Leveraging DSI Software during Ellsworth’s Growth Period

There are big things happening in the town of Ellsworth. Known to many as the “Cheese Curd Capital” Ellsworth is home to one of the nation’s premier dairy cooperatives. This Wisconsin based operation is the home to over 400 dairy farms scattered across the state and neighboring areas, operating two facilities that produce a variety of cheese and whey powder. Their main facility in Ellsworth, is dedicated almost entirely to their world famous cheese curd production – something that has spawned their own community “Cheese Curd Festival,” bringing in cheese enthusiasts across the Midwest.

Their other facility located in Comstock, Wisconsin focuses on smaller artisan batches with over 80 different varieties produced, which are marketed and sold under a variety of brands. These cheeses include their award winning Red Muenster, Wisconsin Brick Cheese, and Hot Pepper Jack varieties. Consumers are likely to find Comstock cheeses under a variety of brands: Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery, Blaser’s, Antonella, and Ellsworth Valley are some of the more widely distributed names.

Demand for their products has created a continual growth pattern for the cooperative – something that is evident in their purchase of Comstock several years ago, and the constant pattern of construction at their main location. The growth the cooperative has experienced over the most recent 10 year period has changed the way they run their operation, as processing roughly 2 million pounds of milk a day has increased their need for efficiency and accuracy.

Through a combination of process changes and technological projects, the cooperative has seen gains in product visibility, tracking, costing and various other improvements. They’ve been able to streamline processes in areas while still continuing their day to day production. As anyone who has been through a software implementation will tell you, the process wasn’t always easy, but it was worth it.

“We wouldn’t have been able to grow the way we did with our previous software solution. Our relationship with DSI has helped us get a clearer picture on our operations and procedures both here in Ellsworth, and at our Comstock location.” Paul Bauer, CEO Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery

 Ellsworth’s growth over this time period has increased pressure on doing things more efficiently. Their operations are moving so quickly to produce their famous cheese curds and other products that often milk that is unloaded from a delivery can be in a cheese vat in an hour or less. The need for speed and accuracy has been met by tying their DSI ERP system to plant equipment including scales, labeling, and their usage of DSI’s barcoding system.

This integrated data collection replaced a variety of spreadsheets and hand written production notes to create a more succinct system, freeing up employees to concentrate on producing quality product, rather than spending time logging information or keying information into a computer. It has also given management more visibility from a higher level with respect to inventory, production and costing information.

“We’ve had a great relationship with the group at Ellsworth over the last 10 years. It is amazing to see the transformation they’ve gone through as they’ve expanded and continued to grow the cooperative. We’re proud to be a small piece of the puzzle up there and look forward to working with them over the next 10 years.”
Ryan Mertes, President Data Specialists Inc. (DSI)

Finding Software Success with Automation

Integrating manufacturing floor systems to ERP systems used to be reserved for the largest companies with the deepest pockets. Over the last 10 years, more and more of our customers are taking advantage of integration projects to increase their efficiency and reduce error rates. These projects have ranged from very basic to complex, and have varying ROI’s depending on what is being automated. In Part 1 of this series, we’ll take a look at two integration projects: silo scale or meter integration and the finished goods scale.

One of the most popular integration projects takes place at the silo level, monitoring all of the incoming and outgoing dairy liquids: milk, cream, whey, and dairy blends are constantly monitored as they are brought in and shipped out of the plant. Traditionally, this information was captured by staff in the loading bays and relayed to the office via excel spreadsheet, or hand written on a piece of paper. This delay in information caused much of the production information to be at least a day behind in the company’s information system. The office staff was then forced to look at reports on production that happened yesterday or even further in the past as they reconciled their components and tried to mass balance their plant to determine efficiencies.

Automation happens during intake and unloading via one of two primary methods: scales or meters. We’ve had success with both approaches at over 50 of our customers. This success has been achieved with a variety of set-ups – some of our customers have scales in the yard or a guard shack with a check-in station, and others have a more simple approach. By working together with your scale/meter company we’re able to access the data and store it in a database, allowing for a wide variety of reporting.

