Best Practices for Cold Shipping Labels and Traceability of Fresh Produce Through the Supply Chain
Reduce inventory waste increase traceability fresh produce, recall, audit: full fresh produce inventory traceability management: quality control, sales & shipping traceability.
In the fresh produce industry, there are countless requirements for labeling cases, pallets and consumer units for cold chain shipping. This is due to the ever-growing need for accurate and up-to-date tracking information for fresh produce. Traceability through cold warehouse labels is vital to the fresh produce industry as it allows all trading partners to follow the products as they move from the field to a retail store or food service operator. This helps protect consumers and is incredibly important when a produce shipment needs to be withdrawn from the supply chain.
Cold shipping labels most often have some or all of the following information on them:
Country of origin
Global Trade Item Number (GTIN)
Batch or lot number
The exact content of a label often depends on the application, target market requirements and desired optional data. But at a minimum, waxy corrugated labels will contain a barcode and a portion that is readable to workers or those who come in contact with the shipment. In addition to this labeling information, established standards should be applied to properly track fresh produce.
Best Practices for Tracing Fresh Produce
Basic principles and best practices have been put into place by the industry to follow GS1’s Global Traceability Standard (GTS). The following are the globally accepted best practices for effectively implementing traceability when shipping cold food. For a more detailed look at the full list of standards, you can read GSI’s Traceability for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Implementation Guide.
Begin by determining what needs to be traced (the “traceable item”). Traceable items include a logistic unit (bin or container), a product or traded item in the form of a case, carton or consumer item, or a shipment/movement of a product or trade item. An agreement must be established between all trading partners about what the traceable item is so everyone involved in the transaction is properly tracking the same thing.
Ensure that each traceable item is uniquely identified and that each affected supply chain partner is informed.
If a product is being traced, it must be assigned a unique GS1 GTIN and a batch or lot assignment at a minimum.
When or if a logistic unit is reconfigured, a new, unique identification code must be assigned. But keep in mind that a linkage needs to be maintained between the new logistic unit and the original input.
Each and every supply chain partner must systematically link the physical flow of produce with the flow of information about them. All traceable item identification numbers need to be shared on any related documents.
A traceability partner refers to a grower, packer or repacker, distributor or trader, retail store and food service operator. Each of these traceability partners needs to be able to identify the supplier and end customer of all traceable items. The easiest way to ensure that all information is shared is by having each supply chain partner collect, record and share traceability information.
All supply chain parties require internal and external traceability. Internal traceability refers to proprietary data and processes a company uses within its own operations in order to execute traceability. External traceability refers to the processes that occur between trading partners and the information that is exchanged in order to execute traceability.
If you have assets that need to be traced forward or backward, like returnable pallets or other forms of cold shipping supplies, they’ll need to be uniquely identified.
Cold warehouse labels that display the traceable item’s identification number must remain on the packaging until the item is consumed or destroyed by the next trading partner. This principle is extremely important and applies even when the item is part of a larger packaging hierarchy. The only way to ensure properly traceable fresh produce is to make sure the refrigerated food labels actually stay in place during the entire supply chain.
Maintain Peace Of Mind With CHILL AT Refrigerated Food Labels
Corrugated materials make up the bulk of all packaging materials in the U.S. Corrugate is known for its durable, versatile, sustainable, customizable and cost-effective construction. In fact, corrugate is the leading type of packaging for produce. Because of this, waxy corrugated labels need to be specially engineered for all types of conditions – from intense heat to extreme cold.
LLT Labels has teamed up with Mactac to create the new CHILL AT label line. These labels are the perfect solution for waxy corrugate due to their superior tack and peel properties. CHILL AT labels adhere quickly, easily and most importantly, stay put throughout the entire supply chain process. They were uniquely designed to meet the needs of varying application conditions and temperatures, remaining physically and aesthetically intact in temperatures ranging from -65℉ to 150℉. CHILL AT labels are even able to withstand the extreme demands of shipping, including packing, transportation, storage and repeated product handling.
