New software and RF systems integrate HACCP into plant process-control and information networks, but applications to date are few

As reported last month in Food Engineering's "State Of Manufacturing 2001" study, a substantial number of food manufacturers -- unlike U.S. manufacturers at large -- are devoting nearly the same resources to integrating their manufacturing systems with their IT systems as they are to integrating their IT systems with each other.

The survey, however, was taken early in the second quarter of this year, before it became apparent that the U.S. Gross Domestic Product increased at an annual rate of only 0.2 percent during the quarter, and that the manufacturing sector was actually in recession. Considering the gloomy economic scenario, declining profits in the food industry (one factor sparking the recent wave of megamergers) and the precarious financial position of many software vendors, it remains to be seen if food manufacturers will in fact be spending much on software integration this year.

One key aspect of food manufacturing today, of course, is HACCP, currently mandated in the seafood, meat, poultry and juice segments of the industry. Even where not mandated, many processors have voluntarily implemented HACCP plans. According to FE's "State" study, 38 percent of respondents from plants where HAACP is not mandated have HACCP plans in effect, and an additional 23 percent have partially implemented HACCP.

In most plants, whether mandated or not, HACCP is a paper chase. But a few manufacturers are integrating HACCP into plant process-control and information systems to automate data collection and reporting.


Leidy's Premium Pork Products, a pork processor in Souderton, PA, recently installed an ERP system which integrates with manufacturing and incorporates a HACCP module.

Founded in 1893, Leidy's employs about 220 people and processes 1,000 to 1,200 hogs per day. Last fall, Leidy's installed an ERP solution developed by CSB-System International (San Diego, Cal.) which integrates with its manufacturing plant, and is currently implementing CSB-System's HACCP module to monitor critical control points in the plant's HACCP program.

CSB-System consists of modules integrating a wide range of functions stretching from e-procurement to the kill floor to credit management, from cutting calculations to EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) with customers. Leidy's system was customized to integrate with existing scanners, scales, labelers and workstations to track production data such as lots, grades, weights and yields. Additional functions include production scheduling, inventory control, order entry, shipping/receiving and financial accounting.

CSB-System "has been pretty well thought out for the meat industry and has been customized to our needs," says Andy Leidy, vice-president of administration. "We currently do a lot of manual paper tracking for things like cost control and batch control. Our hope is to put PCs on the plant floor, and we'll collect data all at one point as our lots are moving through production."

The data would include tracking yields, weights, costs and work-in-process plus HACCP critical control points (CCPs) all at a central location, Leidy continues. "It's all integrated into one package, which is one of the main reasons we were attracted to it," he adds. "We don't have a huge IT staff which can spend time making these things work perfectly." Most CCPs are temperature points, such as product temperature upon emerging from a smokehouse or at packaging stations before products are boxed. CSB's HACCP module is part of its QLS quality assurance and laboratory information system, which integrates ISO 9001 quality standards and plant-specific HACCP CCPs and QA standards.

Headquartered in Geilenkirchen, Germany, CSB-Systems specializes in sector-specific solutions that are applied by food manufacturers throughout Europe including Frische-VLAG, Hanskamp, Dumeco, Campo Frio, MES Sausage and Cott. North American users include ElJay Poultry in Voorhees, NJ and XL Foods in Calgary, Alberta.

According to Patrick Pilz, president and CEO of CSB-System International, CSB system design started on the plant floor and moved up to the accounting level, unlike another German ERP vendor "that started at the accounting level and tried to move down." ERP integration with manufacturing is not well developed in the U.S., he added.

Wireless monitor

Early this year, Ondeo Nalco (Naperville, Ill.) introduced SensorWatch, a wireless web-based monitoring system for critical processes which transmits real-time data, graphs, trends, alarms and analysis to remote locations, including handheld devices such pagers, cell phones and PDAs (personal digital assistants). SensorWatch can be used to monitor process variables and utilities, troubleshoot equipment for preventive and predictive maintenance, and monitor regulatory compliance -- including critical control points in a HACCP program. Data is easily exportable through internet standards. Multiple locations and applications can be monitored via handhelds from a single location. The wireless system eliminates the costs of wiring and cable installation.