By integrating a scale to our Producer Payroll, Liquid Procurement, or Liquid Sales Modules more reliable real time information is provided to key staff members regarding not only the quantity of liquid, but its quality – and most importantly – its location. Records are automatically stored in the database as liquids move around between CIP cycles, ensuring that traceability is kept intact.

For our customers, this process has provided more timely information, eliminated almost all paperwork, increased accuracy, and increased their level of comfort with traceability. Another popular integration point is at the finished goods scale.  Used primarily by our powder customers, finished goods integration is a slightly more complex integration project that usually involves a scale, labeling system, and sometimes a palletizer. There are several different ways to accomplish this integration. Production information can be fed from DSI to the scale and labeling system, so that DSI is dictating production information, lot codes, and gathering the scale information to generate labels with the labeling system. Conversely, in some of our customer’s installations that relationship is completely reversed, where DSI is being fed information from a palletizer or scale labeling system. The key here is the ability to accomplish the same task a variety of ways depending on our customer’s needs.

By automating the finished goods side of things, several items are accomplished. Labeling is automatic, aiding in better real-time inventory tracking. The ability to capture real time reliable production data is also improved, as production yield reporting is available almost immediately following a production run. Traceability is automated and no longer relies on the individual who is working at the end of the production line, increasing the company’s accountability for their product.

Integration projects can be large or small, but there is no doubt that they have had a positive impact for our customers. The benefits of tying multiple systems together to achieve a more consistent reliable standard operating procedure help employees both on the floor and in the office.

As DSI’s customer base has grown over the years, so have our integration projects. While many of our customers have seen success with the more traditional integration projects, others have pushed themselves to be on the cutting edge of dairy processing – with an intense focus on milk (and component) accountability, these customers have taken the next step – pushing even further into integration projects.

One of the core competencies of the DSI system is our ability to track components and the affect that those components have on your company’s bottom line. This topic was thoroughly discussed in an article “Why Doesn’t Traditional ERP Fit the Dairy Industry” (Link Here). Taking this to the next level, several of our customers have tied their floor systems to DSI to provide more real time information on yields, shrink, efficiency, and traceability in every process zone of their plant.

Previously for many of our customers, production data was entered into DSI at the end of a production run, the next morning, or in some cases even several days later. The office staff became accustomed to making decisions based upon information that was old – evaluating production runs that were sometimes weeks old to determine efficiencies and losses. By integrating their production floor systems into DSI, this time gap is eliminated, providing staff with real time information only seconds behind what is happening on the floor.

In most cases, this is achieved by leveraging floor data systems – often the PLC / HMI controls that the operators are using to move milk throughout the plant. Tying these systems together also eliminates double data entry – removing a large portion of someone’s day, typing in data that had already been captured by another system. Error reduction is also a key in this process – it removes the requirement for the floor operators to write down production data and the chance that the office staff miss keys information based upon paper records received from the floor.

Mapping out this process and creating “zones” of control will aid your staff in understanding where milk losses are occurring, and where dollars should be spent. Rather than over automating the plant, creating these zones will save front end costs, as well as avoid overloading staff with unneeded data. Most of our customers will track their liquids from zone to zone, for a total of 4-6 zones, however we have customers that have gone to over a dozen process zones based upon their product mix. As milk moves through the plant both volumes and components can be reconciled in each zone, if desired. Certain areas (for example filler lines in a fluid plant) are always of interest based upon what would be considered “a known loss point.”

Breaking down the plant into various zones areas of loss become more apparent. By reporting on the various parts of the plant, management is able to pinpoint areas for focus on improvement – whether that be updating new equipment, changings standard operating procedures, or retraining employees. When the area of improvement involved changes in procedures or staff training, the feedback and statistics from the real time reporting play a pivotal role – feedback is immediate and can show if changes are having their desired effect.

The final plant zone for many of our customers is the finished product, packaged and awaiting shipment. While many of our dairy customers tend to lose less product in their warehouses than in any other part of production, the reasons for loss are almost infinite, making it harder to determine the root cause. Here are some of the most common causes of loss within a warehouse:

  • Poor FIFO / LIFO Procedures
  • Forklift Error / Damaged Product
  • Loss of visibility of product
  • Spoilage
  • Shipping Errors – Wrong Product
  • Miscommunication with offsite warehouses
  • Theft

Eliminating these causes of loss is generally a big factor in selecting a warehousing system for your ERP, as well as the other added benefits (reduced labor costs, less frequent counts, etc.).

