact, according to a recent Food and Beverage Monitor report from RSM, some 68% of food manufacturers either have increased or plan to increase their technology investments in the next five years. Pet food manufacturers have quickly followed suit. A September 2020 Pet Food Processing article noted that, “as the production of food and treats for cats and dogs more closely matches the product formats and processes seen in human food productions, managing quality becomes more complex.”

 

In fact, the standards for pet food are rising dramatically. Pet Food Processing stated that an important factor in ensuring a high level of quality is being able to monitor key quality parameters of raw materials and finished product—and delivering the data to the decision-makers in real-time. This helps promote a proactive approach to assuring quality, rather than one that is more often reactive and control-based. Most importantly, it assures the production of consistently high-quality pet food while also reducing waste and increasing efficiency.

 

A digital transformation requires the ability to track and record data with an ever-complex set of supply chain management issues. Gone are the days of Excel spreadsheets: welcome to the world of strategic master data management (MDM) technology. Human error and inefficient product management can be nearly eliminated with the constantly more sophisticated means available to collect information—as well as share, track, and provide transparency using that data. MDM gives manufacturers the ability to integrate data across disparate systems into one solution, thus reducing opportunities for error and making it easier to track product and customer information.

 

Traceability, flexibility and the ability to adapt quickly are of premium importance in the pet food industry. Commented Walker Mattox, CEO at Gray Solutions, A Gray Company: “As consumers demand premium pet products, it is becoming increasingly important for processors to have a strong data architecture in place that allows them to adapt to changing formulas and recipes, but maintain traceability.”

"As consumers demand premium pet products, it is becoming increasingly important for processors to have a strong data architecture in place that allows them to adapt to changing formulas and recipes, but maintain traceability."
Walker Mattox, Chief Executive Officer, Gray Solutions, A Gray Company

Risk Mitigation, Increased Quality

 

To fully comprehend the impact MDM can have on pet food manufacturing, it is important to consider its main benefits. They consist of mitigating risk and increasing quality.

 

No manufacturer wants to deal with a recall, but the best protection against such a disaster is being proactive with risk-mitigation management. With ingredients coming from more producers and having more stops before reaching the pet store, recalls can happen. Finding the source of an outbreak can be overwhelming. MDM can help.

 

Because MDM provides manufacturers with a single view of their product, supply, and distribution information, it also ensures they’re equipped to track their products from origination throughout the supply chain. This allows food manufacturers to determine trouble spots and alter operations before the product is a consumer (pet) hazard.

 

And, by leveraging MDM, if the dreaded recall should occur, pet food manufacturers can react quickly and manage the process smoothly, thus protecting their customers’ pets—as well as their bottom line. The ability to track where ingredients were sourced and used; where products were created and packaged; and where they have been sold, manufacturers can quickly determine which specific batches are affected and issue a highly targeted recall.

 

Quality Control

 

Another benefit of MDM is that it can help manufacturers keep product quality consistent. Product MDM enables manufacturers to incorporate one of industry’s fast-growing trends—product lifecycle management (PLM)—into their data hub. Said Food Manufacturing, “Through PLM, development teams can maintain all production data, from planning and ideation to sampling and sourcing, in one system, increasing collaboration and cutting down time-to-market.” Also, companies can use the visibility from in-market product performance data around consumer preferences and sales data, collected and cleaned by MDM, to find a product that connects with consumers. This helps drive better decision-making about future products.

 

Adopting an MDM solution allows the production team to ensure consistency from their ingredients, raw materials, and formulas. Because the data is stored in a central location, it allows manufacturers to maintain data quality through staff turnover or other corporate changes.

"Through PLM (product lifecycle management), development teams can maintain all production data, from planning and ideation to sampling and sourcing, in one system, increasing collaboration and cutting down time-to-market."

Food Manufacturing

Conclusion

 

Pet food manufacturers that use data to streamline processes and reduce costs see many benefits. Master data management is a great way to give your pet food production facility a strategic, targeted approach that can provide visibility, connectivity, and traceability. This helps companies mitigate risk—and deliver a great product with solid customer loyalty.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a contributing author and not necessarily Gray.

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