The Need for Intelligent RTIs

Supply chain optimization has become a way of improving and differentiating your business. It’s no longer just a cost of doing business but a source of competitive advantage as demonstrated by companies like WalMart. Bar coding has been widely employed for this purpose but bar codes have limitations and can only help so much:

  • You have to be able to see the barcodes to read them.
  • Bar codes can’t store actionable data about the condition of the contents such as it’s temperature or transport history.

The critical benefits of actionable data about the condition and location of products are being increasingly recognized across the food and pharmaceutical industries, as well as for asset tracking. Actionable data enables the intelligent supply chain and delivers the ability to improve operational efficiencies and drive out waste. Research indicates that this data is best captured at the pallet, bin or tote level – the domain of the reusable transport item, or RTI.

An intelligent RTI, or iRTI, is a reusable transport item that is embedded with an RFID tag to collect and capture information about the RTI itself as well as its contents. When integrated into a software system, the iRTI provides important actionable data to help address some of the key challenges in today’s supply chains and provide a rapid ROI. And, by employing RFID, you don’t have to actually see the tag to read it and capture the information on the tag. This simplifies operations and can reduce labor costs.

Download the Packaging Revolution iRTI White Paper

Download the Packaging Revolution iRTI White Paper

Rick LeBlanc, editor of Packaging Revolution’s authored this new white paper on the value of Intelligent RTIs.  It’s a great explanation of the benefits of this new solution.  You can download it here.

 

Kevin Payne
Senior Director of Marketing

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More Benefits of the Cloud

ChainLink Research recently published an interesting article on cloud-based data models.  The article can be found here.

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The view of data is rapidly improving, thanks to advances in Cloud-based solutions.

ChainLink references the following benefits that can be achieved by using The Cloud:

  • Economics: The Cloud is a more economical model: support and maintenance costs are reduced for both the customer and the provider due to a simpler multi-tenant model where upgrades are more easily introduced into the system as they become available. Customers are also able to avoid the costly and disruptive “rip and replace” approach.
  • Collaboration: Businesses are increasingly interconnected and people across the supply chain want to share information more easily.  The Cloud makes sharing information, exchanging ideas and solving problems easier – especially across the supply chain.
  • Connectivity and Visibility: Businesses want access to information outside of the data center and outside of the office. Governments are requiring more transparent access to data to address regulatory requirements. Globalization and traceability requirements can be far easier to address in the Cloud. ChainLink  specifically mentions that “for products that require condition monitoring, tracking has gone from sometime to real-time.”  The Cloud facilitates faster, real-time information sharing.
  • Community: The article references that The Cloud enables an inter-enterprise community which is critical for today’s complex supply chains. ChainLink lists several benefits including more to trading-partner dialog than transactions, such as finding new suppliers, obtaining industry information, communicating with the community about changes in compliance and regulations.

These are key benefits that can help improve quality across supply chains, especially where temperature sensitive goods such as fresh, frozen and packaged foods and bio-pharmaceuticals are involved.  Thanks to solutions incorporating RFID temperature monitors, we’re now able to collect vast quantities of information. But the information is only of value when it’s actionable – that is, when it is easy to use.  Cloud-based solutions, such as ZEST Data Services provide the ability to improve supply chain efficiencies by simplifying and speeding access to the actionable data necessary for improved decision making and collaboration.

ChainLink concludes that The Cloud brings “Power to the User”.  I’d go a step further and say that it the entire supply chain wins when actionable, useful data is made more readily and rapidly available.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

 

FSMA: Threat or Opportunity

I’ve long been a proponent that the Food Safety Modernization Act is an opportunity for the industry, not a threat.  Katie Beissel, Global Industry Manager – Food and Beverage, GE Intelligent Platforms agrees.  In her article titled Planning for FSMA Compliance  posted on Manufacturing.net she writes:

FSMA and other regulations should be viewed as an opportunity for food manufacturers to adopt a more holistic approach to solving food quality and safety concerns. One of the many benefits of FSMA compliance will be increased visualization and control over the manufacturing processes and supply chain. This ability reaches far beyond compliance and can benefit many different aspects of food manufacturing by increasing productivity, improving lean manufacturing processes and developing automated control systems.

An Opportunity to Make Your Customers Happier

She encourages the industry to gain clarity on the new regulations and understand how they impact food safety, risk prevention and reporting and recommends that “Producers must have in-depth visualization of the entire supply chain with the ability to quickly identify and mitigate problems before or just after they occur.”

Accomplishing this requires better data about what is happening in the supply chain from harvest or manufacture through to the retailer. Knowing the condition and history of the product from field or factory to fork is essential and traditional monitoring techniques are quite simply lacking the chops to proactively address FSMA requirements – simply put, they’re inadequate, slow and cumbersome.

