Manufacturers across all industries continue to implement and expand their digital transformation strategies, and as a result, the presence of paper on the factory floor is in decline. But one production process is proving to be more dependent on paper than others – at least until now. With the help of an innovative new solution, contract manufacturer Wellington Foods is one of the first companies to fully digitize its batch record process, and it’s already reaping the benefits.
As the president of Wellington Foods, Tony Harnack knows that continuous improvement is essential to the success of his business. But as a father of three, he also knows it’s essential to instilling consumer confidence that the products on store shelves are safe, healthy and of the highest possible quality.
“I have the same concerns [as any parent buying products for their kids],” Harnack said in an interview with MasterControl. “So as a business owner, what I’m really concerned about is getting better. At Wellington Foods, we do this by applying the best processes, technologies and people. And what happens is, it becomes a competitive advantage for us.”
To this end, Wellington Foods is one of several early adopters of MasterControl’s new Electronic Batch Records (EBR)™ solution. Part of the MasterControl Manufacturing Excellence suite, this first-of-its-kind software digitizes, automates and integrates the business-critical – yet notoriously inefficient – batch record process across the entire enterprise.
Founded in 1974, Southern California-based Wellington Foods is a contract manufacturer of nutritional dietary supplements in liquid and powder form. The products that come off of Wellington’s production lines are in their finished format and ready for consumption, meaning no further processing or packaging is needed.
In the liquid supplement category, Wellington’s products include multivitamins, mineral supplements (e.g., calcium, magnesium), joint health products (e.g., glucosamine and chondroitin) and collagen products.
“If it’s a product that has a ‘supplement facts’ label on it, and it’s in liquid format, it’s something that we can produce well,” Harnack said.
Wellington’s line of powder-based products includes whey protein, soy protein, meal replacement shakes, and plant-based, vegan and organic protein.
The company has grown significantly since its founding, but particularly during the past 10 years in response to a growing supplements market. Harnack attributes the company’s ability to innovate and keep pace with consumer demand to its constant pursuit of quality and process control.
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The past decade has seen not only an increased consumer focus on health and wellness, but also massive technological advancements and changes in regulatory requirements on the manufacturing floor and beyond. Wellington’s management team has been vigilant in identifying areas of the business that may be outdated.
“We’ve had some comprehensive paper-based systems,” Harnack explained. “But as we’ve grown, the paper-based systems become harder and harder to manage. As we looked at ways to improve our processes and demonstrate control of those processes, we identified a number of ways technology can bring that to bear.”
As a consumer packaged goods manufacturer, Wellington’s place in the supply chain is between the raw material and packaging vendors, and the branded distributors. The company sources raw materials and packaging; produces and packages the finished good; and ships it to the branded distributor. Thus, its end-to-end production process entails many steps and components, requiring close oversight and control in order to ensure and prove product quality.
“In an EBR, you can build tolerance levels into your quality checks so that if there is an issue with a quality parameter, you can stop production immediately and bring quality or production management to bear in a way that a paper-based system fails to do,” Harnack explained.
Like many manufacturers, Wellington used a paper-based system to manage its batch record process. Doing so caused several issues, including data entry errors, long product holding times during documentation review and release, paper document storage costs, and audit inefficiencies.
“We’ve realized that automated solutions like MasterControl give us the ability to manage a higher volume of transactions than we could with a paper-based solution,” Harnack said. “We can reduce time to market by a day or two or three by managing our documentation electronically. A day is hundreds of pallets, two or three days makes all the difference in the world in terms of working capital and inventory management.”
It also allows the company to reallocate personnel to more valuable work. By eliminating the manual tasks and procedures of a paper-based system, Wellington can reduce the need for people to manage documents and instead deploy skilled workers strategically to functions that have a direct impact on company growth.
“As EBR makes processes more efficient, we are able to find more hours in people’s days that can be applied in much more efficient and beneficial ways,” Harnack explained.
Wellington Foods undergoes audits by the FDA, by the state of California and by its customers. Because of the complexity of the company’s production processes and the very high quality requirements of its customers, these audits can be lengthy, complex and intense. Wellington realized that digitizing its paper records and consolidating its quality, documentation and training systems into one solution would allow the company to better demonstrate process control, a central tenet of the FDA’s 21 CFR Part 111 regulation for the dietary supplement industry and a critical element in creating the confidence essential to securing new customers and retaining existing ones.
“MasterControl gives us the ability to make sure that we have the documentation in place and our staff is appropriately trained,” Harnack continued. “I’m very optimistic that EBR will allow us to manage that production cycle from beginning to end in a way that we’re challenged to do now.”
While quality and production managers constantly monitor the state of the factory floor, this real-time visibility is often lacking for executive management in a paper-based system. Harnack explained the advantages of having this insight as a company leader.
“To be able to have that [insight] as an executive manager and be able to see [quality and production issues] in a dashboard format on a daily basis helps us make good management decisions and helps me understand the areas where we need to apply more resources to make us more efficient,” he said.
For these reasons and more, Harnack is optimistic about the future of Wellington Foods with the help of MasterControl Electronic Batch Records.
“My hope for EBR is that it gives us better process control. That it gives us better visibility of management metrics. That it helps us improve the efficiency of our employees’ time. That it creates a formality in the production process in terms of quality parameters and discipline. That it helps in a way that a paper-based system just can’t.”
To learn more about MasterControl EBR and the entire MasterControl Manufacturing Excellence suite of solutions, download an overview brochure.
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