CLIENT: WINDMILL HILL FRUITS
Consistent high quality and traceability are areas that growers in the Berry Gardens cooperative pride themselves on.
Windmill Hill Fruits has become one of the first in the group to invest in a new software system from Consus Fresh Solutions that will replace its paper records, support a more efficient response to audits and enhance its responsiveness to customer needs.
The new system integrates the requirements of Berry Gardens’ manuals, ensuring the guaranteed excellence that is of the utmost importance to the family farm.
TRACEABILITY CREATES DEMAND
Windmill Hill Fruits, in Herefordshire, is owned by Anthony and Christine Snell who have been supplying soft fruit to leading brands for about 20 years. It grows about 1,000 tonnes of strawberries, just over 300 tonnes of raspberries and some blackberries, blueberries, red and black currants.
Adrian Cirstea is the Packhouse Manager: “The focus of everything we do is on the customer who increasingly want to know the variety of the fruit, where and how it has been grown, if the farm is compliant with regulations. Compared to 10 years ago, quality assurance is more technical and the requirements more complex.”
The paper system used at Windmill Hill Fruits is based on the Berry Gardens manual. It is a good system, but time consuming: requiring labels to be completed by hand, transcribed on to new labels, triple-checked and the paperwork filed in multiple folders. Looking through these records and producing the relevant paperwork for announced and unannounced audits was becoming increasingly laborious.
Quality assurance takes a team of three, supported by daily checks by others in the packhouse.
Adrian says: “We know we supply good quality berries, but six months on you need to be able to provide evidence that you did everything correctly.”
NEED FOR PAPERLESS SYSTEM
Niall Massingam is head of Quality Assurance (QA) and explains the need for a move to a paperless system.
He says: “There is mix of announced audits – the two-day BRC food safety audit is the key one for us as they go into everything – and unannounced audits, which can come at any point during the year. So, you always have to be on your toes and having a good system in place that allows you to respond quickly is vital.”
Niall continues: “With a paper system and an experienced team it would take about 30 minutes to trace back. One of the reasons for moving to Consus was to automate the way information is captured, stored and retrieved and also to improve the way that we present information to the auditors.”
BENEFITS OF AUTOMATION WITH CONSUS
Explaining the benefits of installing the Consus Fresh software in Windmill Hill Fruits packhouse, Niall said: “The Consus software was easy to install and supports the way we work so it was easy for us to move our staff over to use the new system.
“Each pallet now has a unique bar code and can be tracked from input to dispatch.
“Peter Taylor from Consus visited us to ensure we were happy with the new system, to provide training and check everything was working well. We sat down with him and we worked together to design a report that shows every stage of the process on a single sheet of paper.”
COST PER PACK ALWAYS AVAILABLE
The Consus system can allocate cost per pack, which includes time and materials.
“You can create a job on the system, for example Sainsbury raspberries, and allocate packaging to that job,” says Niall.
“It will deduct it by what you’ve packed and keep track of levels of packaging. That’s quite handy because auditors will want to see packaging traceability as well – punnets used, films used, where they’ve come from and their accreditation. They go hand-in-hand with each other.”
Being able to do this on Consus has freed up time for the QA team as now the information is uploaded by one of the packers on the production line and it reduces the need for stock checks and the risk of running short of something.
Niall said: “What is good with Consus is that we can set parameters – for example, brix [sugar content] is a key thing we focus on, so we can set the minimum brix level for each retailer and if the product isn’t hitting that spec it will give a red reading on that pallet. This alerts us to the issue and we’ll either use the produce for a customer with a different specification or look at a different route to send that through.
“It flags up the issue, all the way from intake up to online packing. That’s a really good thing to have.”
“The Consus system is a big improvement for us and, as everyone in the Berry Gardens Group uses the same manuals, it would be helpful to others.”