“Since implementation, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the accuracy of our monthly inventories, where we count nearly 100 different ingredient SKUs for our fiscal count,” says Huddleston.
Safety in lot numbers
The ICSI hand-add system includes a lot number tracking feature, giving Southern States the ability to fully trace where a product lands downstream.
Automated lot number tracking is not a specific requirement of the FDA’s new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), but in the case of a recall, it is required to inform all customers along the supply chain. ICSI’s lot number tracking feature would quickly and easily handle this type of situation.
“We’re better prepared to manage a recall because of the lot tracking,” says Huddleston. “If there’s ever a medication recall, our system knows where every pound of that lot number went, what feed it went into, what customers it went to, when they were loaded and what day it went out.”
The ability to quickly and effectively handle safety or quality concerns is particularly important for a cooperative because its customers are its owners. That’s why all Southern States feed mills have dedicated quality control supervisors, whose sole responsibility is to test and keep records of all incoming ingredients and outgoing products.
Larry Rone, Park City’s quality control supervisor, has been with Southern States for more than 15 years.
Rone manages everything from incoming grain samples, finished feed records and samples, production records, formula master record files, and the internal QA program and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) systems.
Drug handling record keeping is an enormous responsibility for medicated feed mills and Huddleston acknowledges the vital role Rone plays in day-to-day operations.
“I feel at ease knowing we have a dedicated staff member looking at nothing but quality every day from the time he comes in until he leaves,” says Huddleston. “We’re owned by our customers and have a vested interest in their satisfaction, so it’s important to have someone focused only on quality control.”
Monroe adds that customer satisfaction isn’t the only driver of Southern States’ commitment to quality. All Southern States feed mills are HACCP certified and Safe Feed/Safe Food certified by the AFIA.
The company’s existing quality control program helped facilitate the certification with both programs and gives Monroe confidence that his feed division is a step ahead of FSMA regulatory compliance.
“When you’re Safe Feed/Safe Food and HACCP certified, you have to sustain a high level of commitment to quality control,” says Monroe. “Those programs require constant vigilance, but they ask even more from the day-to-day controls that prevent serious situations from occurring.”
In addition to establishing quality assurance SOPs and documentation, HACCP certification requires facilities to have a written pest control program, defined critical control points, related countermeasures and maintenance tracking records.
In true Southern States form, the co-op relies on cutting-edge mobile technology integrated with its CMMS to track all maintenance activities at each of its eight mills.
Winning with maintenance
In 2005, Southern States began using an automated CMMS by Coupeville, WA-based Benchmate Systems, Inc. The program stores maintenance logs for all the equipment and components at every mill. Benchmate has sophisticated reporting capabilities that can show what activities were completed and how much time was spent on preventive and emergency maintenance; however, manually inputting the information was time-consuming and left plenty of room for error.
Maintenance mechanics used to track jobs on paper — often omitting quick fixes that were easily resolved — and it took several days to weeks before the notes were entered into Benchmate.
“There wasn’t enough time in the day for the employees to enter maintenance records in addition to the wrench-pulling and repair work,” explains Monroe.
Southern States’ previous plant engineer, Clint Westergard, worked closely with Benchmate Systems to create a better solution to Southern States’ data-entry dilemma.