Supply Scan

News and Trends From Across the Food Supply Chain

» Nationwide System To Speed Product Recalls

The Food Marketing Institute (FMI), Arlington, VA, and GS1 US have launched the Rapid Recall Exchange, an online service to enable prompt and accurate information exchange between retailers/wholesalers and suppliers about food and product recalls and withdrawals.

It replaces an existing recall system, the Product Recall Portal, by improving ease of use and adding significant capabilities.

“Rapid Recall Exchange represents industry consensus that a standardized product recall system is critical to enhancing effective communication. It is a system designed by the industry and for the industry, which applies best practices and critical insight and expertise from industry partners and associations,” says Leslie G. Sarasin, FMI president and chief executive officer.

“This will benefit the public as well as the companies that use it,” says Bob Carpenter, CEO of GS1 US. “It employs the same GS1 global standards that these companies already use to identify their products, stock their shelves, and accelerate checkouts. Its ease of use and extensive functionality can improve the speed and accuracy of recalls, which we all want.”

Rapid Recall Exchange complements existing recall practices, complies with the requirements of the FDA Reportable Food Registry, and features:

• Secure user-authentication;
• Two-way messaging between trading partners;
• Internet access anywhere, anytime;
• Email alerts about new information;
• Comprehensive, prioritized information with U.P.C. bar codes and product images for easy identification;
• Verification of notification;
• Universal notification of Class 1 recalls;
• Targeted notification to specific custom-ers;
• Consistent, reliable communications;
• Standardized forms, processes and instructions applying industry best practices.

The system also allows suppliers to send targeted information to retailers and wholesalers to provide specific information on how to remove recalled or withdrawn products and handle them safely, as well as address reimbursement requirements.

Rapid Recall Exchange is supported by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and National Grocers Association (N.G.A.).

» Greatwide Commits Significant Investment In Technology Platform

Greatwide Logistics Services, a Dallas-based national provider of non-asset-based transportation and third-party logistics services, has committed significant investments in several new technologies to enhance its offerings for customers.

“Greatwide has made about 15 years of technological advances in the past year,” says Raymond Greer, the company’s chief executive officer.

“The whole idea is to leverage our combined services in ways no one else can. The key to that is to have one common view of information as a basis to build truly unique products around our core dedicated, brokerage, warehousing and TMS competencies.”

The technologies in which Greatwide has invested recently include LeanLogistics’ On-Demand TMS, McLeod software, RedPrairie and PeopleNet.

The LeanLogistics technology allows Greatwide to provide an upgraded Transportation Management Solution (TMS) to include procurement, execution, spot market management and financial management.

Microsoft BizTalk will be the backbone to seamlessly tie together all of these and other Greatwide systems. The company has already signed large contracts on the combined capability the new technology architecture provides.

The newest McLeod software technology will allow complete transparency across the Greatwide network so load planners have the ability to see all capacity throughout the organization and provides a natural ability to leverage the expansive Greatwide transportation network in order to optimize service with cost.

Integrated with McLeod software’s LoadMaster IX v 9.3 will be PeopleNet. PeopleNet is a mobile communications and onboard computing provider to the transportation industry. PeopleNet will directly link with LoadMaster IX, creating a seamless system for simple dispatch and load planning.

» GSI US Launches Foodservice Initiative

GS1 US, Lawrenceville, NJ, has announced that 55 foodservice manufacturers, distributors and operators have launched the Foodservice GS1 US Standards Initiative, and have funded the GS1 US Team for Foodservice to guide execution.

The Initiative recommends the adoption of a common timeline for voluntary individual company implementation of GS1 Global standards for company identification, item identification and product description; 45 of the Initiative’s founding member companies have already voluntarily committed to this common timeline.

“We know our customers need more accurate information,” says Larry G. Pulliam, executive vice president, foodservice operations, Sysco Corp., Houston. “In addition, our suppliers need it, our associates need it and the industry needs it as well. Through the Foodservice GS1 US Standards Initiative, involving leadership from all parts of the supply chain, we commit to adopting GS1 standards to improve food safety and traceability, take cost and complexity out of the supply chain and improve the experience for our customers.”

Industry organizations and founding members of the Foodservice GS1 US Standards Initiative cite three main objectives and industry-wide benefits as a result of companies choosing to adopt and implement GS1 standards:

• Drive waste out of the foodservice supply chain;
• Improve product information for customers, and
• Establish a foundation for improving food safety and traceability.

The Initiative is striving for 75 percent adoption of GS1 standards throughout the foodservice industry, measured in terms of revenue, by 2015, and is endorsed by the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA), the International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA), the National Restaurant Association, and GS1 Canada Foodservice.

