Digital Transformation in Food Safety – Learnings from IAFP 2023 – Part 2

August 16, 2023

Observations from IAFP 2023

As more and more food and beverage producers identify the need for digitization of testing and sanitation programs, multiple technology providers have thrown their hats in the ring and created a groundswell of digital solutions in the market. With multiple new market entrants and all of the “noise” they can generate, it can be very confusing for buyers to identify an ideal solution for their needs.

Like with any other purchase, you have choices. Making an informed choice is critical to selecting a solution that will not only become a steward of your digital food safety data, but will also be a resource for you and your team — and even impact the efficiency of your day-to-day operations. Hosting your food safety data in the cloud is only the first step of digitization. From there, you need to look at historical trending, real-time notifications, lab integrations, and process automation. A “heat map” might look really interesting, but can it bring the most critical data to you when it is needed most? Does the map function merely as a data visualization layer, or does it also activate your data and make it easier to take action? In other words, can the map positively impact the operations of your facilities in a measurable way?

With these questions in mind, we have outlined the critical items needed to select an ideal digital solution for your food safety testing and sanitation programs:

  • Automation = Customization
    • The true benefit of digitization lies in the automation of your processes and procedures. Do your unique policies and rules become part of the program, and does the software adapt to you, or must you adapt to it? From environmental monitoring programs (EMPs) and product testing to sanitation standard operating procedures (SOPs), you need a system that allows you to automate your most critical activities without forcing you to change your operations.
  • Security
    • Where is your data going? How is your data secured? Who can access your data? Are you just one power outage or natural disaster away from not being able to access your data? Modern systems are developed on commercial-grade cloud platforms, providing the highest level of reliability and security available. Does your provider offer SOC 2 compliance? Do they regularly run penetration tests to ensure that their security measures are working? You need to ask these questions to make sure your technology provider is not actually increasing your risk profile.
  • Reliability
    • How long has the software been in the field? Are you interested in being a “beta” customer on a brand-new system or are you looking for something more proven and developed? How many tests has the system managed so far this year? How many facilities are using the system right now? Can you find and speak with a reference customer who can relate their experience and the benefits they have derived?
  • Integration
    • How is your lab data getting from the lab to you and your team? If the lab can send your results in an email, they can send them directly into your food safety data system. What about multiple labs? Or, what if you change labs — can you still get your data? Make sure you ask all software providers how they would handle lab integrations for you and your data.
  • Scalability
    • Your business looks different today than it has in the past. What will it look like tomorrow? If your organization acquires a new facility or a series of them, how does that affect your data system? Can it adapt? A robust, adaptable system becomes an asset in this situation, enhancing your efforts to best synthesize your food safety program in additional facilities.
  • Completeness of Solution
    • A presumed positive result comes back from the lab on a recently run product test. Can you easily review the EMP tests from that area of your facility? At that spot? Can you easily retrieve sanitation information on that equipment to investigate a root cause? Incorporating your EMP and product testing data along with your sanitation SOPs gives you the required visibility to see what is happening quickly, bringing down the walls between your processes and data sets.
  • Service
    • Rolling out a new system across your organization can be challenging without the right help. A Software as a Service (SaaS) business is very different than a testing provider or lab services business. How is their organization structured to ensure your success? What percentage of customers renew their subscription annually? Is there a person or team dedicated to you and your team, or do you have to submit a support ticket and wait? The software itself is not the only facet of a SaaS digital platform; the quality of service provided over time is often rated as the most important factor in customer surveys.

With the increase of food safety digital solution providers, it can become more and more difficult to understand the differences between them. Knowing what questions to ask and what conversations to have will determine if your new system will successfully launch and be utilized across your organization or not. Just like with your food safety program, the more information that you have, the better situated you will be to make informed decisions.

IAFP 2023 provided a wonderful event where many of these new technology providers were available to discuss the benefits of their systems with food quality professionals. Asking the questions above will help you delve deeper than the surface-level “heat map” to get a better idea of the full potential impact of a new system on your food safety testing and sanitation operations.

Go beyond the trade show and schedule a demo with Neogen Analytics. We are happy to answer all your questions and show you why our digital food safety data solution is the most trusted and widely used software in the market. Contact us today to set up a time to introduce the benefits of digital automation at your organization.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series on the learnings from IAFP 2023!


Category: Food Safety, Consumer Goods, Dietary Supplements, Food & Beverage, Pharmaceutical & Biotech, Microbiology, Pathogens, Environmental Monitoring