A few weeks after the Beijing Olympics in 2008, a massive recall was announced for various types of infant formula. Several producers had knowingly mixed melamine in watered down milk to meet protein requirements and boost profits. Nearly 300,000 children had been sickened. Trust in Chinese-produced infant formula was severely damaged, and consumers opted for foreign brands furthering the industry’s decline.
The Chinese government responded with industry-specific manufacturing requirements, strengthening regulatory supervision over quality control systems and supply chains. More recently, the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) established “infant formula manufacturer food safety credit files” for each manufacturer to monitor individual producer’s safety records.
The stakes are high. China has become the largest market in the world for infant formula – an estimated annual $19 billion industry.
Established in 1992, Beingmate has emerged as a leader in the Chinese market with $800 million in annual sales and 5,500 employees. As one of the few national brands to have no evidence of contamination, the company remained untarnished by the melamine scandal. As other producers struggled, Beingmate looked to increase production, gain market share and further instill consumer trust in their brand.
Over the past three years, the CFDA has remained persistent in introducing new quality standards to protect consumers. Revised regulations heightened infant formula producer requirements in nine areas, including product safety control, purchase of raw materials, formula product inspection, manufacturing process and product traceability.
In this strenuous regulatory environment, Beingmate built a new plant in the city of Anda, China to double production, increasing to 100,000 tons of formula annually. The plant’s advanced continuous manufacturing process line can run for more than 20 days without downtime. However, manual data-collection processes slowed the system. Extensive batch records were required for CFDA compliance, and quality checks and record keeping were a bottleneck.
“Recording product information in the production process is a requirement for our food safety management system and CFDA compliance,” said Li Guang, chief information officer, Beingmate.
Beingmate also needed to boost production to keep up with demand and increase market share. With compliance efforts getting in the way of optimizing operational effectiveness, the company needed a solution that would centralize and standardize recipe management, improve information integration and produce more timely reports. To accomplish this, Beingmate turned to the Rockwell Software CPGSuite manufacturing execution system (MES) from Rockwell Automation.
CPGSuite software integrates with the control system and enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to track, record and share production data in real time. Standardized work flows and standard application library suites for common functions help achieve quality and regulatory compliance.
“Starting a new production run used to be a time-consuming endeavor,” said Guang. “For example, the operators and warehouse staff would be told to release the raw milk into the separation unit at a specific time, manually. With the CPGSuite system, people are alerted of work orders automatically, which coordinates their efforts.”
The software integrates quality management and business analytics with paperless shop-floor and repair execution. It uses a work-flow engine and operational model that can grow with any future Beingmate expansion.
One of the key reasons Beingmate selected CPGSuite is the system’s compatibility with the existing mixed-vendor infrastructure on the plant floor. Easy integration increased the connectivity across the control infrastructure of the entire Anda plant. Scattered quality, production, inventory and database systems have been replaced with one system. The integrated system delivers processes and points of reference for consistently measuring performance across the plant. With the help of CPGSuite software, Beingmate is going beyond connecting disparate systems. The company is working toward becoming a more Connected Enterprise, one that can collect and share information across the facility and the enterprise automatically.
Supply-chain management is also an important aspect of CFDA and Beingmate safety and quality efforts. The CPGSuite system allows the company to track and trace raw milk into finished formula in real time. Deviations from performance targets are quickly recognized because production data is captured in context. The underlying problems in operation are now easily identified, proper personnel are alerted, and issues can be quickly fixed. Data is automatically collected along the production process to keep accurate inventory records and meet regulations.
As a leader in the Chinese infant formula industry, Beingmate had to set the standard for quality and consumer protection. The Rockwell Software solution has allowed Beingmate not only to meet regulations, but exceed them. “The CFDA considers our new system the most advanced track-and-trace system in all of China for baby formula,” said Guang.
The increased visibility into the system through greater control and business system integration has mitigated production issues. Problems on the line are dealt with as or before they happen because operators are viewing production data in real time. Because recipe management is centralized and standardized, each batch is consistent. Bringing automation to Beingmate helps cut waste, increasing profitability.
Automated work flows have increased productivity by 3 percent. Preparation and dispatch time is reduced as warehouse workers and operators coordinate their efforts, rather than one waiting on the other.
Productivity is also increased through a reduction in manual data collection and entry. Beingmate has observed a seven percent decrease in labor costs, solely from automated data collection. “We were able to cut the process of manually collecting and entering data, which also led to better track-and-trace” said Guang. The larger collection of data connects with the control and business infrastructure assisting in overall plant production.
“There were a lot of regulations that we had to meet while expanding our plant. Rockwell Automation is helping us be efficient while providing the highest levels of quality,” said Guang.