Facing rising operational costs and growing awareness of consumer food safety, growers and companies are under increased pressure to improve efficiency and increase customer satisfaction and safety. To meet these needs while containing costs, food traceability solutions are particularly imperative for achieving rapid responses to potential product recalls. Also, the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act in January 2011 has mandated growers and food retailers to implement track and trace solutions for traceability.

Rugged mobile technology provider Intermec understands the demands created by increasing food safety legislation and industry regulations as well as the focus on consumer safety. The need for cost-effective solutions drives growers and supermarket retailers to consider rugged mobile solutions for traceability in their networks from field to fork.  

Companies are scrambling to find efficient technology to track and trace perishable goods. With recalls becoming more and more frequent, companies need reliable technology to track where the food originated and each stop it makes in the supply network. This includes the farms or fields where livestock or produce is raised, processing facilities, regional distribution centers, retail stores and all the transportation modes used to move the food between these points.  It also includes solutions providing compliance for Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for seafood.  In a post-recession economy, implementing a cost-effective yet accurate tracking system for distribution networks is top of mind for IT decision makers.

In fact, Intermec customer LoBue Citrus faced a similar decision. The California-based grower and distributor of oranges, recognized the need to automate its produce traceability program in October 2010. Formerly, LoBue’s process was manual, which tied up critical resources and increased the likelihood of error. The family-run company distributed nearly four to five percent of the California citrus industry, which equates to between four and five million boxes each year. More than 40 percent of the product was then exported to Asia. LoBue engaged with Intermec and FoodLogiQ, which provides software and solutions that meet the needs of the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI), to create an automated food traceability system with Intermec printer solutions.

Before the implementation, LoBue’s accuracy ranged from the high-80 to low-90 percent—after deploying Intermec, accuracy jumped to between 98 and 99 percent. And, because the system is automated, physical inventories have become a thing of the past, saving eight to 16 labor hours each day. Given the improvements, LoBue believes the system will pay for itself within two years, and all subsequent gains beyond that will further help the business.

Rugged mobile technology solutions support food traceability programs by improving efficiency and accuracy, safeguarding public health, increasing customer satisfaction and providing the means to comply with FDA mandates. Computers, printers, scanners, Voice and RFID make implementing a food traceability program easy and cost effective. From the point of harvest to the point of sale, rugged mobile technology has the largest impact on track and trace processes.

In order to ensure compliance, there needs to be a collaborative effort across the supply network.  This includes the produce growers, livestock farmers, seafood providers, transportation companies, processing facilities and the retail network (distribution centers, transportation fleet and stores).  The compliance laws require gathering and maintaining accurate information in each step of the process of moving these food items from their origin to the consumer.

This necessitates deploying systems that enable them to meet these requirements.  Most of the top-tier supply chain execution systems provide software compliance that meets the regulations.  Pairing these systems with purpose built mobility solutions that enable the accurate and efficient capturing of the data is vital to the success of the project.  Capturing this data at each step in the process and archiving it for future use is mandatory.  Using paper methods to drive this process can be costly, inaccurate and less timely.

Mobile computers, scanners and mobile printers are being utilized in the field and processing facilities to electronically gather the data for proper archiving.  The use of mobile computers, RFID, voice and smart, mobile printing in the Fleet and Distribution networks is capturing all the needed data through the transit and handling of the food products through the distribution center to the store for consumer use.

Gathering this information accurately and efficiently in this manner ensures that any issue can be dealt with quickly and safely.  This provides maximum safety to the consumer, and this also affords brand protection for the retailer as they can quickly pull the food in question from their shelves and recall all affected food quickly by tracing the origin of the problem.  In many cases only certain portions or lot numbers of product are affected and the recall efforts can be targeted towards those specifically.

Intermec will continue to deliver unparalleled success in track and trace with mobility solutions.  These solutions will continue to enable compliance, provide brand protection, deliver unmatched levels of accuracy and efficiency and, most importantly, safeguard public health and consumer confidence. 


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