One of the ways our customers have handled this is to use a 3rd party inventory control system and integrate it to our ERP. This can come in several forms, for some of our customers it is a DSD type application, for others it’s an automated inventory robot that controls their entire warehouse. These systems all have their advantages and disadvantages, as well as associated costs. We see these more frequently with customers that deliver directly to retail, and believe it or not – some still deliver to homes!

Others have used our barcoding system to bring their warehousing into real time. Pallets are recorded as production comes off of the line, scanned into inventory, and put away in their appropriate places. These systems generally have a lower cost than DSD type handhelds or full on inventory control systems, and they allow for either the office or the warehousing staff to take full control of the product moving in and out of the warehouse. For most of our customers, this step represents a forward leap compared to recording everything at the end of a production run or at the end of a shift / day.

Giving your dairy business the edge it needs to be profitable through good plant management is a key to your business’ success. Using automation and integration to combine the strengths of your plant floor and reporting systems is a powerful tool to help you achieve your goals.

by Thomas Filak, Data Specialists, Inc. developers of ERP software solutions for dairy & food plants

For more information on ERP software solutions and plant integration for the dairy and food, industries, please contact DSI at 262-723-5726.

 

UNLOCKING: Dairy Plant Liquid/Component Traceability

Keeping track of all your liquids and components throughout your dairy plant can be a daunting task. Planning and evaluating are key in discovering your plant costs and losses. Start with . . .

Dairy Plant System Study:

  • Evaluate your current plant processes for shrink and gaps
  • Assess plant manufacturing procedures as it relates to   personnel and other plant equipment i.e. scales, etc.
  • Review software systems and how they work throughout manufacturing
  • Provide actual costing of liquids and components analysis
  • Determine areas of shrinkage

Plan of Action:

  • Outline plant processes and procedures for tracking shrinkage and process gaps
  • Chart each manufacturing floor function and in the office for reporting, tracking liquid and component information through plant/warehouse
  • Define software and hardware shortfalls and propose solution
  • Consider software that provides liquid/component actual costing to ensure profit/loss accuracy
  • Summarize areas of shrinkage/loss, provide solutions controls to keep further instances from happening

Implementation:

  • Dairy Plant Shrink Project timeline and deadline
  • Outline and document procedures by manufacturing process
  • Train personnel in plant processes and procedures
  • Procure or update software solutions for costing and plant processes
  • Summarize overall profit versus loss the new project has delivered
  • Actively monitor the procedures and personnel to keep project on track.

Benefits of Dairy ERP Software. . .

  1.  Complete traceability of all liquids, components throughout from intake to retail shelf
  2. Accurate costing of your components and finished products
  3.  Distribution/Warehouse Control
  4.  Integrated Financials

DSI ERP Software Solutions is the key to discovering your dairy plant traceability and profitability. Tracing dairy liquids and components from milk or liquid procurement, plant manufacturing, warehouse and distribution through to your customer or consumer.

For more information about how DSI’s Dairy ERP software can provide total plant traceability, call Tom Filak at 262.723.5726.

Leaders in Dairy Industry Knowledge & Experience and Providing Innovated ERP Software Solutions Specifically for the Dairy Industry

Are you struggling with your milk payroll system?

Are you struggling with your milk payroll system? Is it flexible? Comprehensive? Offer a versatile producer payroll system? Does it give you the results you need to know your plant inconsistencies and shrink?

DSI’s Producer Payroll software is a comprehensive milk management system for the payment management of milk purchased from producers. The system offers maximum flexibility and is all encompassing. It is flexible enough to address the varied needs of some of the country’s largest dairy cooperatives to some of the smallest independent manufactures. Providing shrink tracking, producer history information including milk component analysis and multiple payment methods with versatile premiums. It can efficiently handle producer’s pay in every part of the country, for each Federal Order rules, including California and unregulated areas automatically. The software also handles pooling, de-pooling and other various requirements of the Milk Market Administrator throughout the U.S.

