FORBES: Interested in Food + Technology? Five Opportunities You Shouldn’t Miss

I devote a log of our blog ink to issues relating to food safety, quality and reducing the amount of food wasted. A recent article in Forbes talks about five areas where technology can make a difference including temperature monitoring to enable First Expired, First Out inventory to help ensure that more food is delivered fresh.  It’s nice when the business press starts to pick up on ideas that are too often stuck within the food industry.

We All Need to Get on the Bus to Improve Food Safety and Quality

We All Need to Get on the Bus to Improve Food Safety and Quality

For us to make improvements in the food cold chain, everyone’s going to have to get on the bus: producers, packers, shippers, retailers, consumers and government.  I’m hopeful that the attention currently being given to the FSMA in the mainstream media will translate into more attention about what we can collectively do to improve the cold chain.

Kevin Payne
Senior Director of Marketing

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

How Much Does 2,000,000,000 Tons of Food Waste Cost Us?

Food Waste is Just Plain Ugly

Food Waste is Just Plain Ugly

2,000,000,000 is a big number and when applied to tons of food waste it’s a massive problem.  A new report, published by The Institute of Mechanical Engineers,  a U.K.-based engineering society and think tank, states that of the four billion tons of food produced annually worldwide up to half of it goes to waste. Among the causes:

  • Poor harvesting, storage and transportation methods
  • Plain old consumer waste (we buy too much and throw it out)
  • Overly conservative and misunderstood “sell-by” dates, driven mostly by grocers looking to avoid legal actions

I italicize the last part because part of the problem is that grocers don’t know the condition of their food when they receive it. They don’t know how the product’s condition at harvest, how it was handled, if it was shipped properly or if it has a week of shelf life or only a couple of days. Their answer: dump it and factor it into the cost of doing business.

But who pays for that?

(How many guesses do you need?)

Having metrics about the history and condition of perishable products when they are received by the retailer can help. But, as mentioned in this report, the problem starts far before the food ever gets to the retailer.  You have to start managing the product at harvest to ensure it is properly stored, processed and handled. Growers, packers, shippers and retailers need actionable data at every step along the supply chain to reduce or eliminate waste before product gets to the stores and ensuring better quality, fresher products for consumers.

Wasting less food has numerous benefits:

  • Costs are reduced (and revenues increase)
  • Quality can be improved
  • Less water, fuel and fertilizer is wasted
  • More people can be fed with the same amount of production

The tools exist to deal with the problem.  We just have to use them and consumers and retailers need to take the lead.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing – Intelleflex

 

FSMA Makes the Front Page

We’ve been waiting and wondering if the Food Safety Modernization Act was ever going to make it out of the gates.  Now, two years to the day after President Obama signed the FSMA into law, the FDA has announced the release of the proposed rules for the law.  Heck, it even made the front page of our local paper over the weekend!  Those of us in the industry have certainly been aware of the implications of the law but, by and large, the public hasn’t heard much about it. The fact that this is front page news is significant as increased public awareness will also put pressure in the industry to take action.

Front Page News for the FSMA

Front Page News for the FSMA

According to United Fresh, two proposed rules will be released:

The Preventive Controls for Human Food rule would require food companies—whether they manufacture, process, pack or store food—to put in place better controls to minimize and reduce the risk of contamination.

The Produce Safety rule would require farms that grow, harvest, pack or hold fruits and vegetables to follow standards that are aimed at preventing contamination.

FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg said that “The FDA knows that food safety, from farm to fork, requires partnership with industry, consumers, local, state and tribal governments, and our international trading partners. Our proposed rules reflect the input we have received from these stakeholders and we look forward to working with the public as they review the proposed rules.”

The FSMA should motivate the food industry to fundamentally rethink their cold chains.  It’s not a simple feat to move from a reactive methodology that’s been in place for decades to a proactive one but the benefits to consumers – and to the industry – can be immense. It’s important to note that Hamburg specifically mentioned “farm to fork” and “international trading partners”.

Also interesting is commentary (Fresh Plaza and elsewhere) that the expected cost to large farms is estimated by the FDA to be roughly $30,000, and the cost for small farms is expected to reach $13,000. But, when traceability is done in conjunction with temperature monitoring to reduce waste, enough savings can be found to more than pay for the cost of traceability. In effect, the additional revenues by being able to sell more of the produce cover the cost of implementing traceability and then some!

