Making Lemonade Out of Tracing Lemons

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Making Lemonade Out of Tracing Lemons

By Albert Guffanti - 10/09/2014
Food safety is a major concern for obvious reasons. But Mark Miller, vice president of Supply Chain for AFS Technologies and an active Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) member, sees added business value for companies that implement traceability standards. He shares his views about the traceability initiatives that are increasingly required by many consumer goods companies today.

Retailers are increasingly requiring food service providers to comply with traceability initiatives. Can you give some background on these initiatives?
Originally, traceability initiatives came from standardizing food safety and tracing products as part of recalls. Retailers, such as Walmart and Whole Foods, are following standards such as GS1 and PTI. GS1 is a specification on how to format the embedded data into a 128 barcode. With a GS1 barcode, a single scan can extract multiple data elements including GTIN, lot, quantity, etc. We call this “single scan traceability”. PTI adds even more capabilities to the GS1 process. These added benefits include PTI voice pick box codes capability and PTI-compliant hybrid pallet labels.

What are possible solutions to ensure compliancy with the GS1 and PTI requirement?  
There are three typical solutions. 1) Write custom code specifically for the existing systems. “Custom” usually translates into “expensive”. It’s not only expensive upfront to get the code developed, but later on, when the labeling requirements change, more custom code will be required. 2) Purchase barcode labeling software to generate a GS1 or PTI label at time of outbound shipment to meet customers’ requirements. This approach improves the supply chain further downstream, but only at your expense. The industry refers to this as “slap-and-stick labeling”. 3) A warehouse management system (WMS) that supports single-scan traceability of a GS1 label throughout your warehouse. This is the ideal approach and provides the ability to leverage GS1/PTI label throughout all warehouse activities within your supply chain — and downstream in the supply chain. PTI label requirements are ever changing, and a WMS that includes GS1/PTI will support future requirement changes via WMS upgrades — at no added cost.

What other benefits can companies achieve from being GS1/PTI compliant?
With a WMS solution, GS1/PTI labeling requirements are only one aspect of the offering. Other benefits include:
  • 99 percent accuracy of order picking, resulting in increased customer satisfaction levels.
  • Improved inbound operations from 15 percent to 25 percent with dock appointment scheduling, RF barcode scan receiving and RF directed put away.
  • Prime warehouse space is limited, resulting in replenishing from reserve to forward pick locations throughout a shift. WMS replenishment algorithms calculate the products to replenish and fill them before the pickers are forced to do a short pick. Automating this process can result in a 20 percent or greater efficiency improvement.
  • Improved outbound activities by 15 percent to 35 percent with dock door scheduling, RF barcode scanning directed picking, fluid loading, reverse stop sequencing loading, inventory rotation, etc. Want more productivity improvements, consider voice picking.
  • The “dreaded” physical inventory (i.e., every month, quarter, etc.) typically means staff over. A WMS will always know the actual inventory: in any slot, in real time. Inventory cycle counting takes place simultaneously with other warehouse activities.
  • Measuring the typical KPI of cases picked per hour tells only part of the story. With labor management capabilities built into the WMS, companies can see the entire story, compare your staff against engineered standards, identify ways to improve your operations and know what it should take to perform the activities versus what it is actually taking.