SensorWatch features:

  • A battery-powered SkyBeam transmitter which can be connected via standard 4-20mamp interface or discrete digital input to any existing instrument or device from which critical data is to be extracted. It doesn't require a clear line of sight for transmissions, making it ideal for industrial environments where signals can bounce-off pipes, tanks and equipment. Rated NEMA-4X for washdown, SkyBeam is especially applicable to food plants.
  • The SkyRamp Internet Gateway, which monitors and receives SkyBeam transmissions, maintains a local database, and routes data upon demand to remote computers via Ethernet LAN or telephone, or wirelessly to PDAs through a two-way paging network.

Nalco's SkyCenter, continuously manned 24 hours per day, seven days per week, monitors all SensorWatch data collection via three simultaneous internet connections to maintain continuous service even if one carrier is interrupted. Data is encrypted to maintain customer security.

Egg processor Rose Acre Farms is currently installing a small SensorWatch system for evaluation at its plant near Seymour, Ind., which processes shell eggs as well as liquid and frozen egg products. The ability to monitor critical control points in the plant's HACCP program "is the primary reason why I've been searching for an appropriate system of this nature -- so we can document and record in real time the conditions that exist in and during our processing," says Dr. Larry McBee, technical services director at Rose Acre Farms. Among the CCPs McBee plans to monitor are the pH of cleaning solutions, the high temperatures used in processing, and the lower temperatures needed for refrigerated storage.

In addition to monitoring CCPs in real time, McBee expects SensorWatch to alarm should a critical control point exceed specifications of the plant's HACCP plan, and display the corrective action specified by the plan. Alarms can be transmitted to "cell phones, fax or any communications methods of our choosing," he adds. Ease of installation is another advantage. "You simply hook-up a small battery-powered radio transmitter to an input sensor at the point of use," he observes. "The signal is then beamed over a reasonable distance, is received (by the SkyRamp database) and sent up by satellite for processing. This allows us to monitor multiple sites with a single central unit." Rose Acre Farms operates five egg plants in four states, McBee adds, and if tests are successful "all of these locations can in the future be combined to display on one PC in a central location." More than 50 different instruments can be linked into one SkyRamp, indicating that the system can be used to monitor a variety of process variables and quality specifications as well as CCPs.

John Lengele, corporate accounts manager at Northwest Analytical, Inc. (Portland, Ore.) demonstrated real-time monitoring of HACCP critical control points with NWA Quality Monitor software at IFT 2001 June 24 in New Orleans. Lengele, a former QA manager, production manager and plant manager for Nalley's Agrolink, focuses on food-manufacturing applications.

Quality Monitor, Lengele explained, runs on a plant-floor or portable industrial PC to collect plant-floor data in real time; instantly alerts the technician to CCP violations; displays corrective actions on a drop-down list and records corrective action taken. It can immediately produce statistical process control (SPC) charts for analyzing CCP compliance; to determine, for example, if the process at each CCP is stable or if a trend requires investigation. SPC charts provide "up-to-the-minute snapshots" to simplify internal and regulatory audits, and prove to inspectors and customers that a process is under control.

HACCP SOPs (standard operating procedures) can be stored in web or document formats for instant access, and can be updated on the server, eliminating the need to manually maintain and correct SOP notebooks. Quality Monitor can be used as a stand-alone data-collection station or save data to any OBDC-compliant database.

CCPs which might be monitored in a typical food process include pH, cook times, cook temperatures, cooling temperatures and metal detection, Lengele observes. Because the Quality Monitor HACCP configuration is new, no processors have yet adopted it but "there's a lot of interest," he reports. "It's probably best for somebody who has an established HACCP program and is looking for ways to improve it, as opposed to somebody just starting out with a paper-managed program," he adds. "It gives you the tools for continuous improvement."

