Lowry’s Tazelaar adds that RFID visibility goes beyond barcode data that typically provides company information and product type. “RFID tags, encoded with EPCs, are capable of identifying exact items of products and certain tags have the ability to monitor temperatures of those products. The real value is the ability to access this data, through stand communication methods across trading partners, to make real-time business decisions. For instance, the system can send alerts if produce, for example, is left sitting in 90-degree weather for too long. The alert will initiate either expediting the product or inspecting it to assure shelf life has not been impacted because of the exposure.”
In the event of a recall, RFID enables the ability to trace exact products through the supply chain as they are shipped on full pallets and broken down during the distribution process into multiple-store deliveries.
“The grower can quickly find all the products that were picked in the same hour and do a lookup for the exact EPCs across all of their trading partners,” Talezaar says. “The standards to do this type of lookup for traceability are developed within GS1 and EPC Global, adding value. These standards also improve visibility across operations, which lie in the hands of the application development community.”
Furthermore, RFID could enhance the inspection process if the FDA would invest not only in its visual inspections, but in technology to detect microbial and chemical contaminants inspectors cannot see, advises Ryan. “RFID sensors could potentially talk to an RFID backbone and issue real-time alerts if they detect any contaminants so those contaminants can be captured and destroyed.”
Web-Delivered Barcode: YottaMark in Redwood City, CA, offers its HarvestMark traceability solution, compatible with PTI and with GS1 standards. The Web-delivered service uses barcode format and collects supply-chain data in its server. The solution can also integrate into an ERP system, as it does with its Mexican grower/packer/shipper/re-packer, Del Campo (see sidebar titled "Del Campo Supreme Tracks From Field To Fork" at the end of this article.
“It provides one-up and one-back traceability,” explains Elliott Grant, chief marketing officer and founder. This is accomplished with the database information containing GTINs, lot numbers and the shipper’s name.
In the event of bad products, the first thing the CDC wants is good data, says Grant. “They can look for commonalities such as discovering all the sickened people ate cantaloupes from a particular GTIN and lot number. It quickly narrows down the problem to a particular lot number or farm. The key is all the other cantaloupes on the market can continue to be sold. “
TRACEABILITY: A HOLISTIC ENDEAVOR
In the final analysis, brand owners need to take more responsibility for monitoring product quality of their suppliers, advises AMR’s Cecere. “Brand owners should require their suppliers to be sharing quality data with them on a near real-time basis so they can track more effectively. “
Yet another factor plays into this discussion. The No. 1 pressure in the market about two years ago related to how pain-focused companies are as they aimed to reduce the cost of adverse events and recalls, notes Littlefield at Aberdeen. “Our customers told us this can really hurt their business. But today, there is a transition to be more customer- and quality-focused. For some leading companies, traceability is now more than just focused on eliminating the pain of a recall event; these companies also want to be more holistic and to improve the quality of the customer experience and customer loyalty.”