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Date Posted: 1/9/2008

Advanced Auditing and Security for the Processing Manufacturing Sector


By Thomas R. Cutler

When one food manufacturer has to contend with hundreds of recipes, ingredient variations, and multiple batches in a single production run, the possibilities for errors are enormous.  Seemingly at odds, lean manufacturing principles call for productivity gains which are increasingly dependant upon speeding up the flow of sensitive data throughout the enterprise.  This paradox is felt most significantly by thin margined formula-based food processors.

While discrete manufacturing systems are generally designed around a bill of material containing whole, or discrete quantities of materials (such as 1 axle, 2 tires), process manufacturing systems are driven by formulas (such as 90% water, 10% flavoring.) Process manufacturers usually blend or mix materials rather than cutting, shaping, or assembling hard goods. Hybrid manufacturers combine process and discrete components. A good example would be a cosmetic company that mixes a batch of lip stick bulk and fills the bulk into a base container (process manufacturing), then assembles this into a finished product with a packaging and label bill of material (discrete manufacturing).

Like the Colonel’s secret recipe, proprietary data is managed through an ERP (enterprise resource planning) system which must be guarded from malicious data tampering.  As with regulations, like Sarbanes-Oxley, companies are held accountable for the data that is produced from their ERP system; few have the necessary tools to ensure that the data is managed appropriately by the authorized personnel (although most make claims to the contrary.)

According to Evan Garber, President of Escape Velocity Systems, which specializes in formula-based process manufacturing, “Advanced auditing and security functionality is not simply preventing unauthorized data manipulation…risk management, it provides a context for a data management plan that includes process improvement.” 

Advanced Auditing and Security Drives Continued Process Improvement

Some of the features that technology solutions must provide, particularly among process manufacturers include:
• User accountability for one’s actions
• Managing ancillary attached data (such as Excel or Word attachments) through an approval, lockdown, and version control process
• Managing efficiency of electronic document handling

Garber suggests that there are specific questions that process manufacturing CFO’s must be able to answer from ERP reports including:
• Who are all the people who touched this document and how long were they working on it?
• What reasons were provided for making additions, deletions, or modifications?
• Did a supervisor approve the changes?
• What safeguards are in place to ensure that the user, not someone else, made changes?
• Who was the last person that changed a data field for an item?
• How much did the sales order cost in processing time?

Modeling Business Rules

Ultimately effective advanced auditing and security enables companies to model their business rules and implement an effective and appropriate audit policy.  Process manufacturers must have the ability to differentiate between insert, update, view only, and delete permissions as well as storing electronic signatures with audit records.  It is equally important that supervisor credentials can override for key tasks; tracking document revision notes and roles is also critical.

Since regulatory compliance drives so many actions in the process manufacturing sector, particularly process food manufacturing, it is critical that ERP interaction not become a wasteland of data.  Garber suggests, “If an ERP system cannot tell you the total processing time spent on a particular document there is a serious deficiency; process food manufacturers need their ERP system to analyze the process value streams by revealing the touch points and error corrections for a particular process.”

All the data, whether process or discrete manufacturing, must inform management who is efficient and inefficient at their jobs so that management can honestly understand processing costs effectively.  Instead of referencing security and risk mitigation the correct perspective is data management and process improvement.


Author Contact:
Thomas R. Cutler, CEO
TR Cutler, Inc.

About Author
Thomas R. Cutler is the President & CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based TR Cutler, Inc., the largest manufacturing marketing firm worldwide -- Cutler is the founder of the Manufacturing Media Consortium of three thousand journalists and editors writing about trends in manufacturing. Cutler is also the author of the Manufacturers' Public Relations and Media Guide. Cutler is a frequently published author within the manufacturing sector with more than 300 feature articles authored annually; he can be contacted at


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