USING BARCODE FOR FRESH FOOD TRACEABILITY Traceability, Productivity and Compliance Labeling Requirements are driving the fresh food industry to use barcode technology—in the field, on theGS-1 & PTI Compliance production line and in storage & shipping.Production Reporting CHALLENGE Being in the fresh food business means getting short shelf-lifeInventory Management products to market as quickly and cost effectively as possible.Case & Pallet Labeling Wholesalers and retailers are becoming more demanding and the processors, in order to comply with new require-Lot Traceability ments, are using bar code technology in increasing numbers.Shipment Verification SOLUTION Alaskan fish processors have been using SIMBA software forAutomated Bill of Lading & over 25 years. It was designed in the late 1980’s with theManifests purpose of reporting daily production to management and sales. Since then, the system has expanded to include print- ing compliance labels, tracking inventory, shipment verifica- tion, and complete lot traceability for food safety. FLEXIBILITY The fresh food industry encompasses everything from fish to produce to meat and poultry to berries and citrus fruits. Each product has its own unique challenges for production, han- dling and food safety. The following is a discussion of avail- able and scalable solutions for fresh food growers, proces- sors and packers.
FOOD PROCESSING, STORAGE & TRACEABILITY—DYNAMIC SYSTEMS INC. www.a-barcode.comWith the passing of the Produce Traceabil- The in-field labeling process can beity Initiative (PTI) and the recent recalls, managed by:the requirements for automation within the (1) Preprinting sequential labels and car-fresh food industry have become more rying a roll of these labels to the field.complex. The following is a discussion of This would require a barcode printer,options available to the Growers, Proces- a PC and label-design software at thesors and Packer/Shippers for production plant. Since this initiates the Lotreporting, inventory management, lot traceability, it’s recommended atraceability and shipment verification. spreadsheet of the printed labels beTHE GROWER—AUTOMATION IN THE retained, and any unused labels beFIELD: “voided” on the spreadsheet.Ideally the Grower will initiate lot traceabil- (2) Printing labels in the field from aity in the field where the food is picked. “workstation” that includes the printer,That environment brings with it some com- PC and label-design software en-plications: dust & moisture, lack of elec- closed in a shed or other weather-tricity, the requirement for simplicity and resistant enclosure. This would re-speed. The amount of information the quire power to run the various elec-Grower chooses to collect will define the tronic components. Again, keep asystem and equipment used. spreadsheet of the labels printed. Voiding should not be required as la-Option 1: Label Only—A Grower may bels can be printed on-demand aschoose to simply label the cases with a cases are packed onto the pallet,barcode that can be used by the Packer/ truck or van.Shipper and other down-line facilities.This label will initiate the Lot, so the bar- (3) A solution that includes a mobilecode itself should be well-designed. Our scanning terminal, mobile printer andrecommendation is to design a Lot Num- software that will allow the user to de-ber formatted as follows: fine the contents of the label on the 2-digit Field Code—4-digit Date—3-digit sequence number fly. This solution would also include 14 080212 001 the ability to accumulate a database of cases packed So the Lot Number is 14080212001. and shipped. The advan-The barcode label contents is often dic- tage to this method is thattated by the customer and can contain ad- the Grower now retains notditional information. Scenarios: only Lot traceability data, but can report production Item #/Date/Weight/Lot# and shipments in detail. Or This expands the simple labeling ac- GS1 Supplier#/Item#/Lot# tion into a Field Production Manage- ment System.
FOOD PROCESSING, STORAGE & TRACEABILITY—DYNAMIC SYSTEMS INC. www.a-barcode.comP ACKE R-S HI PP ER— P RO DUCTI O N Lot B is Commingled with a portion ofMANAGEMENT WITH TRACEABILITY: Lots A&C (see diagram). Because there is no way in a straight-forward lot track-The company that receives cartons from ing scheme to differentiate which por-Growers and repackages them for ship- tions of Lots A&C have been commin-ment to the wholesale or retail customer gled, if Lot B is recalled, so are Lots A&Cwill need a more complex system than the in their entirety. This can get expensive.Grower. This system needs the added ca-pabilities of palletizing and re-boxing or A better method is by using a cartoncommingling product and inventory man- tracking scheme. The software accumu-agement. lates carton data, defining which cartons contain which Lots. Then when Lot B isPALLETIZING—This feature allows the contaminated, only cartons B, A/B and B/packer to receive a number of cartons, ac- C are recalled. This tracking method (re-cumulate them onto a pallet and print a boxing or commingling lots by carton)barcode pallet label. All of the cartons on would also pertain to any recalled ingre-that pallet are associated with the one pal- dients in processed foods.let number, so all can be “moved” or“shipped” with one scan.COMMINGLING & RE-BOXING—Theprocess of mixing lots (commingling) intoone box or removing the contents of morethan one box and mixing them in newboxes (re-boxing) add complications to Lottracking. Any software used by thePacker/Shipper has to have these func-tions in order to maintain full Lot traceabil-ity. There are 2 distinct methods of han-dling these functions. FOOD PROCESSING—When a com-TRACK BY LOT OR BY CARTON? pany alters the fresh food (chops it up; adds ingredients, etc.) the re-boxing andThere are two methods of maintaining commingling processes are a given.traceability: (1) track the lots as they movethrough the supply chain; (2) track lots PRODUCTION SPEED—Fresh foodwithin cartons as the cartons move needs to be handled quickly and effi-through the supply chain. ciently in order to retain maximum fresh- ness. The system should be designedIf a simple lot tracking method is used, as for speedy transactions. The SIMBAlots are commingled, all the included lots Food Production and Traceability systemare considered contaminated in the case uses touch screen technology to solveof a recall. For example: this problem.
FOOD PROCESSING, STORAGE & TRACEABILITY—DYNAMIC SYSTEMS INC. www.a-barcode.com and included on the manifest, which is automatically produced. When a cus- tomer claims there are cartons missing, it is now possible to prove what was loaded.The attributes of the food product (species,grade, size/weight, etc.) and functions (re-box, palletize, print) are selected by touch-ing “buttons” on the touch screen. It’s fastand easy to understand.INVENTORY MANAGEMENT:Any time the product is stored and thenmoved or shipped, barcode can be valu-able. Inventory management software (or SUMMARY:a module within a larger software product)can, with the simple scan of a location bar- A barcode-based system of inventorycode and the pallet or carton barcode, re- management and Lot tracking providescord the storage location of that carton or the detailed information that a Grower,pallet. Current inventory data is then avail- Packer, Processor or Shipper needs toable to sales or production with 99%+ ac- both run an efficient, profitable business,curacy. Companies who have imple- and respond to recall and traceability re-mented barcode in their warehouse facili- quirements. Key areas to look for:ties have on average recognized 50-80% • Ease of use and speed of productionincreased productivity. • Detailed inventory managementTHE IMPORTANCE OF SHIPMENT • Re-box and Commingling by the Car-VERIFICATION tonEvery company has had shipment dis- • Shipment Verificationputes. Ideally it would be possible to re- • Equipment designed with the environ-tain proof of what was contained in a spe- ment in mindcific shipment. Using a method of ship- • Support available from the systemsment verification (sometimes called “van integratorloading”) solves this problem. Flow charts of various scenarios are availableAs cartons are accumulated onto pallets upon request.and loaded onto vans, each is accounted For more information go to:for using a barcode scanning application. http://www.a-barcode.com/software/food-traceability/Each carton number is assigned to a van Call: 800-342-3999, ext. 204