Talking Shop with… Bruce Stubbs

The director of industry marketing for Intermec, Inc. discusses the impact of technology on food traceability and safety.

Grocery Headquarters: What are the current drivers behind improving food traceability?
Bruce Stubbs:
Facing rising operational costs and growing awareness of consumer food safety, growers and companies are under 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 has mandated that growers and food retailers implement track and trace solutions for traceability.

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.

What technologies are having the greatest impact on track and trace processes?
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, the processing facilities, the regional distribution centers, the 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 for seafood. In a post-recession economy, implementing a cost-effective yet accurate tracking system for distribution networks is top of mind for technology decision makers.

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 recognition and RFID make implementing a food traceability program easy and cost effective. From the field to the fork, rugged mobile technology has the largest impact on track and trace processes.

What steps can supermarket retailers take to ensure that they meet food safety compliance laws?
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 fleets and stores). The compliance laws require gathering and maintaining accurate information at 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 rugged 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 smart, 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 recognition 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 consumers and brand protection for retailers, as they can recall all affected food quickly. In many cases only certain portions or lot numbers of product are affected and the recall efforts can be targeted toward those items.

What does the future look like?
We see the trend of food traceability continuing into 2012 and beyond. As growers, processors and retailers become fully compliant with the laws implemented earlier this year, food traceability mandates and country of origin labeling will only become more important.

Intermec will continue to deliver unparalleled success in track and trace with rugged 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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