From global giants P&G and Unilever to niche players like Sage Products, manufacturers have saved millions of dollars with a lean quality approach that eliminates days of product hold time throughout the manufacturing cycle.

These savings result from the use of rapid screening technology on raw materials, WIP and finished goods.

Facilities currently testing finished product for contamination can typically implement this supply chain improvement project within 3 months and free upwards of $400,000 of working capital at a single plant in the first year.

Eliminating Idle Time

A key target of any lean initiative is to identify and eliminate idle time: when materials or people are simply waiting to move on to their next, value-adding step in the production cycle. Process manufacturers that hold goods in inventory or in their distribution system while awaiting the results of quality testing are accumulating multiple days' worth of costly idle time in the production cycle.

"Using a rapid method gives us a distinct advantage,” said Neil Lewis, Global Microbiology Leader, P&G. “We were able to go from holding product for two, three or four days to 24 hours. This has a direct impact on costs and cash availability. It minimizes the inventory we have to hold, and it gives us a responsiveness to our customers.”

About Rapid Screening Technology

Rapid microbial screening for product release is the new industry standard. The traditional agar-plate-based microbial test is a time-consuming method of culturing product samples and waiting to see if microorganisms grow to subjectively visible levels. By contrast, fast, objective and reliable results are achieved 50-80% faster with a rapid screening system. 

“Since the technology allows us to get micro results in half the time, we are able to release products and ship products pretty much as needed,” said Mark Entrup, USA Corporate Microbiology, Kao Brands (Cincinnati). “We have reduced our warehouse space significantly. That is, instead of having to produce and then stockpile, the technology allows us to produce as orders require.” 

Along with P&G and Colgate, consumer goods giant Unilever adopted rapid methods globally in the mid-1990s “for reducing warehouse, to reduce stock holdings; and to get microbiological results early,” said Peter Jay, UK-based Manager, Hygiene and Personal Care (HPC) Products. 

The company has standardized on the use of rapid screening for many of its food and beverage product lines as well. André van Zuijlen of Unilever Nederland describes the technology as “a reliable and efficient method for quickly screening sterilized food products…a state-of-the-art tool.”