Food manufacturers face growing challenges in maintaining a safe, secure and transparent supply chain. Today’s supply chain environment has an increasing number of third party providers, principally in the warehousing and transportation areas, which enable manufacturers and packers to concentrate on their core competencies. While this creates efficiencies and is quite common in the industry, it also introduces many points of vulnerability across the supply chain. With the growing threat to food safety, traceability is key in managing contamination and food safety issues. As a result, the FDA has recently revised its compliance policy for the 2002 Bioterrorism Act further enforcing traceability to the original source of food contamination within the supply chain. In addition to FDA compliance requirements, food manufacturers are also facing RFID mandates from the Department of Defense and from various retailers, such as Wal-Mart and Albertsons. To exploit the benefits of these compliance investments, food manufacturers must look at applications that go beyond simply satisfying mandates. Granular visibility provided by RFID can enable next generation inventory management and VMI (Vendor Managed Inventory), timely replenishment, protection against perishables expiry and logistics improvements. Implementing a middleware software solution that bridges the gap between hardware and enterprise systems is the key to managing and using the data generated by an RFID infrastructure. With middleware in place, RFID data is fed to enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, supply chain management (SCM) applications and warehouse management (WHM) systems, enabling organizations to view and utilize the information. When considering a middleware solution, it must be able to process the volume of data generated and should support complete product life cycle tracking. Following are five key components of a complete middleware solution. Message and Routing Management: Filters the data and provides a low-level of intelligence in simple data interpretation and routing to applications. Device and Reader Management: Enables you to manage your network of devices from a central user interface to configure and manage devices through the web or local network. Rules/Event Management: User-defined business rules increase efficiencies in the supply chain and alert parties of errors before they occur. Event management applies a relevant business context to product movement by identifying critical events and providing alerts to enterprise systems. For example, consider a business rule stating that a product cannot be shipped if it is within 90 days of its expiry date; if someone tries to ship the product, a red flag would be raised, avoiding a return or charge back problem. Data Persistence: provides organizations with a permanent history of product movement, allowing for intelligence at the node- the pick, pack and ship levels-and mitigates the lag time associated with processing this information to line-of-business applications. This instantaneous information feed helps reduce supply chain friction. Business Applications: Some middleware vendors offer vertical specific applications that drive business value. Food manufacturers should consider applications that include functionality which meets their specific business needs. While most vendors focus on supporting strictly RFID compliance, a complete middleware should support all of the above listed functions to reap the benefits of RFID technology. It should also include: . Supply chain safety and product integrity; . Return and Recalls Management; and . Inventory Visibility Solution which provides alerts on time-sensitive material that is about to expire and monitors shipments against business rules. -FQ
Salil Godika is senior vice president of TraceGuard product management, GenuOne, (Boston, Mass.) Reach Godika at 617-226-3032 or [email protected].