American Apple Creates Highly Efficient Fresh Produce and Vegetable Packing Operations with Zebra’s Mobile Technology
Zebra’s Mobile Computers and IST’s Mobile App Deliver Real-Time Inventory Tracking, Order Validation, and Product Traceability
Download Case Study
When it comes to thermal transfer printing, few applications are as demanding as those found within the fresh produce and food packaging market.
With constant pressure on growers and packers to reduce pricing and the ever-changing demands to satisfy regulatory requirements for product traceability, the labelling of products can prove to be a difficult task.
Production environments are also something that must be taken into consideration as temperatures can vary and be very humid with a lot of moisture. A lot of the products are then stored in fridges with low temperatures. The print needs to withstand all these conditions
TTS has a wide range of products suitable for fresh produce packaging.
The Challenge: Replace Inefficient and Error-Prone Manual Inventory and Tracking Processes with an Affordable, Automated Alternative
American Apple was opening a new, fresh produce and vegetable packing facility and wanted to redesign its operations to achieve greater efficiency and order picking accuracy. Previously, the company did everything by hand and visually, from tracking packaging materials and finished goods to verifying correct picking, shipping products, and managing food safety compliance. Doing things manually required many man hours to complete and was often inefficient and errorprone. To avoid these issues, American Apple wanted to replace its manual processes with an automated system that could track its inventory, picking, and packing with much greater efficiency and accuracy. The system needed to be affordable, easy to use, and address problems in several key areas of the company’s operations:
Physical Inventory of Packaging Materials
American Apple maintains a constant supply of packaging materials for its fresh food product inventory and shipments. Keeping a physical inventory of these materials required visual inspection that took multiple people many hours per week.
Pack Type and Pallet Matching
Packing and shipping the right products to the right customers requires that every finished case of goods match the right product pack type and the right pallet. But manual tracking and matching were inefficient and created risks that customers wouldn’t get exactly what they were paying for with each pallet.
Finished Goods Inventory
Physical inventory of finished goods was tracked manually on paper and on a white board, which required multiple man hours per day as well as multiple physical counts, so salespeople could set up trucking.
Accurate Shipments and Order Fulfillment
American Apple was using paper bills of lading (BOLs) for product shipments, which added hours to picking and order fulfillment processes and led to errors due to mislabeled or misread information.
Food safety regulations require an ability to track food products to specific fields and conduct rapid recalls. But American Apple’s manual processes meant it could take hours to determine what finished product might need to be recalled in the event of an issue.
The Solution: Zebra Mobile Technologies and a Custom Mobile App from IST
Industrial Service Technology (IST), a provider of barcoding, inventory, and mobility solutions for leading companies such as Whirlpool Corporation, Kenco Logistics, Penske and Gemstone Solid Surfacing, teamed up with Zebra Technologies to create a custom fresh produce and vegetable packing solution for American Apple.
As a trusted technology company since 1982, IST has proven experience in helping companies tackle their biggest challenges with mobile automation. As a certified Zebra partner, IST also has access to Zebra’s complete portfolio of mobile computing and barcoding solutions, including affordable and easy-to-use technologies that would make it easy for American Apple to transform its food packing operations.
IST worked with American Apple to understand its current processes and business needs, recommend the right Zebra hardware for automated tracking and traceability, and develop a custom mobile software application to deliver the real-time inventory, order, and production insights the company needed.
Benefits of Zebra’s Mobile Technologies
Zebra’s solutions include compact, lightweight wearable mobile computers that can be deployed to keep food processing workers’ hands free for picking and packing.
Zebra also offers vehicle-mounted computers for on-the-go computing in trucks, forklifts, or other vehicles.
Zebra solutions are rugged devices that are ideal for outdoor use, with military-grade drop resistance and the durability to withstand bumps, spills, dust, vibration, extreme temperatures, and more.
Zebra’s handheld mobile computers are multi-purpose devices that combine enterprise mobile computing and advanced barcode scanning in a single, lightweight solution.
Zebra’s desktop printers and supplies provide fast, reliable printing of high-quality barcode labels that ensure proper adhesion, durability, and scannability—even when exposed to moisture, chemicals, and outdoor conditions.
Advantages of IST Application Development
IST is not just a hardware provider, but also an expert in software development. Our certified programmers can develop custom applications or help connect off-the-shelf solutions with existing IT systems and solutions.
