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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Peanut Butter Recall: FDA Shows Teeth Under the FSMA

You know it’s a big thing when our local newspaper finds space amongst all of the ads to print a story about food safety.  But there it was in yesterday’s morning paper: the FDA used new authority under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) to suspended the registration of a peanut butter production facility.  The details of the story relating to salmonella contaminated peanuts can be found here. The tainted products were sold through a number of retailers including  Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Kilwins Quality Confections, and Target.  It’s a tragedy and its great that the FDA stepped in and shut the place down until issues are resolved.

FDA Shuts Down Peanut Butter Factory Using FSMA Powers

There are two key take-aways:

  1. Because of the FSMA, the FDA now actually has the authority to shut the violator down as opposed to recommending voluntary recalls (which was it’s limitation of authority prior to the FSMA).
  2. Retailers should be as supportive as possible to do anything they can to improve food safety and managing recalls. It’s their brand on the line when customers get sick from eating foods purchased at their store. (You’ll remember the names Trader Joes, Whole Foods and Target a lot longer than SunLand (the peanut butter company) after you’ve read this article.) We need to trust our grocers and we need to know that they’re taking all possible measures to protect our safety.

This is a good sign that progress is being made on implementing the FSMA, which was signed into law in January of 2011. It’s a law which will benefit consumers and, we believe, also will improve business across the industry.  According to an article in Food Safety News, “The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is still working “expeditiously” to implement major portions of the Food Safety Modernization Act.  We are working as expeditiously as possible to implement the food safety legislation we fought so hard for. When it comes to rules with this degree of importance and complexity, it is critical that we get it right.”

It is a complex law and it will take time to implement but many feel that, with the 2012 Presidential Election now behind us, things will pick up speed and producers, growers, shippers and retailers will need to focus more aggressively on addressing new traceability and food safety requirements.

The Food Safety News article explains that: The five major pillars of the FSMA will help pivot the nation’s food system from taking a more reactive to a more preventative approach to food safety. If they [the FDA] reduce foodborne illness rates by even a fraction, they have the potential to save Americans billions of dollars in healthcare costs every year.

Those five pillars — all still awaiting implementation — consist of the following:

– Preventive controls: FDA will require science-based preventive controls throughout the food system. This includes requiring food facilities to write preventive control plans, establishing minimum standards for safe production of fruits and vegetables and introducing regulation to help prevent intentional adulteration of food at vulnerable points in the food chain.

– Inspection and compliance: FDA has new authority to conduct inspections. FDA will inspect all high-risk domestic facilities every three years, have access to facility records and will establish a laboratory accreditation process for third-party testing laboratories.

– Response to violations: FDA will now have the authority to order food recalls – as opposed to recommending voluntary recalls as it does now – in cases of contamination. Farms will also be required to track their product and develop plans for how to issue recalls, though small farms that sell the majority of their product locally (within 275 miles) and sell less than $500,000 a year in product are exempt.

– Oversight of imports: Food importers must now verify that their facilities and preventive controls meet U.S. standards. FDA can now deny food from foreign facilities entry to the U.S. if the facility does not allow access to inspectors.

– Collaborative partnerships: Health agencies, both foreign and domestic, will work collaboratively to improve public health goals. FSMA provides FDA with a grant to develop state and local health agencies’ ability to improve food safety at a localized level. FDA will also develop a plan to help improve foreign industries’ ability to meet U.S. food safety requirements.

Addressing food safety regulations and traceability doesn’t have to be viewed as a cost of doing business but rather viewed as an opportunity. By combining a proactive approach to managing the supply chain – using pallet-level temperature monitoring – the industry can significantly reduce waste and generate more revenues and effectively get traceability for free.

If we work together, it can be a win-win. You can learn more about our solution for improving quality and traceability here.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

PS: If you’re interested in reading more about the FSMA, there’s a good summary here.

 

Returnable Transport Items – Where is the Next Big Win?

I was recently on vacation along the Oregon coast and took a photo that I’ve been quite anxious to share.  There, along the beautiful, pristine beach, where sea lions gather and people search for seashells, I found this:

Just what every beautiful beach needs, a pallet.

A beautiful wooden pallet.  Lost track of.  Serving no purpose.  Cluttering the landscape. Wasting some company’s money. So, when I see an article about the benefits of Returnable Transport Items (RTIs) such as plastic pallets, totes, containers and bins, I pay particular notice.  There are many benefits of moving from wooden or cardboard packaging including improved sanitation, less waste and the potential for implementing close loop systems that can improve profitability.  This morning I came across an article titled Reusables – Where is the Next Big Win?  It talks about the increasing use of RTIs by leading retailers such as Safeway and Kroger and how they’re able to improve operations based on switching to plastic-based returnable, reusable solutions.

Another interesting article Boosting Supply Chain Efficiencies with Reusable Transport Packaging by Justin Lehrer of StopWaste.org elaborates on the benefits when it comes to shipping produce and again references Kroger and Safeway and the benefits they’re seeing from the shift away from legacy transport items.

But is that the next big win?  The movement to RTIs is already underway and demand for them is increasing. Rather, we think the next big win is making RTIs intelligent by integrating temperature sensor devices directly into the pallets, containers, totes and bins.  By adding the ability to monitor and manage the condition of perishable goods such as produce, meats, poultry and pharmaceuticals as they move through the supply chain, growers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers can make decisions about how to pack, bundle and distribute goods more efficiently.  The result is that more food is delivered fresh and more pharmaceuticals are received safe and effective for use.  The result becomes not simply less waste in packaging but less waste in the goods in the package or container.  (You can learn more about our RTI solutions here.)

Hats off to pioneers like Safeway and Kroger for innovating and looking at new ways to solve old problems that reduce waste and (along the way) help keep things like wooden pallets off the beach.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing