Traceability Insights Blog
Get the latest traceability insights from RedLine's industry experts.
More Productivity in the Cooler with the Right Tool
July 2016, Comments from Todd Baggett
My entire career has been spent helping people solve problems. Most of these problems are related to operational issues that interfere with productivity, slow down workers, or inhibit the workflow. The interesting thing is that most of the time workers have adapted to the system that they have and are making the best of it. They are unaware that a few changes can have a major impact on productivity and help move the company to the next level. Unless they have worked in another company that used technology, they don’t have first-hand experience of the impact it can bring.
One area technology that really makes a difference is when you mobilize your workflow. An example of this can be seen when a company manages their inventory. Let’s say you have 3 or 4 storage rooms. Maybe you have racks or perhaps your product is stored in bins or pallets lined up in rows. You have an inventory system that allows you to enter the location of your bins or pallets, but your inventory accuracy is low. As you drill down, you realize for the inventory to be accurate you would need to write down the location and pallet id and enter it into a PC. The problem is when it gets busy things are moving faster than you can record and update, so what you see in the system does not accurately reflect what you physically have in storage. You may even have all the move slips, but the challenge is until those moves get keyed into the system; there is no visibility of the inventory location. Another challenge to inventory accuracy is that there is a high probability that the item’s location is changed before we enter the location information into the system. This system is prone to errors, confusion and lost produce.
When dealing with inventory and product flows, real-time inventory information is essential. Real-time data capture eliminates the time lag between the inventory activity and the time the move is updated in the system. To do that you need to bring the data collection into the workflow. Storage, packing, and shipping areas are too harsh for most PC’s to survive; so most companies decide to implement ruggedized devices on a wireless backbone. Just like Starbucks and McDonalds they set up WIFI networks to enable mobile users. The right type of wireless network allows workers to roam from room to room without losing signal. If your software supports mobile barcode scanners you can have your forklift drivers scan bins or pallets to record inventory moves or shipments in real-time. If your software does not support mobile scanners you can get a powered mobile cart to move your WIFI enabled notebook computer with barcode scanner and printer throughout the facility; all the while staying connected to your inventory system giving you real-time data.
Some of our customers come to us knowing they need a real-time inventory system from the start. One of these is Royal Ridge, take a look at their case study to see how real-time inventory impacts their business (Read Their Story)
United Fresh Chicago 2016 & PTI Leadership Meeting Update
June 2016, Comments from Todd Baggett
Chicago welcomed the United Fresh and FMI show attendees once again the week of June 20th.
While I have attended the United Fresh Show each year for the past decade, RedLine Solutions had taken a break from exhibiting the past few years. However, with the release of our new web based inventory and traceability software, MyProduce.com we decided to exhibit this year, and I’m glad we did. In addition to being a finalist in the “Best New Food Safety “ Product Category, we had great conversations with growers, distributors, and food service businesses that are crossing the chasm from manual to electronic records for inventory and traceability.
I also attending the PTI Leadership Team meeting, which brought forth some interesting information. It has been clear the larger grower-shippers have been ready to implement PTI for some time. While some of the thought leaders Walmart and Whole Foods have PTI requirements, many retailers are lagging behind. Until these bigger retailers decide to join in, Whole Chain Traceability will remain an unfulfilled promise our industry made to consumers 8 years ago.
There was some discussion about the letter Walmart sent produce suppliers in February asking them to add PLU or UPC to Walmart bound RPC labels starting June 20th. They requested this item level identification on the cases to help them bridge the gap they have between their Distribution and Store Systems while they build this connection. This request will not be incorporated in the PTI Case Labeling best practices, because it is a Walmart requirement not an official PTI requirement. Many of RedLine’s customers ship to Walmart, so we made the changes across our product line to support the new Walmart case traceability label format.
The good news is that the Foodservice sector is not lagging, in fact they have been moving quickly. Driven by the leading food manufacturers, distributors, associations, and operators the Foodservice GS1 Standards Initiative report stated we are approaching 90% compliance.
On the regulatory front, the FDA has released the remaining FSMA regulations which are in place now. While it may be a few years before you see regular FDA plant inspections, the reality is if you have a problem and are not in compliance with current regulations you will need to get in compliance quickly. The Safe Food for Canadians Act is moving full steam ahead and we should see their new regulation by end of year.
The path is clear, new Food Safety regulation will be driving change throughout all fresh sectors in the next few years; ready or not here it comes!
Image below shows PTI Technology Working Group Co-Chairs Dan Vaché and Todd Baggett at the United Fresh Show
CEO Honored To Be Named A “Supply Chain Rock Star” by Food Logistics
I would like to send a ‘Big Thanks’ to the Food Logistics team, for naming me as one of the 2016 Champions: ‘Rock Stars of the Supply Chain’. ”The champions are individuals who spearhead partnerships among growers, packers, processors, retailers and logistics providers. They exemplify the best traits of leadership”, explained Food Logistics Editor Elliot Maras.
I am honored to be among this group of innovators, and rather enjoy the sound of the “Rock Star” monitor and especially pleased since this award comes on the heels of RedLine Solutions being named as one of Food Logistics “Top 100+ Software and Technology Providers” in December of 2015.
I grew up in the era of notable rock bands like Led Zeppelin and The Who, and at the time thought being a rock star would be the coolest thing ever. Being named a Rock Star of the Supply Chain is cool and probably one of the few times in my life that my name and rock star will be used in the same sentence.
