How do you quickly identify a single bread roll when you make 2 million of them in a day? What do you need to find a single batch of burger buns? Swedish based Lantmännen Unibake can trace the suppliers of the raw materials from an individual package in point of sales in less than 15 minutes.

Lantmännen Unibake in Sweden sells hot dog and burger buns to the catering trade and retail stores. Under the Korvbrödsbagarn brand they supply to Burger King, Max, 7 – Eleven, Sibylla and several chains of petrol stations. As a food company that serves the world with a perishable product, being able to accurately trace goods isn’t just a legal requirement, it’s a competitive advantage.

Logistics Manager Peter Lindgren needs to be able to track huge volumes of raw materials and finished goods at any time.

Peter Lindgren: ”We use the Consafe Logistics Astro WMS and RetroSpect systems for traceability and production flow. We can check a bag of rolls and know exactly from which batch the flour came. The system connects all raw materials and tracks all shipments, registering deliveries and even the temperature when the raw materials were received in our warehouse. With the number of bread rolls we make each day, having that kind of information available at our fingertips means we can identify and test our materials and products quickly and efficiently. If there’s a problem with a single roll, we know where the ingredients for the products in that bag originated from.

From source to shelf

Bread on a line

Image from Lantmännen

Lantmännen Unibake has only 11 staff managing their warehouse in Örebro, even though the volumes they are dealing with are huge. Peter Lindgren says, ”We use the Astro WMS to control the complete flow of goods through the warehouse. Everything is linked through the system”.

The traceability routines are like this:

  • Scan incoming goods
  • All received and produced goods are assigned an EAN 128 label
  • All production orders are treated like picking orders
  • Each production order contains a picking list
  • The system scans picks for recipes
  • It scans pallets of raw materials
  • Materials are then linked to a batch number

By scanning everything, every time something is moved, Lantmännen Unibake has complete traceability through the entire production chain – from corn to consumer you could say.

Peter Lindgren explains, ”When a pallet is fully packed we attach an EAN 128 label and it goes into the freezer. We scan every movement so we know everything about the whole chain. We know which pallet has gone to which customer. Even where we have pallets containing mixed goods we know exactly which mother pallet everything comes from by scanning the pallet label. Scanning is the key to tracking everything”.

From all finished goods the company can trace what raw materials are used for the batch and trace in all directions. Operators can take any pallet containing raw materials and see which pallets they have made from these, where the goods came from and which customers have received them.

Testing, testing

Peter explains that traceability testing is something they perform on a regular basis and that it takes almost no time at all.

We perform 2 or 3 traceability tests each year, plus one when we have a BRC audit. (British Retail Consortium). We also perform tests when customers require them. Thanks to the systems we have in place, tracing goods either way never takes longer than 15 minutes. After a phone call we even know if customers still have pallets in stock or not. We make a total of 10 or 12 tests every year. It’s a very smooth and simple system”.

Thanks to the interplay of Astro WMS and RetroSpect the company doesn’t have to spend time finding out where goods are, how old they are, which customer they should go to and where they came from.

We get the updated information online and in real-time. We have to keep on top of things and keep track of everything”. Explains Peter Lindgren ”We have also integrated external warehouses into the system so we can see exactly what we have in those warehouses”.

What if something goes wrong?

However automated and efficient a system is, there’s always a chance of error. The question is how to minimize risk. What happens if something does go wrong?

Peter Lindgren says: ”Human error can always creep in, and in our case it would come from someone not following instructions. People could forget to register what has been picked or forget to register materials when they are received. Some-times people forget to register raw materials or a driver could load the wrong pallet onto the lorry”.

While it can cause an inconvenience there are always ways to find out what raw material has been where. We can see which pallet they picked or even which pallet before that or after that. With a bit of detective work we can soon find out exactly what is what, as all handling is scanned throughout the warehouse and production”.

Our processes are designed to be very simple, and we have excellent training programmes in place, but mistakes can happen. We have signs hanging at marked places throughout the warehouses to minimize error, so it’s not a big problem”.

Peter Lindgren goes on to talk about the security at the warehouse. ”We have a completely locked down facility. All the outer doors are secure and staff need a pass card to get in. The gates are closed, and anyone coming in to load or unload needs a pass card or they have to call security”.

Bottom line benefits

Lantmännen Unibake implemented Astro WMS and RetroSpect 5 years ago to improve traceability.

Peter Lindgren says, ”It gives us an excellent picture of what our stock levels look like at any given time, as every pallet is dated. This helps to minimize waste. Before we introduced the system it was almost impossible to keep track of dates on every pallet. One major difference is in filling levels. We had a good filling level before, but when we introduced Astro WMS we could increase filling degrees by 10% – 15%. By putting 10% more products in our own warehouse rather than in someone else’s we can save an awful lot of money. And of course we radically improve our traceability. We can see if a quality issue has to do with how we place goods in the warehouse. It could be something like a dripping pipe that creates ice on the pallet for instance”.

Major improvements

  • Accurate stock check
  • Dated pallets
  • Minimal waste
  • Warehouse filling levels improved
  • Traceability improved
  • Customer demands met
  • Product safety assured

As good as it gets?

When asked if they could improve the system any further, Peter Lindgren explains, “It would be difficult as we know exactly what’s going on. Maybe one area we could improve on is confirming transport. When we get confirmation of the exact time and date of goods received we could also get a recording of the temperature when it arrived. We can do this, but I’m not sure all our customers can send this back to us – to confirm what was received. Temperature is always important. We always keep a temperature log that says things like, “the temperature was fine and at minus 19”.

Get an upgrade – get ahead

Peter Lindgren talks about the dangers of not having an adequate traceability system in place. ”Even today, lots of companies are still working with pen and paper, or with systems that take a couple of hours to do what we do in 15 minutes. In a crisis, time is vital. For the good of the company, or even for its survival, you have to act really quickly. Everything happens so fast today. Newspapers know about a recall as soon as you do. You need to show you can block faulty goods quickly, and get in contact with customers very quickly”.

As Peter Lindgren says, ”A bad recall could be the end of a small company”. Is it really worth it?

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