Not surprisingly, in response to the food scandal that took place in the 1990s, the EU developed rules and regulations for consumer protection.
In order to comply with the new instructions, which include the principle of retraceability, SPAR Austria installed a terminal solution from DLoG to assist with its logistics operations.
Since 1 January 2005, manufacturers of food and feed products must insure that all food, feed and feed ingredients can be traced all the way back through the entire food store chain. On 1 January 2006 even stricter hygiene requirements for production and distribution of food wares came into effect, covering all production, processing, distribution and export of food wares. Production, transportation, storage and distribution (trade, gastronomy, hotel industries, etc) are all included within the scope of the regulations.
At SPAR Austria's TANN brand meat and sausage production operation in Fderlach, the key activities are meat handling, the delivery of beef, calf, and pork halves, and meat cutting. The search had been on for some time to find a solution that guaranteed compliance with seamless retraceability for cutting, weighing, packing, and labeling. SPAR wanted to raise the entire production process to a modern, rapid and efficient level. "We needed an industrial PC," explains applications manager Christian Terbou, who was responsible for evaluating possible solutions. "The majority of terminals needed to be installed in stationary locations, but some in mobile applications. I searched on the Internet and came across DLoG."
There were two critical issues with the previous system that needed to be addressed: it required particular hardware which TANN considered an unpleasant restriction and an additional cost, and it ran on a client-server infrastructure. This created a situation where one was forced to install expensive and - due to the raw environment - failure-prone PCs in the middle of the meat production area.
The new concept was completely different. Instead of PCs, small industrial terminals (IP 65) would be used in production, ideally running under the lean operating system of Compact Flash memory. Giving up the hard disks would increase reliability and the corresponding waiting time would be minimised. Different versions for mobile and stationary applications would be required.
"DLoG completely fulfilled our criteria," says Terbou. "A competitor had developed a similar system, but had yet to demonstrate a practical implementation. With respect to the level of investment, we placed further value on DLoG as a partner, because the terminal specialist already had good references within our company and a proven track record with other customers.
"At TANN Fderlach we decided on 180 stationary DLoG data terminals: the MPC 5/110 which work on ProFood from Syspro and mobile terminals installed on our vehicles."
The MPC 5/110 terminal proved itself worthy of implementation in production and logistics through comprehensive testing. The multifunctional terminal combines a large 10" or 12" color TFT display with excellent screen quality and is easy to operate either via the display or touch screen. Network cards, bar code scanner connections, chip card readers or other peripheral devices, can be integrated according to need; USB and serial ports are standard.
"The steel version of the MPC 6 is especially well suited for the demanding, hygienic use in meat processing or in groceries and luxury food manufacture," explains Lachauer. "The food-safe, smooth casing made of V2A steel is easy to clean and disinfect and all connectors are safeguarded with waterproof coverings. This guarantees long term reliability, even in environments where liquids and cleaning fluids are continuously in use." To ensure retraceability, the entire production workflow is mapped in the IT system. This begins with the delivery from the slaughterhouse where every pork and beef half is marked with an earmark and a unique bar code number.
Twelve hours before delivery, TANN receives via electronic data exchange a delivery dispatch containing the delivery time and all of the bar codes included in the delivery. Immediately on arrival, the actual bar codes are read via DLoG terminals with scanners and compared with the dispatch list by the inventory control system. The delivery is only accepted when all data are in agreement. When each animal half is scanned upon arrival, it simultaneously receives a 10-digit internal SPAR batch number. The distinct connection between the internal batch number and the bar code of the supplier ensures the retraceability to the slaughterhouse and from there, even further back to the farm or animal raising facility.
The animal halves are cut into further portions and every piece receives a part batch number, which is saved with the source animal half batch number. When the individual cuts of meat are packaged, labels are printed for the customer with part batch number, batch number, a description and a (128) bar code. The packaging is completed by the inventory control system according to customer request. Employees are only allowed to pack the batch numbers that are generated by the system. The control comes from the scanning of all of the delivery unit components before delivery.
"We work exclusively with a one to one recording of entries and with a 'from - to' principle," explains Terbou. "With this there can be no debit - no delivery without a traceable history - anywhere in the entire system. Whereas earlier we worked only with internal batches, today the referencing of earmarks and batch numbers ensures complete retraceability. All steps in the production process now start and finish with scanning or data entry processing on the DLoG terminals.
The rollout of the new merchandise management system and terminals took just a few weeks and was made easier by a team-oriented, detailed preparation phase. From the start, the hardware and software were optimised to work together, so that no problems suddenly surfaced at the time of installation. Training went smoothly due to the ease with which the touch screens are operated. About six weeks before the launch of the new system, all department leaders and users were trained.
The new system was immediately accepted because it significantly eased the workload and was so easy to operate. The paperless order picking from the slaughterhouse to the grocery store, offers an appreciable time and cost saving overall. The successful experience in Fderlach led to the implementation of the system in TANN operations in St. Plten and Marchtrenk in the same year.
"By the middle of 2006 the rest of the TANN facilities had implemented DLoG's terminal inventory control system, with a total of more than 200 terminals in operation," says Terbou. "With the conclusion of this project, SPAR moves to the forefront of European information technology."
About DLoG (UK) Ltd
Based at Oldbury in the West Midlands, DLoG (UK) Ltd specialises in providing industrial computers, mobile and vehicle mount terminals wireless networking and touch screen solutions. With a UK user base exceeding 300 installed sites, the company services the needs of customers throughout the manufacturing, logistics, retail and distribution sectors. Application areas are endless with examples ranging from industrial cranes, shunting vehicles, forklift and reach trucks, straddle carriers, to heavy construction