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Blend optimization: Enhancing materials usage to produce finished products


So your business has a new recipe for a food product. Next steps include setting up a bill of material with the recipe quantities and starting the production, right? But what if the composition of those ingredients varies with each batch? Or, maybe the finished product requires different quality specifications depending upon the time of the year? 

Food and beverage manufacturers require precise quality controls based on both food safety standards and recipe requirements. Ingredients and finished products not only have to be within quality limits, but can result in very different products in terms of taste, depending on how close they are to the recipe. While quality is a key concern, costs cannot be ignored either. Ideally, food companies want to be able to find the perfect balance between quality and cost before making an informed decision on what raw materials to use, and how much to use to optimize quality and costs.

This is where blend optimization comes in. This process strategy looks at both quality specifications and costs at the same time. Standard blend optimization leverages a mathematical model called linear programming, which is defined as a mathematical method for determining a way to achieve the best outcome. Blend optimization takes it one step further by providing businesses with the ability to:

  • Minimize cost of blends
  • Meet demands of final products
  • Save time spent manually calculating accurate blends
  • Reduce out-of-specification products
  • Control the use of ingredients in inventory

Does it sound too good to be true? Well, it may be in the real world. Standard blend optimization will only provide you with a solution between minimum and maximum quality limits. However, in the food and beverage industry, that is not enough. Food and beverage processors need to produce the best quality products possible, not just a product within specifications. Close adherence to recipe target levels means a better product, so what is missing in the standard blend optimizer is the ability to specify those recipe target levels.

Fortunately, fortified blend optimizer solutions for this do exist. They can accurately blend ingredients with fluctuating potencies to meet quality specifications. A few other factors that are critical for a comprehensive blend optimizer include:

  • Support multiperiod, multilocation and multifinished goods blends: You may start off thinking that a single production blend capability is good enough, but the mathematical method of linear programming only guarantees an optimized solution when you put in all possible ingredients, and this means it could be in multiple locations, for different time periods, and for several different types of finished goods. An optimal solution has the transportation cost minimization feature for blending in multiple locations.
  • Future supply: Without the consideration of future supply, your long-term planning is not going to be too useful in the real manufacturing world. You will need to accurately input new inventory to make sure that the blend solution is really the best quality and is the least-cost solution available.
  • Item expiration: A blend optimizer is useless to food and beverage manufacturers if it does not consider item expiration. It must be able to utilize old inventory first, and be flexible enough for users to control how soon to use up inventory to eliminate waste.

Blend optimizers can be a cost and time saver, automating mixing and blending operations; however, it is important to find the right one. If your business is searching for a blend optimizer, be sure to find one with functionalities that are most suitable for your specific needs.


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Cristin Singer 
National Food and Beverage Sector Leader