Click here for more information on DSI’s procurement software: https://www.dataspecialists.com/procurement/

DSI Celebrates 35 Years of Dairy Software Innovation

As DSI celebrates 35 Years of dairy software development. . . we ask ourselves,  “Where did the time go?”   The Mertes family is proud of their dairy software tradition and that it is continuing with the second generation. Over the past 35 years, DSI has committed themselves to developing innovative software for the dairy and food industries.  Constantly, looking for new ways to enhance, and develop their software to support and assist dairy producers, manufacturers, plants and warehouses.   As we all know, the industry is ever-changing, providing many challenges, and the need for new, innovative ways to keep the dairy industry efficient and profitable.   We look forward to meeting those challenges for another 35 years or more.

Our story begins in 1982, DSI was selected to take over a project for Kraft Foods, creating their dairy producer payroll system. At that time, our young company, with a handful of programmers completed the project, and forever changed the direction of DSI. As a result, DSI discovered a niche handling dairy procurement and production, creating products to handle the complexities of the industry.

With the success of the producer payroll project helping momentum, DSI turned their eyes towards the manufacturing area, completing the core ERP functions of production, distribution, and inventory – with a special focus on core dairy concepts of components, shrink, federal reporting, and other industry specific pain points. This system was used at a variety of cheese and powder manufacturers initially, and then steadily grew to be incorporated at facilities handling fluid milk, ice creams and other products. At that time,  DSI partnered with IBM on the AS400 systems that were prevalent through the late 1980’s and the 1990’s.

At the start of the new millennium, DSI made several significant shifts. This included rewriting the software off of the AS400 code, partnering with Microsoft using Great Plains financials (Dynamics GP today) GL package, and creating two additional modules: Liquid Sales and Liquid Procurement. The Liquid Procurement and Liquid Sales modules were a sign of the times, handling incoming and outbound milk in bulk form, as individual plants started shying away from paying farms, and the cooperatives continued to grow and consolidate. As the 2000’s progressed, DSI evolved with the dairy industry to start incorporating more real time information, by extending its manufacturing system with the DSI’s DairyTracker mobile barcoding system, providing manufacturers the ability to track their inventory wirelessly through out the plant.  The software development expanded, capturing all raw materials, scale and meter integrations, and for some of our customers – providing fully integrated systems.

The last several years have brought forth several new modules as companies and cooperatives demanded more real time information and more planning capabilities. DSI responded by creating production scheduling and planning modules for manufacturing, and introducing Liquid Scheduling and the DairyHauler iPhone app, to enhance the planning and real time information capacities of both the manufacturing and procurement systems. These systems allowed customers to plan, execute and monitor their milk throughout the production process, seeing more information than they ever had in the past.  

Presently, DSI is focused on enhancing current software offerings through a new user interface, increased reporting capabilities, and a continued focus on real time information. We are also currently working on several new development projects that will be making their debut late this year and at the start of 2018, ensuring DSI keeps pace with the ever-changing dairy world. 

We thank our current customers for their partnership over the past years, without them, we would not be here and for that, we are truly grateful.  We look forward to the next 35 years!

 

 

Are you confident you can trace all your ingredients and/or components through your plant anywhere at any time?

DairyTracker Barcode is a “real-time” mobile extension of the DSI ERP software modules. This handheld barcode software module was initially developed to handle mixed pallets of goods with the primary users being powdered milk producers who needed to track totes and pallets of bags. The product was tracked at the pallet level by item, quantity and unit count. The following generations of DairyTracker have taken DSI’s finished goods modules; Distribution, Inventory and Production, and integrates them more closely than ever before via wireless technologies.  This “real-time” release includes a more robust and updated interface, an advanced relabeling function, as well as integration with third-party production systems and has been standardized as part of the mobile DSI base system. All production can utilize the same inventory build and reporting processes found within the core DSI software suite.  This new level of granularity allows this software to track pallets and cases with a single scan, to identify piece-identified inventory when needed by the case, carton, each, barrel or tote.   DairyTracker is an easy-to-use mobile barcode system that delivers the production floor tracking needs of any dairy and or food plant in “real-time” giving your plant personnel immediate access to where your inventory resides and what orders it is allocated to.  For more information, please call Tom Filak, Data Specialists, Inc. at 262-723-5726.

