Westminster, Colo. Mike Labosky, Vice President of Global Quality at Bimbo QSR, said the technology platform that has been gaining steady traction among quality assurance executives across the food industry is rapidly being embraced as a valuable tool for purchasing and leadership research and development.
In an interview with Milling and baking newsMr. Labosky described how companies like Bimbo QSR have come to rely on digital authentication networks such as TraceGains, a technology company based in Westminster, Colo.
Mr. Labosky said he’s been a TraceGains user for about eight years and has described himself as a fan of the company’s original platforms and their subsequent improvements. His background includes quality assurance duties at Bimbo QSR and East Balt (as the company was known prior to the 2017 Bimbo acquisition) as well as several other leading consumer packaged food companies. The product lines he supervised include baked foods, proteins, spices, and protein products.
He said TraceGains has secured a foothold in the food and beverage industry by digitizing supplier documents. The introduction of the platform was followed by the development of modules that provide related services.
“We use a supplier compliance module, and that helps us stay consistent with our suppliers,” he said. “The platform, because it’s digital, allows you in basically any audit setup, the ability to produce documents that show compliance. That’s it.”
Mr. Labosky said Bimbo QSR bakes for nearly every major quick-service restaurant chain on five continents. With its large geographical footprint, the company sells products made in nearly 50 different bread factories
“Our clients have unique requirements,” he said. Each of our customers expects our bakeries to be GFSI certified (Global Food Safety Initiative – a comprehensive group that sets standards for various certification schemes). When you start looking at the required programs, regulatory factors, quality and food safety aspects needed to meet GFSI standards, the ability to manage ingredients and suppliers is critical.”
Perhaps 10 or 15 years ago, management of supplier documents associated with meeting these standards was done through filing cabinets and manila folders, Labuski said. Access to information was essential to auditors’ inspections of any number of topics from specifications or analytics to proof of insurance.
“Always in those days,” he said, “the document that the auditor requested was the one that had expired.”
Today’s Bimbo QSR Document Portal contains more than 30,000 unique documents relating to the company’s suppliers. Some components are specific. Others are supplier specific. Examples include sustainability statements, sourcing statements, proof of insurance and audit findings (GFSI compliance).
“This portal allows us to communicate with our suppliers in real time to ensure that all our documents are up-to-date,” he said.
Recently, the platform has gone a step further as suppliers have uploaded Certificates of Analysis into the system. Bimbo is then alerted when the analytical sample does not fall within a predetermined range of contract specifications.
“This system is much better than the usual method,” Mr. Labuski said.
TraceGains Market Hub, a newer introduction that “links everything together,” he said, brought research, development and purchasing into what was a quality assurance system.
Amid the supply chain problems that have emerged with COVID, many food companies have become acutely aware of relying on single suppliers, sometimes in remote parts of the world, for individual ingredients. Mr. Labosky said technology such as TraceGains and Networked Ingredients Marketplace are being used to help diversify sourcing.
“The world is a small place if there is good technology,” he said. “That’s what this is about.”
In addition to supply chain challenges, Mr. Labosky said the system allows Bimbo QSR to respond quickly when customers try to develop new products on a short schedule.
“Part of that is getting new products to market quickly,” he said.
He explained that most of Bimbo’s QSR business produces basic products, such as cakes, in very large quantities.
“But almost All LTO projects (limited time supply) have unique components.” “We need to get this to market quickly. However, we have to be compliant. This is the power of TraceGains’ integrated approach. Formulators, R&D, and our Buyers When They Use the Market Hub as their go-to supermarket “This is where we buy our ingredients”. We know that compliance documentation already exists. Do not buy something from someone who is not on this portal, because technically there may be compliance risks. So, if it is about speed to market and compliance to make safe, high-quality food, having a platform like this facilitates speed, compliance and customer satisfaction.”
TraceGains said 15,000 to 20,000 component suppliers are currently on its network. She said food company customers typically find “80% of their suppliers are already on the TraceGains network”.