Having an effective traceability program in place is absolutely essential in today's environment. Automating your system can improve labour productivity and efficiency, provide more timely and accurate information on which to base decisions, and subsequently enhance customer and supplier relationships up and down the value chain increasing competitiveness and profitability. Utilizing technology can open the door to incredible opportunities!
It was very nice to have Judith Kirkness, as our Guest Speaker. She is the founder of Traceability Matters, Author of "The Traceability Factor" and has over 20 years' experience in her family business Minotaur Software, helping food manufacturers automate their plants, warehouse and offices for traceability. Her insight and passion with respect to the need to implement well-functioning traceability systems and ability to translate her experiences and knowledge with those in attendance was definitely appreciated and left us pondering the possibilities!
All participants received a copy of Judith's book, "The Traceability Factor", which is a practical guide for manufacturers in the food, meat and beverage sectors. It helps you understand your options for using technology to gather traceability information and tells you how that data could be further used to understand your costs, track yields, and calculate profitability across your items and customers. She has also included some interesting case studies to consider and at the back there is a great GS1 application identifier chart that allows you to decipher bar code information.
Judith provided a wonderful overview and the old adage "you don't know what you don't know" certainly became the theme of the morning! We all learned that there are definitely some incredible opportunities to tap into.
Our preliminary conversations looked at the simple benefits of an electronic tracking system. We also discussed schemes and audits and the fact that there are two schools of thought as far as how supply chain traceability can be achieved - the establishment of a central database versus a data based protocol. With the foundation somewhat in place, Judith went on to outline some of the current protocols and provided website addresses to explore with respect to the various elements, requirements and capacity opportunities for those looking at implementing a more comprehensive system. It was agreed that there is a lot to take in and understand to ensure that the technology a company elects to pursue and/or inevitably adapts is the right fit for them and meets the needs of both customers and suppliers from a traceability standpoint.
If you are considering adopting a traceability system, what can you do to get ready?
1. Get educated on available protocols
There are several different protocols for communicating information including: GS1-128, SCC, SSCC, MH10 Labels, EDI (Electronic Data Interchange), 856-ASN (Advanced Shipping Notice) using a VAN (Value Added Network), etc. etc.
2. Consider what might benefit your company?
As an example, Barcodes are the most commonly used method of communicating information up and down the value chain around the world.
How do you decipher them? www.gepir.org
The first six to nine digits - gsl global supplier prefix
The last two to five digits - item number
Very last digit - check digit
Some barcodes are only useful for inventory control (contain just the item code); others for price or weight, (like deli barcodes) but do not supply any information with respect to traceability. Loblaw is the only retailer Judith currently knows who is asking for skid labels that include advanced shipping notice (ASN) of product and lot numbers - which really puts them in the best position to begin using that information from a traceability standpoint. Unfortunately, shipping label requirements vary from retailer to retailer.
From a barcode perspective, a GS1 traceability symbology for use along the supply chain could include items such as:
- Item code (GTIN)
- Country of Origin (for Export)
- Weight (optional)
- Lot or Serial Number
- Production, Expiry or Packed on Date
GSI: Global language of business
GEPIR: Global electronic party registry that tells you the name of the brand owner
Recalls and Traceability:
Discussion naturally led to recalls and where a traceability system might have impact in that regard.
To qualify for GFSI Certifications like BRC, SQF or FSSC2200, a company needs to be able to demonstrate an effective traceability program is in place. This is one area where implementing a system would really be of benefit.
Do things get better after each recall? The desire to adopt technology to improve in this regard is there but establishing a system is oftentimes cost prohibitive. The cost for implementation starts at about $50,000. What are the alternatives? Utilizing 2D Barcodes or RFID tags may be options to consider. A company always needs to bear in mind: Does the technology we are adapting help our customers or just our company? If you can read it and get useful information, than the system is good. At the end of the day, one really needs to know what your customers want and what your suppliers can provide.
- Just a cost of doing business
- Satisfy inspector
- Something QA/QC takes care of
- A mandatory requirement of GFSA
- Required by our customers
- Using information beyond recall
- Competitive advantage opportunities
- Goal - get rid of silos of information
1. Faster recall reporting - brand protection
Canada year ending March 31, 2013 Statistics:
Allergen (Labelling/Operational Failings)
Microbiological or other Food Safety Concerns
2. Automatic accurate accounting
- Accurate landed costs
- Can help you show profitability
- Shows depletion of inventory and work in progress
- Plant productivity could increase through more effective utilization of PLC's
3. Yield Reporting
- Regular, timely comparisons of inputs vs outputs
4. Error Prevention
- The closer the information is to "live", the more errors it can catch
- Expiry date control
- Segregate production for QC holds
- FIFO lot suggestions
- Ease of printing and distribution of Certificate of H's
- Special criteria picks to meet customer requirements
- Catch pick or receive wrong sku's
5. Supply Chain lot information sharing
- Scan to create MH10 labels
- Enter information only once - all about information management
6. Profitability Reporting
- Across items and customers
The ROI in adopting a traceability system is in connecting the pieces to gain efficiencies:
* Accurate Costing
* Yield Reporting
* Error Prevention
* Ease of Communication with Customers and Suppliers
* Profitability Reporting
GF2 Capacity Building funds are available for Traceability Assessments. These funds are there to help you determine how to establish an effective traceability plan and for how well you are using information for recall and beyond recall. It will also help you figure out how you can do something and make an "educated" spend. Capacity planning leads to your application for implementation as it helped you determine where you are going and why you are going in that direction.
General discussion then revolved around getting infrastructures to where you can utilize systems like this, the collection of data and creating reporting systems, improving productivity, moving from paper based systems and machine analysis. One comment related to the fact that many companies do not realize the value or don't recognize the information or equipment capacity they already have on hand. Tech providers really need to show what's available because the customer may not always know exactly what their needs are.
Some articles relating to traceability in general were shared:
"Traceability is not just a QC Problem", Judith Kirkness, Food in Canada, July 28th, 2014.
"Traceability is key to Food Risk Management: Report", Deanna Rosolen, Food in Canada, November 13, 2012.
"How Traceability Can Increase Profitability", Birgit Blain, Birgit Blain & Associates Inc., April 10, 2014.
"Canada's Efforts in Food Traceability only "Average": Report", Food in Canada, August 26, 2014.
"10 Ideas for Quantifying How your Business Could Benefit from Traceability Technology like ERP, Barcode Scanning and Mobile Worker Devices", Minotaur Software Blog.
It was an absolute pleasure having Judith join us at this event and it would be safe to say that all the attendees welcomed the clarity that she provided with respect to our topic at hand and that she opened our minds to possibilities many of us had not been aware of or considered previously. We definitely look forward to welcoming her back in our next series of networking activities.
Judith's contact information follows:
Telephone - 800-668-1284
Email - email@example.com
For some great Blogs on Traceability Systems and Technology - www.minotaursoftware.com
Very special thanks to our Host, L.V. Lomas Limited, and especially to our Guest Speaker - Judith Kirkness - for joining us and sharing copies of her book with everyone at this Special EMC Food Sector Event - awesome!!
All the best as always!
Bren de Leeuw, Director - EMC Food, Beverage, Bio & Ag Program Canada
Excellence In Manufacturing Consortium - firstname.lastname@example.org - 519-372-6009