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By Monica Popescu, Coca-Cola HBC Business Systems Solutions - SC/Quality Solutions Manager, Coca-Cola HBC and Zoltan Syposs, Ph.D., Coca-Cola HBC QSE Director, Honorary Associate Professor University of Szent Istvan / Food Science Department Hungary

Beverage Quality (4.0) and Food Safety Takes more than TechnologyMonica Popescu, Coca-Cola HBC Business Systems Solutions - SC/Quality Solutions Manager, Coca-Cola HBC and Zoltan Syposs, Ph.D., Coca-Cola HBC QSE Director, Honorary Associate Professor University of Szent Istvan / Food Science Department Hungary

As the world changes in quantum leaps, in this fast evolving and highly competitive environment, technology can make the difference. Quality 4.0 is among the many developments that are giving the rise to the “Beverage factory of the future”. Predictive analytics, connected sensors, AI, VR/AR solutions have rapidly been adopted across the beverage supply chain. These technologies are clearly driving improvements across the entire beverage value chain.

By learning, mainly from the automotive and pharma industries, in the past 5 to10 years, the beverage industry has rapidly adopted various innovative solutions. Some examples of advanced beverage QA/Food-Safety Management technologies include:

Big Data/Cloud Solutions

Implementation of Statistical Process Control (SPC) solution, based on integration with measurement devices on production lines for automatic monitoring of critical to quality parameters (CtQ)—Brix, CO2, Torque, Microbiology, Packaging measurements, etc.,—provides opportunities for Big Data analysis. Real-time monitoring of beverage products CtQ parameters is possible and the risk associated with producing large quantities of non-conforming cases unnoticed is being significantly reduced. Real-time SPC application is a paramount competitive advantage tool for QA and manufacturing experts. It plays a pivotal role shifting the view of the classical “quality control (QC) as a cost-centre” mindset to a cost optimisation, “right at first time” view with proven beneficial economics in scale.

Automated collection of data from multiple systems simultaneously and complemented with manually entered data sources (consumer complaints, manufacturing/distribution and marketplace incidents, etc.) offer automatic calculation of KBIs with possibility to visualise and analyse trends. Automated trend analysis can be applied with other significant manufacturing/QA applications including automatic or semi-automatic Root Cause Analysis (RCA) machine-to-machine communication to enable self-adjustment of parameters and real-time process simulation. Hence, in case an incident occurs, structured problem solving through automated RCA tools is proven to be a critical tool to reduce negative business impact.

Date Code Recognition

Image captured with devices such as smartphone, tablet for interpreting date code on products, for different sku’s, type of packages and environment (Can, Bottle, PET etc.,), this solution enables us with automatic recording of quality measurements in the beverage production plants, warehouses, and product performance in the market place as well.

Quality/Food-Safety by Design (QFSxD)

More frequently, similar to the pharmaceutical operations, beverage companies apply more elements of the QFSxD simulation, testing and end-to-end risk assessment and AI supported failure mode and effect analysis. By the early and structured involvement of quality experts and tools this can help to eliminate potential failure points in the design, manufacturing, distribution of beverage products.

Potential future digital solutions that may drive QA and productivity improvements include the industrial Internet of Things (IoT):

It is known that the majority of beverage products’ quality issues are sensory quality attributes related. To this extend, the advancement of automated sensory analyses methods such as the integration of the next generation electronic nose technology, for automatic detection of odour measurements and correlation of those samples with alert and/or out of specification, CtQ parameters will continue improving product quality and overall productivity.

In the last 3 to 5 years the industry has shifted towards more “natural” non-alcoholic beverages. Beverage manufacturers go to great lengths to source fruit and vegetables of the highest quality, to produce mildly-processed beverages that are placed in premium packages and retail positions. In addition, demand for plant-based protein is constantly increasing in tandem with the emphasis producers are placing on “naturalness”. This trend is clearly associated with an increased level of food-safety, specifically microbiological safety challenges. As part of the response strategy integrated with the Quality and Food-Safety by design concept, the advancements of enhanced microbiological risk assessment and rapid analytics play a pivotal role in the QA processes. Validated molecular and other methods enable automatic and rapid analysis of microbiological parameters, improving the speed of measurement transferring results to Analytics tool (SPC etc.)

And many more increasingly innovative solutions and applications such as Blockchain technology, digital smart laboratories can be mentioned among those which will define the forthcoming of the beverage industry technologies.

Food Safety is the most critical, fundamental element within the overall definition of F&B quality. Despite the rapid advancements of these innovative solutions, when it comes to food safety, there has been an increase of recall incidents over the last few years associated with non-alcoholic beverages.

Why is this Trend?

Our observations revealed the trend of increasing reported food-safety incidents are due to the following (non-inclusive) reasons:

1. Unauthorised use of food additives and flavorings

2. Fraud

3. Chemical contaminants

4. Improved quality, speed, and accuracy of reporting (governmental rapid alert systems and other food safety professional portals)

One may argue that items from one to three are linked with the “size of prize” and the continued increase of economic pressure to maintain competitiveness while item four is due to the steady progress made by the regulators, food safety professionals, and data scientists in analytics as well as consolidating and reporting data.

One would also assume that in the age of connected, instantly informed world, business leaders look at quality and food-safety as paramount business enabler integrated across all layers of the organisation rather than simply a cost-centre. Recent studies on quality and food safety however suggest that although most of the beverage companies include in their executive level strategy quality and food safety initiatives, most of the organisations are lacking a compelling, overarching quality and food safety culture including, layer specific competencies and accountabilities.

In this transformative age, food and beverage supply chains are getting more complex and should be readily adaptable to the changing landscape of the non-alcoholic beverage sector, covering the diverse needs of multiple stakeholders, including consumers, producers, regulatory bodies, and certification companies. In the constant race for competitiveness, smarter, adaptive food safety, and quality management systems, digital technology is anticipated to play an increasingly significant supporting role for all stakeholders in the beverage industry.

At the same time for all organisations it is critical to realise that technology and innovation cannot substitute the paramount importance of embedded quality/food-safety culture built on competencies, team-work and enterprise leadership skill. In our view there are four key elements commonly apply for all organisational quality step change models: (1) leadership emphasis, (2) messaging credibility & consistent communication, (3) cross-functional collaboration and peer involvement, and (4) employee ownership

In summary, to move organisations to the next level it often requires organisations to conduct two often opposable tactical plans simultaneously implemented: (1) innovate (2) focus on back-to-basics (with discipline and clear role sort within the cross-functional alignment structure).

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