It’s a different world today with new educated buyers at the forefront. Access to detailed product information can be as simple as a search on the web or scan of a qr-code for them. And, of course, all through a mobile device most times. These consumers are and will make food and beverage buying decisions based on not only basic ingredients but also where the ingredients came from. And, many times, they will skip a product that has very little information along these lines. So what is this transparency and traceability they are expecting?
What is product traceability – transparency?
“The ability to follow the movement of a feed or food through specified stage(s) of production, processing and distribution” – ISO 22005:2007(en) Traceability in the feed and food chain… This also includes the principles and requirements for the design and implementation of feed and food traceability systems, among other things.
A closer look at traceability, also known as the “one-step-back-one-step-forward principle”, reveals these two major distinctions typically:
1. Internal and external traceability
Internal traceability: Requires companies to maintain processes linking the identities of raw materials to those of the finished goods. Whenever materials are processed, combined, reconfigured or repackaged, the new product must be given a unique product identifier. To maintain traceability, the link between this new product and all its original material inputs must be recorded (including any seasoning, marinades, packaging, etc.).
External traceability: Also relies upon the unique identification of all traceable items, but additionally requires information to be shared between all affected distribution channel participants. External traceability therefore extends from the original supplier to the end customer.
2. Backward and forward traceability
Backward traceability: Refers to a company’s ability to trace an end product back to all its ingredients and establish the purposes for which the remainder of those ingredients were used. It may also cover the prerequisite information pertaining to the respective supplier (one step back).
Forward traceability: Regards a company’s ability to account for all of the finished goods any one batch of a raw material went into. This may go as far as customer data (one step forward).
Traceability. Good for business?
Yep! To have a true transparent process, enforced quality standards are designed and met at a total business level. Credibility is a key goal. Obviously a good thing for the customer.
Throughout the manufacturing process knowledge of ingredients and traceability is crucial to dealing with health issues like e.coli, allergens, avian flu and foot and mouth disease. With the right practices and readily available data these issues can be avoided which ultimately helps the bottom line.
A solid transparency system facilitates smooth inventory, logistics and distribution processes and can help reduce response times in the event of product recalls, minimizing trade disruption.
Overwhelming, right? Transparency requires the real-time and/or historical collection of large quantities of data like:
- Batch codes
- Unit volumes
- Geographic origins
- Supplier/vendor information
- Customer contact details
- Operators on duty
- Delivery dates
- Write-offs and waste
- Order status details
- Stock levels
- Hallmarks of quality
- Taste profiles
- Animal and Plant health
- And more…
Moreover, the above-mentioned data should be available whenever and wherever required. The good news is there are tools to help.
Right tools for the right job!
Tools to help facilitate traceability include such items as bar codes, radio frequency identification devices (RFIDs) and wireless sensor networks (WSNs). More sophisticated digital solutions like mobile data collection and then mobile centralized data are also being called upon to tackle this big data challenge. A knowledgeable company like Coolearth Software can help you with these needs of the traceability processes.
It’s a challenge, no doubt
As you can imagine, there are a whole host of challenges involved in successfully guaranteeing traceability. Skills gaps, high upfront costs and cybersecurity risks are all legitimate barriers to implementation.
However, considering costs, buyer awareness, legalities there really isn’t a choice any more. Consumers are demanding this information for their buying decision.
Feel free to reach out to Coolearth Software to learn more about how we can help with traceability and transparency within your plant. Let us help you take care of your existing and new customers.
Resource: Product traceability in the food & beverage industry