This article is the second in a series featuring Wellington Foods and how the company is innovating its manufacturing floor with the help of MasterControl Electronic Batch Records™ (EBR). You can read the first article here.
As the manufacturing floor becomes more digitized and automated, a curious thing is happening. Instead of replacing human workers, advanced tech is highlighting the importance of people as decision-makers and innovators. The lesson that many companies are now learning firsthand is that if digital transformation is to fully deliver on its potential, it must support and adapt to human processes and preferences, not the other way around.
Wellington Foods, a contract manufacturer of dietary supplements and nutritional products in liquid and powder form, is a perfect case in point. In its constant effort to innovate and improve, the company recently implemented MasterControl Electronic Batch Records™ (EBR), a novel software solution that brings the notoriously time-consuming, cumbersome and often paper-based production record process to a fully digital state, connecting data across the enterprise and relieving quality and production teams of a heavy documentation burden. And the results speak for themselves: higher throughput rates, better product quality and – you guessed it – more productive and satisfied employees.
According to Robin Joyner, the MasterControl system administrator at Wellington, the company’s top priority has always been to deliver the highest quality product possible. To achieve this end, the company recently fixed its sights on removing one of the biggest obstacles to productivity, efficiency and improvement on the shop floor: paper.
Implementing the innovative EBR solution has proven to be a very important piece of that equation, not only because of the virtues of the software itself, but because of what it means for the workforce at Wellington.
“Our management’s philosophy from day one with using the EBR was to get people to focus on the right things,” Joyner said in a recent video. “What makes a quality product better is being able to focus on the work, not the paper.”
In the latest video, MasterControl spoke with several employees in different roles at Wellington who all echoed the same message.
Prior to implementing EBR, Wellington’s paper-based batch record process was rife with opportunities for error. As the paper documentation moved through the hands of various workers, from staging to compounding to production, not only did the volume of paper increase, but so did the chance for data entry mistakes, illegible handwriting, and out of specifications. All of these things plagued Wellington’s productivity, ability to ship product in a timely manner, and employee satisfaction.
“Accuracy in staging is very critical,” said Felipe Zuniga, a station lead in the product staging department. “If we weigh out something incorrectly, if we overweigh or underweigh, we can ruin a batch. With a paper batch record, it’s difficult to track that down and do all your math.”
That meant Zuniga and his team often found themselves having to pay a visit to the quality department to correct errors before product could be released. In manufacturing, minutes count. And on top of the already inefficient manual document creation process, spending a few minutes to de-gown and leave the production floor each time an error or legibility issue needed to be fixed was quickly adding up.
The EBR solution allows workers to enter data digitally, including electronic signatures and timestamps for each action performed. The system automatically flags errors, inaccuracies and out of specifications, and it enforces training requirements and the most up-to-date SOPs.
“With EBR, we’ve eliminated anywhere from seven to 10 days out of a paper process,” Joyner said.
Systems and IT
Wellington’s previous manufacturing documentation process required an arsenal of printers, scanners and paper in order to function. Implementing a fully automated batch record system has enabled the company to introduce advanced technology such as tablets, touchscreens and roving computer stations to provide critical production data and resources to workers exactly when and where they are needed as opposed to them having to track it down in a manual system.
“It gave the people who were doing the input to a piece of paper the freedom to do true quality checks throughout the day,” Joyner said. “It freed up employees to focus more on the actual product rather than focus on the paper.”
Joyner also emphasized the benefits of moving Wellington’s MasterControl implementation to the cloud, citing the value of receiving the latest and greatest product updates on a quarterly basis instead of waiting a year or more. Among other things, updating the system on a more frequent basis has greatly diminished the time and effort needed for validation.
“[Validation] is not a long and drawn-out process when you’re updating version to version,” Joyner explained. “When you wait a year, you’ve got a lot more updates that you have to validate. I’m validating small bites every single time.”
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A positive byproduct of digital transformation is the opportunity to assess processes and make improvements. For Wellington’s management, a major benefit afforded by EBR is the significant increase in visibility and transparency throughout the entire manufacturing process. The ability to check in on production status and performance in real time from a centralized dashboard means that issues can be surfaced and resolved much more quickly than with a paper-based system, enabling the continuous process improvement that is so important to Wellington.
“With EBR, we have a visual of what’s happening on the line – live status,” said Jimmy Sareñana, manufacturing operations manager. “Now that we have live data, we can see how processes can be improved. We can start improving efficiency and look toward improving yields and how things are being made.”
Wellington realized that a lot of verification work was being duplicated between departments, but it wasn’t immediately obvious because it was obscured by paper-based processes. Once those processes were replicated in EBR, Wellington was able to spot the redundant work and streamline the verification process significantly.
Ultimately, eliminating slow, redundant and ineffective processes with EBR is empowering employees to hone their expertise and contribute to the success of the company with more meaningful work.
“[Management] is seeing the true benefits, not just from a dollar standpoint, but from freeing up employees,” Joyner explained. “Our management team is not looking to replace [people] with electronics. We’re trying to free them up to focus on more important things, or reassign them somewhere they can better benefit or grow in their employment.”
MasterControl first visited Wellington Foods in late 2018, as the company was conducting a pilot test of the EBR solution. The pilot was so successful that Wellington now runs one of its production lines exclusively on EBR with plans to expand to other lines as new features and functionality are added to the solution. In the meantime, Wellington continues to assess and streamline its existing processes, explore new hardware and tech, and provide feedback to MasterControl on potential new features and improvements.
Like any company, moving from paper to digital is a significant shift in mindset and process for Wellington. But thanks to open communication and the obvious benefits that implementing MasterControl EBR offers to both the company and its employees, the workforce is excited about the change and eager to adopt it throughout the entire production environment.
“We want to get our work done in an efficient and accurate manner. And we want to produce quality product within our eight-hour shift,” Zuniga explained. “Technology is here to help us out, it’s not here to slow us down. It makes everything better.”
To see the many ways MasterControl is helping Wellington transform its factory floor, view the full video.
Beth Pedersen is a content marketing specialist for MasterControl, a leading provider of cloud-based quality and compliance software for the life sciences and other regulated industries. Beth has over a decade of experience in the enterprise software space, writing technical and marketing documentation for companies such as Microsoft, Novell, NetIQ, SUSE and Attachmate. Her areas of expertise include quality management, manufacturing operations, batch record management, Lean Six Sigma, and digital transformation. Beth has a bachelor’s degree in life sciences communication from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree in digital design and communication from the IT University of Copenhagen.