Beissel cites what I consider three “abilities” to focus on:

  • The ability to recall products from the market faster. The emphasis is on speed and accuracy of the notification of the FDA of a recall, which means manufacturers need to be able to quickly diagnose and act upon problems anywhere in the supply chain. Producers must, at a minimum, understand the size of the recall, what happened, where the product was produced and what steps to take.
  • The ability to prevent bad quality product from reaching the public. In line with the ability to recall products faster, food manufacturers are now required to follow current good manufacturing practices (cGMP) and use hazard analysis and critical control point processes (HACCP) when developing their food quality safety programs. These new requirements are an attempt to prevent bad quality products from reaching the public and must be readily available for FDA inspection and review at any time.
  • The ability to keep key quality records longer. Key quality data is now required to be kept on record for two years, allowing the FDA to review more of the process issues and the producers’ reactions to them. Previously, these key quality records were only required to be on file for 90 days.

Pallet-level temperature data loggers provide these abilities.  Data about the harvest, manufacture and condition of products can be collected and stored directly on the tag with the product as it moves through the supply chain.  Data can also seamlessly be shared via the cloud to speed recalls. Actionable data about the product’s condition can help prevent bad quality and reduce spoilage.  Data on the tags – and more importantly shared in the cloud or stored in ERP systems – makes it easier to store and access the data.

Sounds like a great opportunity to improve food quality and safety, address regulations and even improve profitability and customer satisfaction.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

SmartView from Antaris Helps Panalpina Gear Up For Temperature Controlled Shipments

SmartView, an award winning solution for cool chain optimization from Intelleflex partner Antaris Solutions, is utilizing RFID solutions such as Intelleflex temperature monitoring tags and readers to enable logistics provider Panalpina to better control and manage shipments of temperature sensitive goods such as pharmaceuticals.  A story, which appeared recently in Logistics Week and a number of other publications details how SmartView delivers new levels of visibility and control by providing Panalpina with actionable data about the status of their shipments as they move from the manufacturer in Europe to the United States via Panalpina’s 747 air freighters.

Panalpina, with operations on six continents, uses SmartView in its own controlled air freight network. SmartView provides Panalpina an integrated control center to manage temperature sensitive shipments throughout the end-to-end supply chain. Temperatures can be documented in the air, and actively monitored in the transit warehouse and on the road. Where there are instances of temperature deviations, Panalpina now has the tools to proactively intervene.

SmartView, from Antaris Solutions, Provides Actionable Data In-transit – Not Just After Delivery

Traditional data loggers only provide information about the condition of a shipment after it has been delivered when it is too late to take any corrective action.  Monitoring the products in transit using Antaris’ SmartView as they move from manufacturer to the customer enables Panalpina to provide a better level of service to their customers creating a competitive advantage for them in the marketplace.  This process can all be automated so that Panalpina can collect data even where they have no personnel.

With the massive increase in the volume and value of temperature sensitive pharmaceuticals, the old approach to monitoring temperature sensitive shipments is inadequate for managing today’s cool chain.  Solutions like SmartView utilize the latest in RFID to address the challenges faced by today’s pharmaceutical manufacturers and third party logistics providers.  You can learn more about SmartView by viewing this recent IQPC webinar in which Antaris Solutions Managing Director explains how SmartView is helping Panalpina deliver a superior service to its customers.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

This Chardonnay Has an Elegant Bouquet and Bright, Crisp RFID Tag

I worked at a winery during my college years.  Talking about wine with visitors is a lot of fun and the winery had visitors from all over the world.  Often, when they wanted to buy wine they’d ask how it well it ships.  Can it get too hot?  Too Cold?  Does it spoil?

RFID complements wine nicely!

Recently I came across two articles relating to wine shipments and quality.  An article in RFID Journal discusses a GS1 study done last year (with results published this year) involving wine being shipped from Italy to Hong Kong.  The purpose of this test was primarily to improve supply chain operations and determine how well imported products could be monitored using an RFID solution to track the bottles from when they were shipped from the wine producer until they left the local importer, en route to the wine shops in Hong Kong.  As a fringe benefit though, the GS1 study also included Intelleflex temperature monitoring tags to see if the wines were exposed to extreme temperatures on their voyage from Europe to Asia.  (Freezing or baking wine during shipment, um, not so good.)

According to the article: GS1 Italy determined that the accuracy of supply chain data could be increased from 80 percent (when orders were filled according to a purchase order) to 100 percent, and that logistics management could be improved based on having better knowledge of products’ locations….the technology proved that retailers in Hong Kong can “achieve full visibility of the whole movement of the wine products, from oversea vineyard to their storage destination, which eventually improved their inventory management and quality assurance. In the future, the technology could help retailers predict overstock or out-of-stock events, and provide consumers with quality assurance in stores, by reading a label’s tag in order to access data regarding when and where wine was bottled, as well as the temperature at which it was stored.

