What to track and where?

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A mixture of regulation and the need to provide quality guarantees to customers, has made production tracking and traceability a business imperative for retailers and manufacturers alike, says Pierson Broome, business development manager at Aldata Solution. How can software ensure compliance?

Whether out of compliance with the European EFSA Regulation 178/2002, the U.S. FDA Bioterrorism Act (a.k.a. the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002) or out of the desire for better business operations, traceability matters.

It is now important that food and drink manufacturers have the capability to implement suitable solutions to facilitate the tracking of products within the demand chain. In the event of a terrorist attack, the FDA now requires food manufacturers to identify (within 24 hours of a request) the immediate previous source of food and the immediate subsequent recipients of food, if sent to businesses (and if these records are already being maintained).

Technology now enables retailers and manufacturers to track food products back to their ingredient sources and identify which ingredient(s) contributed to the contamination. They need to be able to identify which batches of the product contained the particular ingredient and to which stores they were shipped. They can then remove the contaminated product from the shelves promptly. Logistics providers and warehouse operators can identify the product in storage and/or transit and react accordingly to recall products.

Ideal software should receive data from multiple systems across multiple network partners via XML, and then report against the positioning of goods and articles in real-time.

Before RFID comes along
While radio bar codes as used in radio frequency identification (RFID) define the future of product tracking and tracing, current EAN standard bar code can provide track and trace at every point in the physical flow of products from manufacturing output to point of sale, reading logistical unit variants such as pallet, manufacturing lot or batch, individual SKU, Use By datein fact, any and all data contained within an EAN-128 bar code.

By integrating not only radio frequency (RF) systems used in the logistics network but also hand-held mobile solutions such as personal digital assistants (PDAs) now being deployed at the in-store, shelf-edge level, a virtual network is created that can track products at any point in the demand chain.

Ideal software should receive data from multiple systems across multiple network partners via XML, and then report against the positioning of goods and articles in real-time. By providing the ability to pin-point the location of items, for example goods in storage, in transit or stocked in a retailers inventory in preparation for sale, precise information can be exploited rapidly to facilitate, for example, product recalls or other anomalies.

Software can also enable retailers to define the type of data to be tracked via indicators (for example, supplier code, order number, serial number and others) and, based on these indicators, instantly locate or trace products (at the unit and pallet level) and retrieve information about their associated activities, such as product movement up and down the chain, ingredients used, manufacturing method and other activities.

Case study
As a live example, the spirit maker, Grand Marnier exports around 90 per cent of its production with the majority being exported to the US and Canada and must therefore conform to the new legislation on bioterrorism. The company has to locate and trace its entire production and distribution supply chain, from raw materials through to finished goods.

Software at Grand Marniers central production site in France, which also provides the packaging and distribution functions, interfaces with Grand Marnier's in-house production system. All pallets follow EAN 128 labelling conventions in order to ensure their traceability.

Traceability matters because it helps in making more informed business decisions in relation to ongoing operations.

Arnaud Mabire, IT Manager of Grand Marnier, said: In addition to traceability and warehouse optimisation, the expected benefits achieved through automation are multiple: improved inventory management, standardisation of many warehouse functions, better storage and flexibility in forklift truck driver operations due to the automation of some functions".

Track and trace for everyone
Ultimately, it will become important for all partners in the supply chain to share information. Understanding the past and future flows of their products provides all players with the supply chain visibility they need to operate more efficiently as a whole. Knowing where products are in the chain and where they are going enables retailers and logistics providers to perform more optimal inventory planning and management and to offer better customer responsiveness and service (knowing where products are helps retailers know when they will reach the shelves). Traceability matters because it helps in making more informed business decisions in relation to ongoing operations.

 Pierson Broome is business development manager at Aldata Solution. He has been involved in IT in logistics and supply chain management for the past 24 years, covering aspects as diverse as Customs & Excise or agent integration through to supply chain optimisation. He has worked with some of the worlds largest solution vendors such as SAP and Manugistics and has experience in all holistic supply chain processes from demand forecasting to warehouse operation optimisation. Today, he is focused on warehouse automation and the benefits of integrating retail replenishment in the value chain.

INFORMATION: Free information is available from ALDATA on the subject in this story. Click here to request a copy

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