The benefits of electronic tracking systems

by Matt Hamer
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Stuart Hunt, president of SG Systems
Stuart Hunt, president of SG Systems

CHICAGO — The requirements for bakeries to be able to trace their ingredients are growing ever stiffer. Audits and food recalls have grown significantly in the last year and show no sign of slowing down. Stuart Hunt, president of SG Systems, Dallas, looked at these issues and shared his recommendations on addressing them at the American Society of Baking’s BakingTech conference in Chicago in a presentation entitled “Traceability: The Rising Challenge for Bakers.”

Mr. Stewart’s company builds and installs electronic tracking equipment to increase traceability accuracy and save time and labor in keeping track of complex ingredient lists. In traveling and talking to different bakeries, he said that he was surprised that many bakeries have no traceability measures in place. This can be disastrous if there is ever need to recall a product or if the bakery is ever audited for food safety.

Other bakeries utilize a paper tracking system. Though better than having no system at all, there are some significant drawbacks, Mr. Hunt said. For one, in the hectic work environment of a bakery floor, exact measurements may be difficult to take and numbers are often rounded, making it hard to keep exact track of inventory. Those who wish to convert the paper records to electronic ones can spend a small fortune employing people to do data entry, which is another point of potential human error.

Mr. Hunt’s recommendation is for bakeries to adopt electronic tracking systems in place of paper ones. Though there is the initial cost of purchasing and installing tracking equipment, most bakeries can expect an eventual return on investment between 2% and 6%, he said.

Electronic tracking begins at the receiving of ingredients. Once inventoried, these systems may automatically keep track of how much of a given ingredient is left in real time, making it easier to pinpoint a problem ingredient and pull the finished product it went into, Mr. Hunt said.  SG Systems also has software that takes reworked materials into consideration.

Mr. Hunt said that by implementing electronic tracking, bakers may ensure that they are covered from a food safety standpoint, and may spend more time focusing on baking and less on keeping track of ingredients.

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