Quality control plays a crucial and essential role in running a produce business. It not only ensures that products are safe to eat, but that they’re meeting certain standards that fulfill customer expectations. The produce industry, after all, sees customers directly consuming the products that businesses produce, package, and sell.
Quality control of fresh fruits and vegetables helps businesses deliver products that are safe and consistent in size and flavor, making it a vital component in business performance. The complicated part? It’s necessary throughout all levels of the supply chain and is an ongoing effort that needs to be practiced and maintained every day.
Here’s why quality control is so important, some quality control solutions you can implement for your produce business, and how Silo improves tracking and traceability.
Why is quality control important?
Produce quality control proactively prevents product defects. One component of this involves compliance with health regulations, which prevents contaminants like salmonella and E. coli from making their way to the general public.
The other component involves consumer satisfaction. High-quality products boost a brand’s trustworthiness and reputation, attracting more customers who come to expect consistently well-produced products.
Quality control also has other monetary benefits. Along with increasing sales, it reduces production costs by minimizing waste and reducing the likelihood of refunds and recalls while eliminating liability.
Neglecting quality control compromises a brand’s reputation and can damage customer relationships.
4 quality control solutions for produce businesses
Here are some of the most effective quality control solutions that you can implement into your produce business’ operations.
1. Invest in enterprise resource planning (ERP) technology
Technology can provide you with the necessary tools to meet quality control metrics while keeping track of products at every point in the supply chain. Specifically, an ERP system can automate operations and make workflows more efficient.
The best technology is easy to use and will provide valuable insights sourced from accurate, automatically-collected data. It can also improve visibility, letting you monitor lot statuses to ensure that all inventory is accounted for.
Ideally, you’d want to find a centralized platform like Silo to enhance traceability. Sourcing a lot throughout the supply chain gives you the power to address when circumstances change, such as when recalls are needed. With improved tracking and traceability, you’re able to pinpoint the problem’s exact origin for better quality control.
2. Establish quality control metrics
Part of quality control for produce is establishing clear metrics to facilitate consistency. Consider what you’ll use to determine whether a product meets quality standards. Metrics should be objectively measurable, and may either be defined by a customer’s expectations or by government health standards to ensure compliance with safety regulations.
It’s important to set realistic expectations—not only should they correspond with consumer and health expectations, but they should align with the resources your business has available.
Some common quality metrics that businesses use include:
Physical aspects—such as a product’s size, weight, shape, and firmness (which determines a fruit’s degree of ripeness)
Chemical and nutritional characteristics—such as the amount of carbohydrates, protein, sugars, sodium, and fat present
Microbiological properties—such as acidity sourced from the juice of a fruit, which determines the product’s pH level. This shows the likelihood of bacteria growing, contributing to spoilage and compromised food safety
Food sensory standards—such as a fruit or vegetable’s appearance (color can be measured with a color chart), smell (especially for citrus fruits), flavor, and texture
Before conducting business, contracts between suppliers and buyers should be clear and specific in quality expectations. Using these metrics to determine and meet those expectations can go a long way in improving trade partnerships.
3. Develop processes for quality control
Once you’ve decided on the appropriate metrics for your business, one of the most important quality control solutions is enforcing their use through well-developed processes. This may include creating a set of instructions for identifying quality products, or outlining measures for inventory storage and transportation.
For storage, indicate, for example, what containers the produce will be kept in, at what temperature, and in which environment to prevent spoilage and bacteria growth. Set standards for hygiene in washing fruits and vegetables, employee handling, and pest control when applicable.
For transportation, you’ll want to ensure safe distribution by preventing bruising and damage, drafting instructions for proper packing and labeling.
4. Measure performance on a regular basis
Quality control requires constantly checking performance for analysis and informed decision-making. Once data is collected, it’s important to actually use it to identify patterns and draw conclusions on where your quality control operations can be improved. It also helps with recognizing problems in the supply chain.
Fast-paced businesses without the time to deal with exorbitant amounts of data may benefit from technologies that automate data collection and offer valuable insights, eliminating the need for overhead.
Pay attention to performance indicators such as:
The number of orders your business regularly fulfills, and whether it’s been increasing or decreasing with time
Whether customers have been satisfied, looking at the number of returns or complaints your business has received
The amount of downtime your business deals with, and whether that’s cutting into profit margins
Silo, the best solution for quality control
Among the most efficient quality control solutions is investing in modern technology. Silo is a digital platform that makes your job easier, enhancing operations by improving administration and communication.
With inventory tracking, you can monitor lots as they come and go. Silo also offers valuable performance metrics based on historical data, so you know exactly how your business is doing. Drill in by date, supplier, or purchase order to see performance details, plus profitability calculations.
You can also better your business’ quality control with enhanced traceability. Silo increases visibility and allows you to truly know your inventory status, eliminating the guesswork. You accurately source the details of your produce lots, from their history to their current status. View availability, profitability, quality, and waste.
And if you need to notify customers or vendors about a recall, all the data you need is just a few clicks away.
Check out what the Silo platform has to offer!