 

Celebrating June – National Dairy Month!

15 Interesting Dairy Facts

by Fill Your Plate    http://fillyourplate.org/blog/national-dairy-month/

It is June, and that means that once again it is National Dairy Month. 

Various Types Of Dairy Products

According to the International Dairy Foods Association, National Dairy Month started out as National Milk Month in 1937. The holiday was created to stabilize the dairy demand when production was at a surplus. After the National Dairy Council stepped in to promote the cause the name changed to “Dairy Month,” and now it is an annual tradition that celebrates the contributions the dairy industry has made on the world.

All 50 U.S. states have dairy farms. Dairy is one of Arizona’s highest grossing agriculture sectors. Our dairy industry currently brings in close to $871 million annually. For milk production, Arizona ranks number 12 in the nation.

In honor of National Dairy Month, we have a list of 15 interesting facts about dairy.

  1. According to the 2014 Arizona Agriculture Contribution Analysis from the University of Arizona, Arizona has 102 dairy farms throughout the state and together these farms produce more than 1.5 million gallons of milk a day.
  2. Arizona’s has approximately 188,000 dairy cows provide us with the freshest milk, cheese and yogurt. Remember too, 97% of your milk in the grocery store is coming from our local Arizona Dairies.
  3. To make one gallon of ice cream you need 12 lbs. of whole milk.
  4. To make one pound of butter you need 21.2 lbs. of whole milk.
  5. To make one pound of cheese you need 10 lbs. of milk.
  6. Each day the average cow can produce enough milk to fill six one-gallon jugs, which is equal to around 55 lbs. of milk.
  7. The natural yellow color of butter comes mainly from the beta-carotene found in the grass cows eat.
  8. One dairy cow can produce around 200,000 glasses of milk in her lifetime. In order to make milk, cows need to drink a lot of water. Daily, cows drink up to 50 gallons of water. That is close to the amount of water needed to fill a bathtub.
  9. Though there are many types of cows there are two types of milk cows that are used “most” of the time for milk, Jerseys and Holsteins.
    • Jerseys are the brown cows. They give less milk but more cream.
    • Holsteins are the black and white cows. They give a lot of milk.
  10. Milk has 9 essential nutrients that our bodies need to stay healthy:
  • Calcium, which is useful in the building of strong teeth and bones.
  • Niacin, which is important for maintaining a healthy metabolism.
  • Phosphorus, which aids in increasing energy and building strong bones.
  • Potassium, to help maintain healthy blood pressure and muscles.
  • Protein, which builds and repairs muscle tissue and increases energy.
  • Riboflavin, helps to increase energy for exercising.
  • Vitamin A, to help maintain healthy skin and eyes.
  • Vitamin D, for helping to maintain strong bones.
  • Vitamin B12, which aids in building red blood cells which strengthen lungs and muscles.
  1. According to the USDA, diets that provide 3 cups of milk (the recommended daily intake), or the equivalent of dairy products per day can improve bone mass.
  2. Milk/dairy products contain casein, which is a protein that can cleanse burning taste buds. Next time your mouth is burning after eating spicy foods, take a drink of milk to cool it off.
  3. The U.S. enjoys an average of 48 pints of ice cream per person, per year, more than any other country. Vanilla is the favorite flavor in the U.S.
  4. 99% of all U.S. households purchase milk. The average American consumes almost 25 gallons of milk a year … that’s 400 glasses!
  5. Milk can remain fresh for up to 7-10 days after the expiration date when refrigerated at 35-40°F. Because of bacteria growth, every 5° (F) rise in temperature will shorten the shelf life by 50%.

USDA Outlines New School Milk Options; IDFA Posts Materials Members Can Use

IDFA – May 31, 2017 

With many schools getting ready for summer recess, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released a memo that explains how foodservice authorities can gain exemptions to bring back low-fat flavored milk to their cafeterias and campuses in the fall. The memo implements language in the fiscal year 2017 omnibus appropriations bill that was enacted in early May, which allows states to grant special exemption requests from schools for the service of low-fat flavored milk in school meal programs and as a competitive food.