Much has changed in the industry over the years due to globalized and elongated cold chains.  I expect retailer grocers will take the lead on this and begin to mandate electronic temperature and traceability solutions for their suppliers starting in the field, whether that field is in California or Chile.

(You can learn how Intelleflex can help address FSMA requirements here.)

It’s a nice way to start what should be a very interesting – and busy – year.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

Your Shipment Has Been Delayed

The tragic effects of Superstorm Sandy will be with many people for a long time.  I’m fortunate that all of my friends on the east coast are ok, although many remain without power. There are so many difficult issues relating to this storm and the cold supply chain is one that may slip under the radar of most people…but not under the radar of supply chain professionals.

Andrea Charles of Pharma-IQ (part of IQPC) recently wrote an article that asked about supply chains being ready for natural disasters.  She raises the impact of tsunamis, hurricanes and earthquakes (not to mention blizzards, power outages, or other issues) on the pharmaceutical cold chain. She also speaks to the need to ensure that important medications are available to those affected by a disaster. I won’t debate here about whether climate change is real or not because, whether it is or isn’t, if you’re shipping high value, temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical or food items and your shipment is delayed due to an unpredictable storm or disaster, you’re at risk.

Now What Do You Do?

Andrea quotes Dave Alberts, Director at Crimson & Co. who says: Unfortunately, there is no way in which to fully prepare for such natural disasters as they are unexpected. However, the frequency at which these occur validate that contingency plans must be put in place wherever possible and organizations must attempt to protect product supply through efficient, planned out strategies and best practices. Research into the affects is a good start and companies participating in this are clearly at the forefront of successful and adaptive supply chains.”

Alberts talks about the need for adaptive supply chains.  I agree.  But what makes a supply chain adaptable is intelligence – knowing the condition of your product on-demand as it travels from the manufacturer to its destination.  If your product is stuck at an airport due to cancelled or delayed flights or if a ship can’t dock or a truck can’t get through, you need to know if its temperature is still in range so that you can rechill or reroute as necessary.  You want to be able to do this autonomously and without searching out and opening individual packages.  With so much unpredictability, you can’t account for every conceivable variable but you can build in the ability to proactively manage your supply chain so you can respond in a timely manner when a disaster strikes and help minimize losses.  Wireless temperature monitors that provide actionable data on-demand can help.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

Cold Chain ≠ Arrested Development

Netflix gave me an idea when they announced they were resurrecting one of my favorite TV shows.  As I had the pleasure of speaking at an Expeditors International seminar last week about temperature monitoring in the health care cold chain, I decided to tie the theme of my presentation to the soon to be continuing perils of the Bluth Family so well chronicled in the show “Arrested Development”.  The foundation for my presentation was that the cold chain of tomorrow is a very different one from today.  There are a number of changes that are dramatically impacting the industry including:

  • The increasing number of off-patent drugs
  • Increase in the volume and value of biologics
  • The shift to using 3PLs
  • Increasing climate instability making summer/winter packaging riskier
  • The disappearance of wide body aircraft on domestic flights limiting use of active refrigerated containers
  • ePedigree, serialization and inference
  • RFID proven safe for biologics

The impact of these changes will require healthcare manufacturers (both for biologics and even medical equipment) to rethink their cold chains. Even when routes are validated and procedures are in place, what can you do to ensure that temperature sensitive products are safe for use when delivered?  To quote a famous American president:

Trust but Verify

Yes.  Trust but verify.  It’s one thing to trust your supply chain but it’s equally critical to verify that the products have been properly handled as they move from manufacturer to the customer.  ISO Class 3 RFID provides this capability.  Because it can be read through containers without opening or unpacking (helping to document authenticity) and provides a complete temperature and way point history, Class 3 RFID tags (like XC3 Technology) make it easier to implement a solution that helps manufacturers and 3PLs to manage – not just monitor – their cold chains.

The health care and pharma cold chain should utilize new technologies to address new cold chain dynamics.  Doing so will prevent “Arrested Development” for the cold chain and, to quote one of the show’s characters, prevent you from “making a huge mistake”.

To view the presentation on SlideShare, please click here.
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