Near-term steps in the Foodservice GS1 US Standards Initiative timeline include: 

By Q4 2009: Companies assign GS1 Global Location Numbers to their headquarters;  By Q3 2010: Manufacturers assign GS1 Global Trade Item Numbers to products and include them on order guides and other trading partner documentation;

By Q2 2011: Manufacturers and brand owners will publish product and company identification and related logistics information to trading partners. Distributors retrieve product information; populate back end systems and customer product catalogs.

Trading partners choosing to adopt and implement GS1 standards will access standard product information through the GS1 Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN), an open platform that ensures continuous real-time exchange of consistent, accurate product information among supply chain partners. Many technology providers are certified to help companies with implementation; certification is required to ensure adherence to GS1 global standards.

Committed providers include widely known players in foodservice, including AFS, which announced that it will become certified for GS1 data publishing and retrieval; Aligntrac, which already is certified for GS1 data publishing and retrieval; FSE, which already is certified for data publishing and retrieval and is getting certified to become a GS1 GDSN data pool; 1SYNC, the world’s largest GDSN data pool, which also is certified for GS1 data publishing and retrieval; and iTradeNetwork, which will become certified to publish, retrieve and become a GS1 GDSN data pool.

GDSN data pools are interoperable—i.e., publishing to one or retrieving data from one means that companies can retrieve data from all GDSN-certified data pools without additional fees.

» Solution That Caters To Small Distributors

Solution That Caters To Small Distributors Today’s foodservice distributors are facing numerous challenges. The tough economic environment coupled with increasing customer demands are taking a toll on the industry—especially on those smaller foodservice distributors that are struggling just to survive in this highly competitive environment.

Help is on the way for these smaller companies, however, in the form of an affordable hosted software solution from Chicago-based Ai2 (formerly known as Access International Inc.). Ai2 is a software developer specializing in order entry solutions for wholesale distributor organizations that rely on their sales representatives for generating and transmitting “pre-sale” orders to the wholesale distributor’s host computer system for processing.

Last June, the company released POET, a remote order entry solution for sales representatives. As one option for the foodservice distributor, Ai2 provides the solution in a Software as a Service (SAAS) business model. The orders are generated and transmitted to a secure server environment hosted by Ai2—so companies do not have purchase, install or maintain the software. “The distributor’s cost for the SAAS model ranges from $99 to $199 per month (with a minimum two year contract), so it’s affordable for even the smallest distributor,” says Ray Walsh, Ai2’s vice president of sales. “This price includes webinar-based training and desk support for each Distributor Sales Rep (DSR).”

Utilizing Panasonic’s Toughbook PC product line—or any basic laptop, notebook or netbook running on Microsoft Windows—DSRs have access to their company’s most current information on customers, products, purchase history, inventory and pricing. In addition, the sales reps can generate orders, check inventory, calculate prices and profit margins, check for substitute items, and send and receive e-mails.

“Automating the order entry process improves a company’s productivity by eliminating calls to the office for information that is now available on the laptop,” says Walsh. “An increase in sales will also be achieved because the DSR will have information on customer purchase history and specials of the month readily available to access during the sales call. Many of our foodservice customers have been able to increase profit margin by a half of a percent by using the profit margin calculator and eliminating sales under an acceptable profit margin threshold.”

Walsh reports that other benefits include eliminating order entry errors that result when re-keying orders, decreasing sales support and improving customer satisfaction.

POET interfaces directly with the distributor’s host computer system using communication server hardware that is installed and managed at the host site. All data, including orders and daily file updates, are transmitted from the hosted environment to and from the DSRs with 100 percent accuracy, as well as between the hosted environment and the distributor’s system.

Besides managed hosting, Ai2 services include storage disaster recovery planning, backup and recovery for of its customers’ mission critical data application needs.

Walsh says that POET is different from competitive products on the market. “POET has a new look using the Microsoft navigation approach enabling the DSR to search the price book faster for items of interest and generate orders faster than ever. In addition, new up selling features are available to help the DSR increase line item penetration in every account. POET supports the open SQL data base. This enables POET to interface seamlessly to other applications like Excel, Word or commercially available applications used for menu planning or creating bids and quotes.”

Plus, the solution can be quickly integrated into any operation. “Once an agreement has been finalized, a sales team can be operational within 30 to 60 days,” says Walsh. “DSR training is included in the price. On-site training is available for an additional fee.”

Ai2 has been providing software solutions since 1986. “Originally, Access developed an automated order entry application for portable data collection devices,” says Walsh. “With the proliferation of PCs into society, we developed a complete order entry solution on the lap top PC platform.”