An application of NWA's Quality Analyst SPC software to microbiological analysis in verifying the effectiveness of a HACCP program was reported last year by Dr. Syed Hussain, director of technical services for ConAgra Refrigerated Prepared Foods, at Food Engineering's PLANTtech 2000 Conference (FE Sept., Oct., '00).

ConAgra's Butterball Turkey Co. applies SPC to verify and record continuous improvement in re-ducing generic E. coli on turkey carcasses.

Networked metal detectors

Metal detection is a critical control point in many HACCP plans. Windows-based Safenet Plus software from Safeline Metal Detection (Tampa, Fla.) allows up to 50 metal detectors to be linked through a single PC for centralized control, and provides the documents needed to comply with a plant's HACCP plan and with vendor-certification programs. Safenet Plus reports rejection incidents by time and date; the real-time status of each detector on the network; information on individual detector settings; historical test data; and shift reports. Reports can be printed, exported to a database, or scheduled for automatic reporting. Product settings can be called up when needed to expedite changeover, and can be edited through the central PC to save time.

Idaho Supreme Potatoes, a manufacturer of dehydrated potato ingredients and finished products such as au gratin and scalloped potato mixes under private labels and its own brands, installed six Safeline GF-150 metal detectors to monitor bulk dehydrated-potato lines at its plant in Frick, Ida. The detectors were networked together with an earlier version of Safenet software which integrated all six detectors with a single computer to centrally monitor product for metal on each line before packaging in bags or bulk-loading into totes, trucks or rail cars. The Safenet system generates reports including time/date of rejections, real-time status and settings of each detector, a historical database, and quality-assurance documents.

BWS resurfaces

Bradley Ward Systems (BWS), whose process-control software is designed specifically for food manufacturing and is installed by about 350 food manufacturers including 30 of the top 100, reorganized in April of this year after last year's intended acquisition by FMC FoodTech failed to materialize.

In 1999, Bradley Ward (Alpharetta, Ga.) introduced the Key2HACCP data-monitoring and control system which consisted of two components:

  • The Plan module, which helps the user perform the hazard analyses required to develop a HACCP plan, identify hazards and critical control points, then create, archive and modify a printed HACCP plan;

  • The Execute module, which collects and stores CCP monitoring and corrective-action information in a database for easy retrieval of HACCP records.

When Execute is installed, the framework for the BWS Key2Success MES (Manufacturing Execution System) is also installed, allowing the user to extend real-time information across the plant floor and integrate with information systems.

The BWS reorganization plan emphasizes "finding business partners or negotiating an acquisition of BWS technology that will protect existing customer investments in the technology, and provide for future enhancement and support consistent with the core ideals of Bradley Ward Systems, Inc." The first step of this plan was achieved with transfer of widely-installed BWS PMIS and PMIS++ Production Management Information Systems to Nicheware Systems LLC (Richmond, Va.), a BWS partner since 1999.

According to Bradley Ward, who re-assumed the positions of president and CEO of the company he founded in 1981, BWS at this writing was upgrading the HACCP Plan software and planning to release Version 2.0, which supports Windows 2000 and ME as well as earlier Windows platforms, and will allow users to publish web-enabled HACCP plans for viewing on corporate intranets from remote sites.

BWS no longer supports the Execute module, however. "The technology is still there, but there isn't that much of an installed base," said Ward. "I think our HACCP Execute scheme is still a very viable idea for a food plant large enough to install a fairly large infrastructure, but that's only the very large food manufacturers. Most tend to be small companies with limited budgets. Perhaps five to ten years from now you'll see (that concept) widely applied."

Said one food-company speaker at Food Engineering's Food Automation 2001 Conference last February in Fort Lauderdale: "Bradley Ward was ahead of its time."