Another story discusses a company called Vinfolio that is using temperature monitors (the article doesn’t say if they’re RFID-based) to test temperatures of wine as it is being shipped around the country in trucks and airplanes.  Their conclusion thus far is that, using proper packaging, your wine is probably safe.  Phew.  That’s a relief but, if you’re shipping high value temperature sensitive products, you’ll want to be sure about their condition in transit and take care to identify problems before they occur.  RFID is now a part of that solution for temperature sensitive goods from produce to florals to pharmaceuticals and even to things like wine or chocolate.

Cheers!
Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

Bonus Question: Where is the worst place in your home to store your wine?  (Clue: it’s often the place that most people store their wine!)  Email me with your answers!

Fake Drugs Raising Track and Trace Questions

The appearance of fake versions of the ADHD drug Adderall is raising concerns about track and trace laws and how pharmaceuticals need to be monitored to ensure public safety.  The story, reported in numerous media outlets (click here), follows on a similar problem earlier this year with the appearance of counterfeit versions the drug Avastin and coincides with Congressional review on the topic of traceability and counterfeiting. The risks associated with this problem are significant as patients may unwittingly take counterfeit medicines that can do more harm than good.  New FDA regulations, according to the article, could pose a danger to both sides as the government tries to balance public safety against increasing regulations that could stifle innovation.

Real or Fake? Can Technology Improve Authenticity?

The article states that the US House and Senate versions of the FDA re-authorization bill include language that would set up more stringent tracking of drugs to help prevent counterfeiting, but the details have yet to be set. (Citing Reuters)  The FDA wants a nationwide program that includes and tracks identifiers on individual containers. The plan put up by an industry coalition would put unique serial numbers on individual drug packages but require scanning drugs only in “lots” when they get to distributors. They have argued that to expect individual tracking from truck to warehouse to distributor to pharmacies is unworkable, at least for now.

Europe will start requiring unique identifiers on all drug packages starting in 2016.

This has been an ongoing issue for the industry.  California has twice postponed its ePedigree initiatives that are now slated to go into effect commencing in 2015 because of the technical challenge of tracking and tracing pharmaceuticals at the item level.  Yet, as more counterfeit drugs show up on the market, consumers (and ultimately the government) will increase their pressure on the industry.

We think Intelleflex can help with the solution.  Intelleflex temperature monitoring tags can store a complete record of the serial numbers of the individual items within the carton and also a secure e-Pedigree all in the tag memory.  This makes it easier to associate the information about the items with the container that they’re shipped in. And, by using our readers with Zest Data Services, it’s possible to keep track of the drugs no matter where they may go and set secure waypoints at each location.  To learn more about Intelleflex solutions for the pharmaceutical industry, click here.  To read an Intelleflex article on serialization and inference, click here.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

Mix One Part Pharma, One Part Food…

As noted in an earlier post, recently I was able to attend the 2012 Georgia Tech Academic Cold Chain Forum.  Unlike most of the trade shows and conferences I attend which focus on one industry, this event was designed to bring together corporate leaders in both the food and pharmaceutical cold chains in an academic setting where they could share ideas and engage in candid discussions.

Sharing knowledge was the focus of the Forum

Held at the Georgia Tech Research Institute in Atlanta, the event was moderated by Dr. Jean-Pierre Emond, one of the most noted academics studying the cold chain.  This was the first time that the Forum included representatives from both food and pharmaceutical companies.  Executives from produce growers, shipping companies, restaurants and food service providers, and pharmaceutical manufacturers and retailers were in attendance.  This made for some very interesting discussions. While both food and pharma companies deal with the cold chain on a daily basis, their perspectives on the topic were quite different and they were often amazed to learn about the separate – though related – worlds that each industry lived in.

After the event concluded, I was fortunate to be able to interview Dr. Emond and also Melissa Germain, the host of the event.  In the interview, they share what they found to be key trends identified at the Forum, the weakest link in the cold chain and how the two industries could benefit by working together and sharing knowledge.  You can read the interview by clicking here.

I’m looking forward to the 2013 Forum and my thanks to Dr. Emond and Ms. Germain for organizing the event and taking the time for the interview.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

…And Speaking of Intelligent Pallets (and RTIs)…

Maybe you don’t think about pallets that often.  If you’re not in the logistics industry, the word “pallet” probably conjures up images of beaten up pieces of wood on a loading dock behind a store. But, if you’re into logistics, there’s a whole lot more going on.

A recent article on PalletEnterprise.comspeaks about trends in the logistics of the pallet industry. The author, Rick LeBlanc, discusses a number of logistics challenges and opportunities for 2012 including palletization in emerging nations, unit load tracking, supply chain optimization, sustainability, and sanitation concerns. One thing in particular, however, struck me: the increasing need for intelligent pallets – and I would add into that returnable transport items (RTIs) such as totes, bins and containers as well.

