Tag Archives: traceability

RFID Growing Too Big for Its Britches?

RFID Growth Spurt Leads to Tech Shortages.

We’ve been talking about the growth and ROI benefits of item-level RFID, particularly in retail. 

Supply Chain Digest reports that WalMart’s new apparel tagging program has helped lead to a supply drop in RFID EPC Gen 2 inlays, and that mobile RFID readers are now also in short supply. Why so? Lots of investment in RFID initiatives, including WalMart’s recent order for 20,000 Motorola mobile RFID readers, combined with “supply constraints that have lasted for months in basic electrical components that have cause delivery problems in a wide number of high tech gear, including mobile devices.”     

In fact, Supply Chain Digest says that analysts at a major financial investment firm are predicting 300 percent market growth in RFID asset management for 2011.

Do you expect to join that growth, and invest in RFID for asset management and inventory visibility in the next year?

Read the Supply Chain Digest article.

See more about RFID printing/encoding here, where you can find resources such as our white paper “Traceability in Retail—Reducing RFID Media Costs for Best Value.”

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What Does the Food Safety Enhancement Act Mean to Food Traceability?

According to the CDC, an estimated 76 million Americans get sick from food borne illness each year, more than 300,000 are hospitalized and about 5,000 die.  A recent report from Health and Human Services also found that 59 percent of the North American food facilities surveyed did not meet the FDA’s requirements to maintain records about their sources, recipients and transporters of food.

Recent recalls like spinach in 2007, tomatoes in 2008, and sprouts in 2009 and lettuce in 2010 have led to a need for more stringent food safety protocols. The Food Safety Enhancement Act, which is pending U.S. Senate approval, is a result of lawmakers and industry legislation working together to improve U.S. food safety.

Some of the notable provisions of the Food Safety Enhancement Act include:

  • The establishment of a tracing system for food that is located in the United States or is for import into the United States that enables the identification of each person who grows, produces, manufactures, processes, packs, transports, holds, or sells such food.
  • If a food has been manufactured, processed, packed, transported, or held under conditions that do not meet the requirements for hazard analysis and risk-based preventive controls, the item will be classified as adulterated.
  • If a food it has been manufactured, processed, packed, transported, or held under conditions that do not meet performance standards, it will be deemed to be adulterated.
  • It deems a food to be adulterated if it has been grown, harvested, processed, packed, sorted, transported, or held under conditions that do not meet safety standards for raw agricultural commodities.

These provisions are important because consumers should know where their products are coming from and if they have been changed in a way that compromises their freshness. More importantly from a business reputation standpoint, they are critical to be able to track recalled products to either claim fault or clearly show that it didn’t come from a specific farm.

From a retailer perspective the use of those lot or code numbers on products could be useful in the form of grocer loyalty card to track purchases. In this instance the consumer could check their loyalty card statements to see if they purchased a recalled product.

The GS1 Databar is a good place for the industry to start as it includes Application Identifiers such as serial numbers, lot numbers, and expiration dates.  But in addition to a traceability code, additional “quality” piece of information linked with the code identifier would tell the scanner if that product had even seen or been in an environment outside of its specification. If there is a label and scan point associated, you would be able to tell where a product was contaminated – from lot number to who worked that day, that sift and what product and what time they come in contact with it.

Traceability is vitally important to the consumer for obvious health reasons. From a grower/supplier perspective, is not only important externally for easy tracking of contaminated product by the CDC, but it is also important to accurately identify any questionable product without a disruption in the entire supply chain – which can mean lost time and money.

Is There More to Gain than Compliance in Food Traceability?

The Food Safety Enhancement Act currently in queue for a U.S. Senate vote is calling for greater traceability regulations which could include such things unique I.D.s and full electronic pedigrees, and easy-to-implement bar coding technologies. And while food safety is paramount to the initiative, growers who adopt tighter track and trace procedures can realize benefits beyond compliance.

More label and scan points through a food growers operation including more advanced data capture can provide an extra layer of protection should a food borne illness occur. But a more intelligent traceability solution can provide real business value as well. By gaining visibility into whether a “produce scare” product came from their own farms, growers can not only identify and isolate the problem should it be theirs, significantly reducing the outbreak severity, but they can also gain consumer trust by determining definitively that their produce is safe thereby gaining consumer trust and minimizing lost revenue.

Plus, implementing traceability technologies can also improve overall supply chain efficiency by delivering better inventory control, faster processing and faster turn rate on items that have tight freshness windows.

For those growers looking to adopt traceability technologies, here are a few tips to help assess your technology needs:

Understand what your objectives are when launching a traceability initiative

Establish your mobility requirements

Identify what you want to label

Assess where you want to label

Evaluate your label needs

Identify the demands that will be placed on your label to determine the best type.

Register for your GTINs: (Global Trade Item Number)

Review the capability of your current inventory management and financial software systems.

For more detail on food traceability, take a look at this recent piece in Food Manufacturing.

Do you see opportunities in your operation to improve efficiencies through better traceability?