Our services include complete software development, testing, deployment, training, and on-going on-site and remote support.
The Results: Perfect Scanning and Tracking from Start to Finish
The complete solution delivered on numerous business-critical needs for American Apple:
Real-Time Packaging Supply Tracking
With the new system in place, American Apple can now add and assign custom bills of material (BOMs) for every finished case of goods, and automatically deduct packaging supplies from inventory as it palletizes products. This gives the company real-time supply control as well as real-time data on usage trends for just-in-time supply delivery.
Pallet and Product Packing Validation
The software solution from IST validates every single finished case of goods and matches all cases on a single pallet. This makes sure that each customer gets exactly what they pay for and guarantees that American Apple isn’t giving away higher-margin crops at a discount.
Automated Physical Inventory
Combined with Zebra barcode scanning, IST’s solution captures data and provides real-time inventory summaries and detailed inventory data for America Apple’s production, shipping, and sales teams. The company can also map product times and trends for specific pack types and use them for forecasting and production planning.
Automated Picking Validation and Logistics
IST’s picking program has replaced paper pick sheets and manual processes, and the program delivers the information that the shipping and office staff need to ensure they pick the oldest inventory to maintain the best quality for the consumer. The solution also validates each picking choice by the front office and sales staff, and then matches it to what gets loaded on trucks. This enables better up-front planning for logistics inside the food packing facility, letting the company leave finished product racked until just before trucks arrive.
Complete Food Safety Traceability
Thanks to Zebra’s mobile tracking solutions and IST’s software application, American Apple now automatically tracks which cases of products came from specific fields. This helps the company ensure food safety compliance and do it more efficiently and with less waste by targeting much smaller quantities. It will also allow the company to complete a recall in under two hours in the event that one is required.
A More Efficient and Expanding Operation
Mobile automation has helped American Apple increase its overall efficiency and output by enabling greater visibility and control over batches of products as they are coming in and being shipped out. It’s also helping the company improve overall food quality while enabling rapid growth. In fact, due to efficiency and automation enabled by IST and Zebra, the company is now looking to double the size of its warehouse.
Fourth-Generation Sweet Potato Supplier Incorporates Traceability System in its Packaging Line for PTI Compliance
| By: Wayne E. Bailey
v>FOOD & BEVERAGE MANUFACTURING
Application Case Study: Wayne E. Bailey
“Fourth-Generation Sweet Potato Supplier Incorporates Traceability System in its Packaging Line for PTI Compliance"
Requirement: Meet all requirements outlined in the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) for standardized labeling and electronic recordkeeping.
Project: Implementation of traceability system to meet current and future requirements of the PTI.
Solution: Microscan partner RedLine’s Packing solution incorporating Microscan’s QX-830 barcode reader.
Result: Increased labeling accuracy, traceability throughout the packing line, and compliance with the PTI.
Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) Picks Up Steam As Large Retailers Announce Adoption
The Produce Traceability Initiative, or PTI, is an industry-led effort to improve traceability throughout the produce supply chain in North America. Initiated in the late 2000s in an effort to enhance the safety and security of fresh produce, the PTI outlines the key steps that growers, packers, shippers, and retailers can take to implement case-level electronic traceability from the field to the grocery store.
The PTI draws from established GS1 standards to maximize the effectiveness of current traceback procedures while developing a standardized industry approach to enhance the speed and efficiency of traceability systems for the future. The voluntary initiative has been used as a model in the development of proposed traceability regulations for the U.S.’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), set to take effect in the next few years.
Recent announcements by several major U.S. retailers that they will require vendor compliance starting in 2014 sends a strong message to the industry that the PTI is gaining traction. More and more produce companies are taking steps to comply with the milestones of the initiative, which are intended to protect both consumers and vendors by limiting the scope and cost of recalls. By adopting the PTI, many of these producers are also realizing benefits ranging from improved inventory management, to higher process efficiency, to enhanced customer insight.
Wayne E Bailey_bright.jpg
Pack codes are scanned with QX-830s to confirm product type. This data is used to generate PTI-compliant labels.