Issued by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), the memo said schools must demonstrate and document a reduction in student milk consumption or an increase in school milk waste to qualify for the exemption, which has also been called a waiver. FNS outlined the type of data schools can use to document their requests, including, but not limited to:

  • A significant decrease in milk sales since implementation of the current meal patterns;
  • Declining milk sales despite offering alternative products and brands;
  • Results from a food-waste study indicating significant waste of fluid milk;
  • Significant negative feedback from students and parents regarding the lack of low-fat flavored milk in schools; and
  • Significant negative feedback from students regarding the palatability of fat-free flavored milk.

Although the states have the final say on granting exemptions, the FNS memo “strongly encourages” state agencies to allow low-fat flavored milk options to schools expressing interest.

IDFA has developed materials that members can use to help schools apply for exemptions and support their requests. Members may log in below to access the materials.

Proclamation by Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue

Also last month, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue signed a proclamation that directs USDA to change its regulations to allow schools to serve low-fat flavored milk in schools without a special exemption. However, this rule change will take many months to accomplish, at a minimum, so it’s unlikely to be implemented in time for milk contracts for the coming school year. That means schools that want to serve low-fat flavored milk during the coming school year will need to comply with the special exemption requirements outlined in the FNS memo.

For more information go to IDFA:  http://www.idfa.org/news-views/headline-news/article/2017/05/31/usda-outlines-new-school-milk-options-idfa-posts-materials-members-can-use

 

Finding Software Success with Automation

Integrating manufacturing floor systems to ERP systems used to be reserved for the largest companies with the deepest pockets. Over the last 10 years, more and more of our customers are taking advantage of integration projects to increase their efficiency and reduce error rates. These projects have ranged from very basic to complex, and have varying ROI’s depending on what is being automated. In article, we’ll take a look at two integration projects: silo scale or meter integration and the finished goods scale.  One of the most popular integration projects takes place at the silo level, monitoring all of the incoming and outgoing dairy liquids: milk, cream, whey, and dairy blends are constantly monitored as they are brought in and shipped out of the plant. Traditionally, this information was captured by staff in the loading bays and relayed to the office via excel spreadsheet, or hand written on a piece of paper. This delay in information caused much of the production information to be at least a day behind in the company’s information system. The office staff was then forced to look at reports on production that happened yesterday or even further in the past as they reconciled their components and tried to mass balance their plant to determine efficiencies.

Automation happens during intake and unloading via one of two primary methods: scales or meters. We’ve had success with both approaches at over 50 of our customers. This success has been achieved with a variety of set-ups – some of our customers have scales in the yard or a guard shack with a check-in station, and others have a more simple approach. By working together with your scale/meter company we’re able to access the data and store it in a database, allowing for a wide variety of reporting.  By integrating a scale to our Producer Payroll, Liquid Procurement, or Liquid Sales Modules more reliable real time information is provided to key staff members regarding not only the quantity of liquid, but its quality – and most importantly – its location. Records are automatically stored in the database as liquids move around between CIP cycles, ensuring that traceability is kept intact.

For our customers, this process has provided more timely information, eliminated almost all paperwork, increased accuracy, and increased their level of comfort with traceability. Another popular integration point is at the finished goods scale.  Used primarily by our powder customers, finished goods integration is a slightly more complex integration project that usually involves a scale, labeling system, and sometimes a palletizer. There are several different ways to accomplish this integration. Production information can be fed from DSI to the scale and labeling system, so that DSI is dictating production information, lot codes, and gathering the scale information to generate labels with the labeling system. Conversely, in some of our customer’s installations that relationship is completely reversed, where DSI is being fed information from a palletizer or scale labeling system. The key here is the ability to accomplish the same task a variety of ways depending on our customer’s needs.