Like most Rock Stars in any field, I’m no overnight success. I have been doing this for decades. In contrast to stadiums and music halls, my gigs are in fields, packing sheds and coolers. My applause comes in the form of seeing the companies we serve, and I feel that are the real rock stars. They lead the charge to modernize inefficient and outdated processes, working with many internal operational challenges, apprehension and sometimes limited applause. We are always aware of these facts when we partner with customers to define and implement any new system, helping build them a stronger, more efficient and reliable future.
We know that when the spot lights go on, and the show starts, our solutions need to provide an impressive performance that lasts, validating our customer’s faith in the RedLine team and its partners. It is this idea that drives us every day to be the best at what we do.
CEO RedLine Solutions
The UC Davis International Conference on Fresh-Cut Produce
Each year 48 million Americans are sickened by a foodborne illness. Approximately 2.9 million of these foodborne illnesses are related to the growing, processing and shipping of fresh produce. I am on a mission to make the produce food supply in North America safe. This week, I am gathering with other like-minded professionals at the UC Davis International Conference. In preparing for the talk I will give on “Creating a Safe Produce Food Supply”, I found myself reflecting on the progress we have made to make all produce in the US traceable and the challenges that we still face. The Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) was started in 2007 and when the seven milestones were originally rolled out the leadership team had hoped for full voluntary compliance by 2010. Here we are eight years later and we are not there yet. We have some made significant progress:
- The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was passed in 2011
- The Safe Food for Canadians ACT was passed in 2012
- Walmart became the first major retailer to require case level traceability in 2013
- Whole Foods started using the PTI labels to assist in their in-store supplier rating system in 2013
However, we still have a significant way to go in order to complete case level traceability in produce. As the current cucumber Salmonella Poona foodborne illness outbreak continues to unfold, 341 people have confirmed illnesses and two have died. We are moving in the right direction, but clearly not fast enough for the victims and families of those who have been sickened or died.
The food safety professionals are the modern day heroes that will help us turn the tide on foodborne illness and deaths. Traceability providers, like RedLine, play the supporting role of identifying and removing tainted product when things go wrong. My team understands the critical nature of the challenge in front of us and the impact our work has within the companies we serve. We are working hard every day to make case labeling traceability accessible to grower shippers of all sizes. Stay tuned because when passion meets purpose great things follow…
WPVGA Grower Education 2015
I was in Wisconsin this week meeting with customers and attending the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Association’s (WPVGA) Annual Grower Education conference. I was worried when our flights were cancelled due to the blizzard that shut down most flights in and out of O’Hare airport on Sunday Feb. 1st. The good news was I got to see one of the most entertaining Super Bowls in years, instead of flying into a blizzard.
RedLine Solutions was selected by the WPVGA after a competitive evaluation of Produce Traceability Software Suppliers and to date we have helped over 25 member companies by providing our PTI Light software, barcode printers, scanners, and labels to meet Walmart PTI labeling requirements. This year's session on Food Safety Management was led by WPVGA’s Director of Communication, Dana Rady, and a panel of Wisconsin growers who had participated in WPVGA Hosted HACCP training discussed FSMA, Third Party Audits, and Hazard Analysis. In that session attendees learned how FSMA will require growers to have a HACCP Plan, and how leading Wisconsin Growers had used their training to implement plans within their own companies. RedLine’s Director of Product Management, Carol Golsch, and I presented on how to use PTI Lite to assist you in gathering data when doing mock or actual recalls. We even toured the world famous WPVGA Spudmobile!
The conclusion of the conference was the annual WPVGA Annual Industry Awards. Highlights included 2014 WPVGA President Larry Alsum, of Alsum Farms & Produce, presenting President’s Awards to his daughters Wendy Alsum-Dykstra and Heidi Alsum-Randall, and new WPVGA Executive Director Tamas Houlihan. Eric Schroeder of Schroeder Bros. Farms, Inc. was named WPVGA Young Grower of the Year.
While the temperatures in Central Wisconsin never rose above 14 degree’s the four days we were in Wisconsin, much warmth came from the WPVGA members and staff. Throughout the three day event and my customer visits the character and comradery among Wisconsin growers was apparent. It is clear that the WPVGA helps provide a forum for education, commerce, and community for its members and is successfully building market presence and market share for Wisconsin potatoes and vegetables.
Produce Traceability: What You Really Need To Know
The FDA released the updates to four proposed FSMA Regulations in September, which are currently open for comment. The updates are based on the extensive comments the FDA received on the initial proposed regs. The overriding message from the FDA has been promoting a culture of food safety; the optimal word being culture. The days doing everything following best practices the day the inspector is scheduled to show up, and returning to less rigorous standards the next day must end. To help build that culture of food safety the FDA and partner agencies will be putting and emphasis on education and training in the next few years, a great preview of this can be found in the Operational Strategy for implementing the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Although FSMA gives the FDA a big stick to go after companies, it is clear they would much rather achieve voluntary compliance.
In a recent RedLine webinar, Produce Traceability: What you really need to know, I reviewed the proposed updates to FSMA Regulations on:
- The Produce Food Safety Rule
- Preventive Controls for Human Food
- Foreign Supplier Verification Programs
- Preventive Controls for Animal Food
If you interested in the details, a replay is available from the hyperlink above. Beyond the specifics of the regulations, what you really need to understand is FSMA will usher in a new era of creating a "Culture of Food Safety". The foundation of the culture of food safety is Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP). What every produce company can do now to prepare for FSMA is review and update your HACCP plan; if you don't have one it's time to create one.