Fourth-Generation Sweet Potato Company Has Tradition of Innovation
The Wayne E. Bailey Produce Company, of Chadbourn, NC, has a long tradition of adopting new ideas and technologies. Started in 1935, the family-owned producer of sweet potatoes has played a key role in transforming the vegetable from a seasonal item to a year-round favorite through innovative marketing and new technologies to support the needs of its customers. The first to introduce electronic sizing to the sweet potato industry in the 1980s, the customer-focused company continues its legacy of innovation with a state-of-the-art facility that uses advanced technology to provide cleaner, safer sweet potatoes with longer shelf lives.
When a key retail customer adopted the PTI, Wayne E. Bailey (WEB) recognized the need to implement a system in its packing operation to ensure that it was in compliance. The sweet potatoes were already traceable by an internal process which utilized an ink roller to apply a lot number and product size to each box that was recorded in the company’s inventory management system. However, compliance with the PTI required the company to adopt the standardized labeling format and electronic recordkeeping requirements outlined by the initiative. The solution would need to be able to accurately identify as many as 14 to 15 different product sizes during a production run without impacting the production rate or requiring major changes to the process.
Expertise Ensures Smooth Implementation Process
WEB turned to Todd Baggett, founder and CEO of RedLine Solutions for assistance with PTI implementation. Recognized as an expert in produce traceability, Baggett has been an active participant in the PTI for many years and serves as co-chair of the PTI Technology Working Group. A Microscan Partner, RedLine provides inventory control and supply chain traceability solutions for produce growers, packers, and shippers. “Todd was instrumental in the process,” explained WEB Operations Manager, Adam Wooten. “He knows all about the PTI, about scanning technology, and how to solve the challenges that we had.”
The RedLine Packing solution was integrated into the company’s existing grower accounting and inventory management system - a key advantage, according to Wooten, over stand-alone systems. The solution included both software and hardware technology, including automated label applicators and barcode readers, to meet current and future requirements of the PTI while maintaining WEB’s high production rate of more than 700 cases packed each hour.
The Packing Process
Sweet potatoes are delivered to the company’s packing facility in wooden bins. A label on each bin describes the product variety, state, grower, and quantity in both human readable and barcode format. These bins are emptied into a conveyor system and conveyed onto a grading table where they are manually graded and then sorted by size before being boxed in 40 lb cartons.
More than 700 cases of sweet potatoes are packed each hour in Wayne E. Bailey’s Chadbourn, NC, facility.
Before each run, a “pack code” label is manually applied to the boxes, identifying the lane number that the box will be packed on. The product size is entered into the software system, associating a product to the lane. Once filled, the pack code on each box is scanned with a Microscan QX-830 laser barcode scanner to confirm the product type, ensuring that each box receives the correct label; if the QX-830 reads the wrong code, the incorrect product is removed from the line. This data is used to generate a PTI-compliant label, which identifies the product by both text and a GS1-128 formatted barcode with the company’s GTIN (Global Trade Item Number). An automatic printer applicator prints and then applies a label to each case.
According to Baggett, the QX-830 was selected for the project for its ability to meet the speed requirements of the line and its industrial design that enables it to operate continuously in the dusty bin dumper environment. “It is also a very cost-effective scanning solution,” states Baggett. The QX-830 features Ethernet connectivity, which facilitated integration into RedLine Packing’s existing Ethernet TCP/IP architecture.
The cases are palletized based on grade and size and tagged with a run pack number, which is also generated by the RedLine Packing system, enabling traceability at the pallet level. At the end of each day, all labels from the wooden bins that the sweet potatoes arrived in are scanned into the system and associated with the day’s run.
Since the system was incorporated in January of 2012, Wayne E. Bailey has experienced the benefits of increased labeling accuracy, traceability throughout the packing line, and the assurance that the company is in compliance with the PTI. True to its forward-thinking legacy, the company is fully prepared as new customers adopt the initiative, and the flexible system ensures that it will continue to be as the company grows. WEB’s next steps include plans to incorporate the RedLine software package into its cooler operation to achieve order fulfillment validation and real-time shipping transactions.
Wayne E. Bailey continues to lead the sweet potato revolution. “With the positive press sweet potatoes have been receiving (as a superfood)”, states company President George Wooten, “we see tremendous growth ahead.”