By automating the finished goods side of things, several items are accomplished. Labeling is automatic, aiding in better real-time inventory tracking. The ability to capture real time reliable production data is also improved, as production yield reporting is available almost immediately following a production run. Traceability is automated and no longer relies on the individual who is working at the end of the production line, increasing the company’s accountability for their product.  Integration projects can be large or small, but there is no doubt that they have had a positive impact for our customers. The benefits of tying multiple systems together to achieve a more consistent reliable standard operating procedure help employees both on the floor and in the office.
As DSI’s customer base has grown over the years, so have our integration projects. While many of our customers have seen success with the more traditional integration projects, others have pushed themselves to be on the cutting edge of dairy processing – with an intense focus on milk (and component) accountability, these customers have taken the next step – pushing even further into integration projects.

One of the core competencies of the DSI system is our ability to track components and the affect that those components have on your company’s bottom line. This topic was thoroughly discussed in an article “Why Doesn’t Traditional ERP Fit the Dairy Industry”). Taking this to the next level, several of our customers have tied their floor systems to DSI to provide more real time information on yields, shrink, efficiency, and traceability in every process zone of their plant.

Previously for many of our customers, production data was entered into DSI at the end of a production run, the next morning, or in some cases even several days later. The office staff became accustomed to making decisions based upon information that was old – evaluating production runs that were sometimes weeks old to determine efficiencies and losses. By integrating their production floor systems into DSI, this time gap is eliminated, providing staff with real time information only seconds behind what is happening on the floor.

In most cases, this is achieved by leveraging floor data systems – often the PLC / HMI controls that the operators are using to move milk throughout the plant. Tying these systems together also eliminates double data entry – removing a large portion of someone’s day, typing in data that had already been captured by another system. Error reduction is also a key in this process – it removes the requirement for the floor operators to write down production data and the chance that the office staff miss keys information based upon paper records received from the floor.

Mapping out this process and creating “zones” of control will aid your staff in understanding where milk losses are occurring, and where dollars should be spent. Rather than over automating the plant, creating these zones will save front end costs, as well as avoid overloading staff with unneeded data. Most of our customers will track their liquids from zone to zone, for a total of 4-6 zones, however we have customers that have gone to over a dozen process zones based upon their product mix. As milk moves through the plant both volumes and components can be reconciled in each zone, if desired. Certain areas (for example filler lines in a fluid plant) are always of interest based upon what would be considered “a known loss point.”

Breaking down the plant into various zones areas of loss become more apparent. By reporting on the various parts of the plant, management is able to pinpoint areas for focus on improvement – whether that be updating new equipment, changings standard operating procedures, or retraining employees. When the area of improvement involved changes in procedures or staff training, the feedback and statistics from the real time reporting play a pivotal role – feedback is immediate and can show if changes are having their desired effect.

The final plant zone for many of our customers is the finished product, packaged and awaiting shipment. While many of our dairy customers tend to lose less product in their warehouses than in any other part of production, the reasons for loss are almost infinite, making it harder to determine the root cause. Here are some of the most common causes of loss within a warehouse:

  • Poor FIFO / LIFO Procedures
  • Forklift Error / Damaged Product
  • Loss of visibility of product
  • Spoilage
  • Shipping Errors – Wrong Product
  • Miscommunication with offsite warehouses
  • Theft

Eliminating these causes of loss is generally a big factor in selecting a warehousing system for your ERP, as well as the other added benefits (reduced labor costs, less frequent counts, etc.).

One of the ways our customers have handled this is to use a 3rd party inventory control system and integrate it to our ERP. This can come in several forms, for some of our customers it is a DSD type application, for others it’s an automated inventory robot that controls their entire warehouse. These systems all have their advantages and disadvantages, as well as associated costs. We see these more frequently with customers that deliver directly to retail, and believe it or not – some still deliver to homes!

Others have used our barcoding system to bring their warehousing into real time. Pallets are recorded as production comes off of the line, scanned into inventory, and put away in their appropriate places. These systems generally have a lower cost than DSD type handhelds or full on inventory control systems, and they allow for either the office or the warehousing staff to take full control of the product moving in and out of the warehouse. For most of our customers, this step represents a forward leap compared to recording everything at the end of a production run or at the end of a shift / day.

Giving your dairy business the edge it needs to be profitable through good plant management is a key to your business’ success. Using automation and integration to combine the strengths of your plant floor and reporting systems is a powerful tool to help you achieve your goals.

by Thomas Filak, DSI

For more information on ERP software solutions and plant integration for the dairy and food, industries, please contact DSI at 262-723-5726.

