In some cases, manufacturers do not want to invest in printers and labeling programs until they know their distributors are equipped to read the labels properly, and distributors do not want to invest in scanners and other technology until they are sure that their suppliers can properly apply labels with the correct information.
Even among those that did make the investment, the decision has been made with some trepidation. "By the time we get everyone on one standard, the technology and platform will be outdated," Brusie fears. "Everyone will move away from that standard and something else will come along to replace it."
Radio frequency identification (RFID) tagging is one such technology that has fueled those fears. There's no reason to fear, says IFDA's Allen. "The recommendation was for barcoding, and that has not changed," he says. "The carrier can change, but the data structure will remain the same."
And, rather than replacing barcoding, RFID will simplify processes. "If we have scannable barcodes on all cases, with RFID we will not have to manually scan anything," says Ben E. Keith's Lavender. "With RFID, our computers would immediately know all there is to know about a pallet. It's the next step for sure."
"If every case on a pallet had an RFID tag on it, we would be able to break it down to a manufacturer and lot code automatically and pull information for it without having to manually scan it with a reader. It would make our life much easier," adds Graff of Yancey's.
"Distributors have realized that our systems will be much more efficient and accurate if we have 100 percent implementation of standard product IDs and barcodes," says Pam Tann, director of the Standards and Coding Group at Sysco Corp., Houston, the nation's largest foodservice distributor. "Sysco is committed to using codes to achieve supply chain excellence and we, likewise, need all of our trading partners to embrace these fundamental building blocks as well."