The rise of Digital Specification Management software is the new challenge for companies in the food & beverage sector. No one is going to deny the importance of accurate specifications, but is it really that easy?
As specification management experts we know a thing or two about what slows you down AND what can speed you up, so sit back and read on…
In this article we discuss the challenges of modern day specification management and clarify the benefits of moving to a digital way or working. (see our first article to understand how specifications drive quality)
Maintaining specifications in the modern day is not without its challenges. Gone are the days when specifications are created when the product is launched and then filed or stored away, indefinitely, almost untouched. Specifications, today, are very much living digital documents.
Regulatory changes and new market requirements lead to situations where new ‘data’ or information, has to be captured and added to existing specifications. Take for example, sustainability. The current drive to manage and measure the environmental impact of manufactured products and packaging demands that additional information needs to be identified and collected across the whole product portfolio. This requirement for extra data capture, pushes existing product, packaging and ingredient specifications to the limit, requiring frequent specification updates and reapprovals.
As specifications expand, the amount of data that is being entered and validated across the organisation grows almost exponentially. With so much data, there is frequent overlap between specifications. In order to connect specifications and systems together, there are elements of master data e.g. product key IDs, component names, codes etc that is stored in ERP and also within specifications.
Compared to managing specifications via spreadsheets, specification management and approval software platforms offer a host of benefits, important for the modern ways or working.
What they do offer is the opportunity to comprehensively centralise and control your specification framework and data.
Making specifications visible within an organisation is a real challenge if you are working in Excel compared to a cloud based digital solution where colleagues have the opportunity to search within, find and view specifications without issue.
These are the benefits of using a digital Specification Management system…
How much time do you spend trying to track and log changes made into an Excel file? Probably quite a lot… Although Excel has the benefits of being flexible and intuitive to use it does have quite a number of disadvantages when used as a basis to pool and validate data or content. Control of editing across a wider group, auditing of changes and ‘search within’ possibilities to name a few.
The more data we need to collate and control, the more complex these spreadsheets become. Although we can build complex spreadsheets with embedded rules, it doesn’t mean that we should. There are better, more robust systems for this now offered on an affordable subscription basis.
Controlling specification change is an important point. This includes who can edit and update what data and when, through to how new versions are managed and approved. Digital systems can really streamline this process by offering automated workflow, tailored to your ways of working and the requirements of your Quality Management System (QMS).
Consequent with an automated workflow, these systems also allow you to achieve high levels of data integrity where each change is audited against the individual and every action is stored and made visible via a system log. If you compare this to trying to track changes made to an Excel file you will understand the difference this will make, especially in an audit situation.
A further benefit of a cloud-based platform is the ease in which third party suppliers can be involved in the specification creation and approval process. For co-manufactured products for example, the co-manufacturer or supplier, we would expect, holds the majority of the product specification information.
Cloud based specification platforms enable you to share the specification with external suppliers as part of a controlled workflow and can be set up to permit the supplier to enter data directly into the system via a simplified interface or supplier portal.
If you are currently re-keying or relaying data from the supplier into your own specifications, it is clear that if the supplier can enter this information directly at source then you will both be improving the potential quality of that specification and also saving time and cost.
As part of centralising your specifications within a digital system you will be at a moment’s reach of a massive controlled ‘data lake’ which describes the characteristics, components and ingredients of all aspects of the products you are marketing. Think about the speed that you can respond in future to retailer queries and create data views and reports for internal and external use.
Coupled to centralisation is standardisation – digitising and centralising specifications necessitates a level of standardisation. The data ‘explosion’ described in the previous section can be kept at bay if you can have a ‘bird’s eye view’ of the total product, packaging or ingredient range where you can keep a watch on what data is required removing over time any data points where the entries are either inconsistent or no longer relevant.
Integration potential is also an important aspect when comparing to more analogue ways of working. Digital specification platforms can allow for the almost real time synchronisation of master data with ERP – meaning that critical data can be maintained seamlessly across the organisation with no requirement for re-keying
Finally, the best digital specification systems are future proof and scalable.
Adding additional data points to existing specifications is a controlled change but one that can be executed smartly compared to retrofitting additional fields or sections to a bunch of Excel files.
Also, if you gain additional products by acquisition then these existing specifications can easily be migrated into the platform and tweaks or updates can be made to automated workflows to reflect changes in business process.
Managing specifications correctly is not simple but neither is it rocket science either.
In our view, moving from an analogue spreadsheet to a digital specification system offers immense and immediate benefits to any organisation, meaning there are very attractive returns on investment (ROI) both in the short and long term.
A digital specification system that is easy to use and collaborate within will in turn change the mindset of any organisation. The possibility for internal teams and departments to have direct access to search and view product related data can really unleash the power of the information that is sitting within specifications.
4Pack is a cloud based software solution that offers Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) manufacturers and brand owners the potential to centralise all information, files and processes fundamental to their new product development, renovation and update processes.
Collaborating in a single platform, whether it be for the administration of new suppliers, qualification of new ingredients or the creation of new products, recipes or packaging materials and artworks, offers significant benefits in terms of time and cost saving and improves the overall quality and compliance of the process.
4Pack combines the technologies of Product Information and Specification Management (PIM), Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Label Artwork Management (LAM) and Digital Asset Management (DAM) in one single Software as a Solution (SaaS) package.
4Pack’s expert team have over 20 years of working with food, beverage and consumer packaged goods manufacturers and brand owners.
Speak to 4Pack today about how we can help you solve your specification challenges.
Call: +44 (0)7773 698 950
4Pack exists to help Food & Beverage manufacturers and brands of all sizes to push innovative, safer products to market across channels quickly. If you want to turbo charge your product launch process, book a demo with one of our experts.