Will Wooden Pallets Go the Route of the Dinosaur?

LeBlanc writes: With global supply chains, the importance of accurately projecting demand, and coordinating it with supply continues to be of huge importance, as is flexibility. With respect to flexibility of managing inventory en route, tracking and monitoring technology will play an increasingly important role. [Italicized references are my added emphasis.] Whether or not such technology will be increasingly embedded in pallets or just attached or in the vicinity of unit loads, is yet to be determined.

Another point that LeBlanc raises relates to risks and costs associated with bioterrorism, cargo theft, and food safety. He cites a recent presentation by Dr. Paul Singh, professor emeritus of Michigan State University, and Michael McCartney, principal of QLM Consulting, at the United Fresh produce conference in Dallas about the Food Safety Act and the FDA’s ability to enforce the law. Referencing the United Fresh presentation LeBlanc writes: Depending upon how aggressive the enforcement, we should see an escalating emphasis on proper handling of pallets to keep them clean and dry, as well as more tracking technology to monitor not only the location of the load, but also tampering, load temperature, vibration and other information that could influence load condition. Whether this technology will be embedded in the pallet or somewhere else in the vicinity, Singh and McCartney are suggesting a future where a trailer load of fresh produce will be a high tech mobile warehouse.

LeBlanc then summarizes that the logistics industry will be looking for “safer pallets, greener pallets and possibly smarter pallets”.

I agree.  We’re seeing increasing demand for smarter, intelligent pallets and RTIs.  Producers, retailers and food service providers in particular are looking to intelligent RTIs that include the ability to locate where the RTI is as well as report on the condition of the cargo – specifically the temperature.  RTIs with embedded condition monitoring tags built in can significantly enhance food safety and quality by capturing and sharing both the temperature and waypoint information providing the ability to ensure the product has been handled correctly in the supply chain as well as providing an electronic traceability record. These capabilities, combined with advances in RTIs, could help to revolutionize logistics and enable a more intelligent supply chain.  You can learn about how XC3 Technology can help by clicking here.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

What’s Your Policy on Insurance

Food Logistics Magazine ran an interesting article by Robert D. Chesler of the law firm of Lowenstein Sandler titled “Understanding Your Food Recall Insurance Policy”.  I thought that managing my car and auto insurance was tricky but it’s nothing compared to the complexities that Chesler discusses in the article where he writes “…the food industry can expect that liability arising out of contaminated food will continue to grow.”  The increasing number of food recalls – and the associated liability – has created new types of insurance beyond just general liability.  Insurance companies are now offering first and third party recall policies. Chesler explains: First-party policies provide coverage for the insured’s own economic loss incurred as a result of a recall. Third-party coverage applies to economic loss incurred by customers.  He points out that companies across the supply chain should revisit both their policies and their liability limits in light of new regulations.  No doubt a good idea.

What’s Your Policy on Insurance?

Implementing a rock-solid traceability program in place can also help alleviate risk.  Having rapid access to the history and condition of products as they move throughout the supply chain can help identify where potential food safety issues may exist (e.g. pallets of produce left in the sun on a loading dock for an extended period of time). It can also help speed recalls and get potentially tainted products out of the supply chain more quickly.

Dr. John Ryan also wrote about food safety issues in a recent article “International Food Safety: The Importance of Temperature Monitoring:”.  Click here to download your copy of his article.

As evidenced by the recent bankruptcy of Colorado cantaloupe farmer Jensen Farms relating to the listeria outbreak, even insurance won’t protect against the worst circumstances. This unfortunate occurrence, however, highlights the need to proactively manage your cold chain and documenting the quality of delivery of fresh, frozen and packaged foods.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

Leading the Search for Actionable Data

Earlier this week we went to Testarossa Winery in the hills above Silicon Valley for a celebratory sales dinner.  As our bus winded up the mountain road, we were greeted by a sign to welcome us and another group who apparently also had an event at the winery that night.  OK, we were the smaller of the two companies having events at the winery that night, but we found the sign a really interesting because it offered a clear choice.

Intelleflex VP of Sales Craig Smith points the way to Actionable Data

Feeling Lucky?  Or do you need Actionable Data?  You can certainly find lots of interesting historical  information by Googling stuff online but you won’t find actionable data  about the condition of your products that enables you to make informed decisions to improve your supply chain.  (Try Googling “Are my berries fresh?” and you’ll see my point.)  Fortunately, with Intelleflex condition monitoring readers and tags  and our ZEST Data Services, you can now collect, aggregate and securely share that information about the condition of your fresh produce or temperature sensitive pharmaceuticals on-demand.

The choice on the right in the photo still offers value because you can learn more about Actionable Data by Googling Intelleflex!

Dinner was great by the way and our thanks to Testarossa.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing