Information is power in every part of a production facility. Gathering data at the mixing bowl, oven and packaging can all give bakers vital information about their process and product. The same is true of gathering data and managing recipes on an automated ingredient handling system. Now, under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emphasizes data management as a way of prevention as well as accountability when it comes to food safety.

“Data management is a two-way street,” says Kevin Pecha, sales manager, AZO. “It provides a level of protection to the baker as well as consumers. The baker has the ability to stop the release of contaminated product by knowing which specific batches are affected, and the customer can see the level of commitment by the baker should a recall occur.”

Better overall data management can assist bakers in complying with the new law in a variety of ways. This includes preventive controls such as process, food allergen and sanitation controls, as well as supply chain controls and a recall plan, according to Ed Ryon, manager, systems software, and project manager, Zeppelin Systems USA. Data management can also go beyond prevention, he says, and aid in monitoring, documenting corrective action and verifying that the preventive controls are always implemented. All of this is made possible with better technology.

“Recipe and data management has improved greatly over the years with advances in processes and technology,” Ryon says. “Paper-driven bill-of-materials lists with basic comments about manual steps evolved into spreadsheets with which data could be analyzed and on to the current specialized relational-database applications that present data to users and to automation platforms in a variety of ways.”

Today, demand for data is up, and the sophistication of that data and recipe control continues evolving to keep up with demand. “It begins with improvements in automation, with more cost-effective servos, measuring devices, scale technology and other systems that allow more precise control of production machinery and systems,” says Michael Palmer, manager, ingredient systems applications and services, Gemini Bakery Equipment/KB Systems. “Couple that with computer and software technology growing so fast that your new cell phone is obsolete in six months, and the stage is set for much more cost-effective, user-intuitive and readily available recipe and data management in the modern factory.”

With the latest tools of the software trade enhancing ingredient handling systems, bakers can streamline their production, track ingredients to FDA’s latest standards and also reap the benefits of data management.

The latest updates to data and recipe management software are all about streamlining. Much of this comes down to integrating software systems and making it possible for equipment to communicate with one another. That helps fulfill the promise of enterprise resource planning (ERP), materials requirements planning (MRP) and other data-driven business management systems.

“One of the biggest trends we’ve seen over the past few years is customers’ increasing interest in integrating their upfront business systems,” says Jason Stricker, director of sales and marketing, Shick Solutions. “ERP, MRP, accounting software, those types of things — the integration of Shick Solutions’ Automated Ingredient Management (AIM) production management software into those systems decreases labor needed for data entry and reduces the risk of data entry errors.”

By integrating ERP/MRP systems with AIM, bakers can track costs and other metrics in the ERP system while also being able to unify batching operations simultaneously, and bakers get the best of both worlds, according to Travis Stoll, manager of IT/IS, Shick Solutions. The result is a total solution for cost and batch reporting.

Just as technology makes it easier to connect in the outside world, the bakery floor is no different. As machines are more and more automated and control is handed over to computers, it has become easier and more standard to link them together.

“Batching systems now are easily tied directly to ingredient-usage reporting data-and-inventory control systems that can feed reports that are current and accurate,” says Doug Hale, vice-president of operations, Dunbar Systems, Inc. “As technology improves, we have become more connected with third-party software such as ERP systems.”

As a part of its continual improvements, Gemini/KB Systems works with third-party software developers to bridge gaps in data communication between PLC-controlled operations on the plant floor and the office PCs. “These steps have permitted real-time lot control, recipe management, process management, production information and performance metrics,” Palmer says.

Buhler also can connect its recipe management system to a bakery’s ERP system. Recipes don’t have to be entered separately into the company’s WinCos control system; they can automatically be transferred to it from the company’s ERP system. “Once we’ve weighed those ingredients, we can send that data back to the enterprise system so we know which ingredient we used, how much we used and how much of each lot we used,” says John Hunter, sales account manager, bakery and ingredient handling, Buhler. With this kind of data integration, bakers can look at key parameters and trends to improve their process.

For example, Buhler technology can measure protein, starch damage and water absorption of the flour coming into a bakery. With this information, a baker can adjust the mixer and process to optimize the flour’s characteristics.

“From a data management perspective, we’re able to get more data in automatically, and then we’re able to do something with that data that adds value to the customer,” Hunter says.

Zeppelin Systems USA has taken its recipe and data management system to the next level with system integration and more sophisticated data collection. The company’s PRISMA software interfaces with its ControlLogix batching engine. PRISMA manages recipes, production scheduling, batch reporting and inventory tracking, which now encompasses data concerning lots, allergens, and GMO and non-GMO ingredients.