The Problem with Keeping Milk out of your ERP

The complications of dealing with milk in a computer system that is designed for more generic manufacturing are numerous. These systems often cannot account for components, they are not able to deal with delayed pricing, class pricing, liquid inventory, and some even have a hard time with random weighted items. Notice I have not mentioned the concept of federal order reporting and class utilization, either. Generic ERP systems often require work arounds or an enormous amount of custom programming to handle these instances.

How are most dairy companies handling these complications and scenarios? They’re leaving their milk out of their ERP system.

On the surface it would seem this is the simple, easy answer to avoiding a lot of headaches. A more thorough review highlights the short comings of this approach, and the complications it creates. It avoids the complications from custom coding, and most figure that Excel (do we need some MSFT TM symbol here?) is a powerful enough tool to help them with their analysis.

In this approach, the manufacturer avoids the milk complication by picking production up at the point of the creation of a finished good product. There is some manual tracking as production occurs, but it is almost entirely focused on traceability and lot tracking for the purposes of food safety. Hand tracking of milk losses and components is almost non-existent in a good portion of the dairy industry. In nearly every circumstance these numbers – actual loss numbers – are backed into by an accountant on a spreadsheet at the end of a given time period (e.g. monthly).

The spreadsheet approach is a common strategy for most of the customers we see with aging ERP systems. These spreadsheets are often populated a day or two after production is done and entered by hand by someone in the office, and then sent over to finance or accounting. Often referred to as “make sheets” these documents track anything from the amount of milk taken to a vat or separator, all the way to the amount of finished goods inventory created. These “make sheets” are often the blood of the production staff and nearly sacred. While they provide a good source of information, their existence as a reporting tool is limited by both their accuracy and their timeliness.

It’s not just milk – It’s the components.

Tracking a liquid is a complicated task without accounting for the makeup of the liquid. In our industry, the true cost of milk is in the butterfat, solids non fat, protein and solids within the milk. Even if milk is accounted for on a spreadsheet – how accurate is your costing at a component level? Can your spreadsheet account for the quality of each load of milk, each production run, and all of your finished goods? 

Can true production efficiency be obtained without accurate shrink calculations?

The “make sheets” we see at the plant level often account for production in terms of what was used, what was made, and lot numbers. What is often lost at the point of production is what was lost. In dairy production, no matter what the product is you’re creating, there is some inherent shrink involved. It doesn’t matter if the shrink occurs due to a CIP, overfill, or one of the countless human errors that can happen between raw materials and loading a truck for shipping.

There are also yield considerations. Every customer we visit has some sort of benchmark for yields, a standard they are hoping to obtain. While most companies are doing yield calculations for each production run or each production day, most of that data is coming from calculations that are being done based upon information gathered from the “make sheets,” meaning that this information is often days or weeks behind when the production actually occurred. How difficult is it to work with your production staff to fix an issue that happened on a Tuesday three weeks ago? The delay in reporting and error rate on these make sheets often causes missed training opportunities to help increase the efficiency of your production floor.

Obtaining true costs is nearly impossible without tracking your milk in your ERP system.

Dairy costing is a complicated and often time consuming process for many of the companies we meet with. The difficulty of balancing the milk that is paid for versus what ends up in your silos is just the beginning of a long and complex calculation that takes in consideration anything from procurement shrink, to production shrink, all the way to cooler or warehouse shrink. Without managing the milk in the ERP system, the numbers for costing calculations come in spreadsheets and handwritten notes. Along with that there are some stray emails noting production variances and another note from milk accounting with final numbers that have been settled on for milk purchases.

Someone in finance then spends a day or two tracking all of these things down, putting it into yet again – another spreadsheet – and goes through the complicated task of making sense of it all. What are the odds that all of this information is correct, and that their costing calculations will be accurate?

There are many reasons companies choose to track their milk outside of their ERP system, however I keep coming back to the same question over and over again:

How many other industries would try to track their most important and most expensive raw material by hand?

For more information on DSI’s dairy and food ERP software solutions, contact Tom Filak at 262.723.5726.

 

 

 

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