Traceability requirements are costly. The financial risks and costs associated with food safety are increasing due to trade wars and retaliatory uncertainty. The stakes are rising for food suppliers in a landscape of continuously evolving food safety challenges, technologies, and regulations. An increasingly complex food chain with many touch points and value-added products has increased the potential points of contact and opportunities for contamination. It has also increased the complexity of traceability.
Often, the requirement for lot traceability drives manufacturers to incur a higher cost than anticipated. By avoiding additional labeling during receiving and finished goods creation, effective, lean processes are implemented; on the receiving side, food manufacturers leverage barcodes coming in the door. If that is not possible, license plate (LP) barcodes can be used to meet the traceability requirement without labeling each case or component. Advanced technology allows for reliable traceability throughout the food supply chain and enables faster identification of food safety issues.
License Plates and Food Production
WithoutWire Inventory Sciences defines a license plate number as any object that holds items. Although LPs are associated with containers, they do not need to represent a physical entity, such as a box. Food safety and operations managers define an LP as a collection of items enabled for tracking, transacting, and nesting.
LPs have specific functionality to support detailed chain-of-custody requirements; they identify how to receive, store, and pick material by LP as well as viewing on-hand balances. Traceability challenges vary from basic queries of accurate inventory on hand, location of inventory, where it was sourced (including country of origin labeling). Additional information must include where inventory was moved throughout the day. Automating this data ensures the right mix of SKUs based on history and compliance issues.
Single-scan functionality results in 99 percent-plus accurate data and adds value throughout the supply chain as well as downstream for the customer. Organizations must be able to track inventory expiration dates and eliminate physical errors to improve accuracy and order fulfillment. As more retailers enforce compliance, distributors will now be equipped with the tools needed to reduce the risk of rejected shipments. Standardized electronic traceability across the supply chain will allow each handler to support internal traceability solutions.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) supports traceability to course-correct business performance. Access to these advanced analytics allows food scientists to identify and remove suspect product from the marketplace as soon as possible to safeguard public health. Simultaneously, product not implicated in an outbreak can stay on the market, and business can return to “normal” as soon as possible.
The Case for License Plate Traceability
When it comes to finished goods, license plates and item and IIoT barcodes are both options that reduce the total number of scans. When creating goods with an expiration date, it is best to automatically set the expiration date with an item-level, shelf-life setting. Proper planning, along with smart item tracking, drives the difference between making or losing money.
Because QC/QA professionals can view LP contents in real time, the LPs can be used to perform transactions, print labels and reports for referencing container contents, and track nested LPs (for example, cartons on a pallet). Inventory control is tightly managed for packing, unpacking, consolidating, splitting, and updating LPs.
Shelf-life settings auto-generate expiration dates upon receiving and finished-good production, allowing food safety leadership to take advantage of GS1 barcodes during receiving for rapid data collection.
LP inventory avoids over-labeling products. A Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) will identify the “manufacturer” (the owner of the brand that appears on the product case) and the type of product inside that case.
This information will appear in both human-readable form and in a machine readable GS1 barcode. The GS1 barcode provides each trading partner in the supply chain with the ability to scan and maintain the encoded information. The GTIN is a globally unique product identification number based on GS1 global standards. These product identification standards are time tested and market proven, having been used in grocery stores for more than 40 years in the form of Universal Product Code (UPC) barcodes.
The cost of traceability technology tools is significantly lower than the violation of regulatory non-compliance. Understanding the risks of food safety incidents, the costs associated with them, and risk mitigation strategies are increasingly important for profitability and long-term economic sustainability. As always, traceability is the first line of corrective action and integral to meeting the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points requirements.