Marco Peters, Zetes' track & trace specialist, discusses traceability in the food sector, a discussion which intensifies after each food scandal. How can safety and quality be improved using 'cloud' technology? How far off is serialised marking?
Q: What issues are food manufacturers faced with?
A: Food manufacturers are confronted with a dilemma: they need to find a balance between rising costs and having a sustainable business. Consumers want quality food for low prices, without compromising safety.
Q: How can better identification improve food safety and quality?
A: If items were uniquely labelled, they could be tracked individually by a serialised code. Simply assigning a product code isn't sufficient because millions of products have identical codes and batch codes only relate to production.
Q: Is unique item labelling adequate for all industries?
A: For some supply chains it is sufficient to mark items uniquely during production and subsequently scan items at the point of sale. This stops counterfeiting and grey imports. It is not good enough for the food sector as was demonstrated during this year's European horsemeat scandal, when products became contaminated during transport. Better labelling would not have avoided this problem.
Q: What's the solution for the food industry?
A: 'End-to-end supply chain visibility' in which items are followed along the supply chain. Technologies to do this are barcodes or RFID tags on the packaging. As products move along the supply chain, relevant events based on pre-determined rules are recorded, with data stored in the cloud. This means it is easily updated and accessible by all stakeholders to ensure swift recalls.
Q: How can cloud technology play a role?
A: Cloud based track and trace solutions are ideal because they scale easily and support collaborative working, creating a secure, real-time traceability data repository. This is exactly how ZetesOlympus, Zetes' track & trace solution, works. Using a cloud based solution is economically sustainable, requiring no upfront capital expenditure and can be integrated with an existing ERP system. Linked to secure product identification, cloud solutions enable full, real-time visibility of product and ingredient provenance.
Q: How does this work in practice?
A: Tracking activities are configured to alert if an item does not follow an expected route, or becomes invisible during transportation. Removing products from the supply chain may not be necessary, but manufacturers can be alerted to potential issues.
Q: Why does collaborative working make a difference?
A: If suppliers, sub-suppliers and trading partners stored information relating to raw material sources and recorded product movements across the supply chain, this would improve security levels and build greater trust and accountability between the different partners. It also means recalls can be managed more easily and retail shelves cleared of exactly the affected stocks rather than taking a blanket approach. It's the main reason for developing ZetesOlympus.
Q: How does traceability benefit brand reputation?
A: There is no doubt supply chains have become more complex and longer. Holding data securely within a collaborative, cloud-based repository, makes it possible to quickly retrieve specific product information. The resulting improved traceability supports product quality and safety, controls grey imports and eliminates counterfeiting. This protects brand reputation and minimises the impact of recalls for consumers, manufacturers and retailers.