The message is also skewed towards the personal, which can be a powerful tool. The training will incorporate familiar products—McDonalds, for instance—products that workers purchases themselves, and then using that association to drive home the message of food safety. “It’s like, this is something you would feed your child,” says Eastman. “How would you like that product to be handled?”
A platform like SISTEM also enables repetition. “You have to constantly train and reinforce the behavior if you expect that culture to be pervasive throughout your company.”
Ensuring employees take part in a training program that advocates a food safety culture is a major factor in preventing a recall.
“Most people do traceability today in what they call one up and one down look.”
– Peter Mehring, CEO, Intelleflex
SISTEM allows you to follow the progress of an employee to help avoid any mishaps that might lead to a recall, while the ZEST cloud-based data collection platform, from Intelleflex, Santa Clara, Calif., allows you to track the journey of your product. The technology facilitates two critical aspects—the ability to verify the integrity of the cold chain; and the pinpoint location of product should there be need to pull it off the shelf.
“You can try traditional approaches, either through barcodes, or passive RFID (radio-frequency identification),” proclaims Intelleflex CEO, Peter Mehring, “but neither approach is very reliable.” A barcode has to be manually entered at each station, and passive RFID doesn’t work automatically around food of high water content, like produce. “People have to go after it with handhelds, so that’s just like barcodes again…” Too much room for variability, for error.
The biggest challenge Mehring sees in recall events is location, location, location. “Most people do traceability today in what they call one up and one down look. They only know where they got it from, and where it went.” To really figure out if your product’s affected, you have to go through a chain of companies to get the data, and that can take days.
Intelleflex’s solution is built around the hardware component (RFID tag) that travels with the product through the supply chain, with the tags checking in automatically at every access point. The data captured is then pushed to the cloud-based ZEST platform.
“Not only does ZEST capture that data, but we’ve built in a notification engine, based on business logic set up by the user, which notifies the given individual (via smartphone or PC) should an event occur.” In other words, the information goes only to the person who needs to know it, say the person to remove a specific lot number from the shelf. The idea here is to manage by exception—meaning that the manager’s attention should be directed exclusively to the thing gone awry, rather that on the mechanisms that are still humming smoothly along.
However, some potential customers have taken issue with the additional overhead. Mehring counters with this: Traceability is an excellent way to ensure freshness of product (saving money) while at the same time operating as a sort of insurance policy for optimum response should a recall be required. Sure, nobody wants to pay for insurance when they think they are great drivers, but as he sees it, particularly where leafy green produce is concerned, a recall is not a matter of if, it’s when.
When? That Would Be Now
Precautions are not foolproof. Recalls do happen, and when they do, any future litigation may hinge on the manufacturer’s appropriate, and above all, rapid response.
“A lot of companies do not possess the core capabilities to support recalls,” says Jeri Cockrell, vice president of client strategy for Telerx, Horsham, Pa., “But we’re equipped for an expedient response, setting up preferred channels of communication with a dedicated 800 number, social media contact, email, or even website support. Whatever modality is required.”