Big Data in the Supply Chain? Why?

There's big benefits associated with Big Data

There’s big benefits associated with Big Data

Big Data is one of the hottest topics in business today. Companies in the financial, insurance, retail and a host of other industries are quickly realizing that the vast amounts of data being captured and collected can be of incredible strategic value to their business operations. The same holds true in the cold supply chain where literally hundreds of thousands of temperature, condition, waypoint and production data points can be collected for a single shipment.

But what can you do with this data and how do you make sense of it?

Making sense of it requires the ability to sift through the data to identify areas that require specific (and occasionally) immediate attention and essentially archiving and analyzing the rest of the data later to spot macro trends. Fortunately that technology exists to do this. When you identify events or issues that require immediate attention you can focus supply chain personnel’s attention directly on addressing those issues and event. For example, if a pallet of fruit or meat was left sitting on a loading dock, a temperature monitor can identify the issue and, via a reader connected to a cloud-based data service, can then notify a dock worker to collect that pallet and re-chill it immediately resulting in less waste, better quality and cost savings.

Where does the supply chain stand on Big Data?

EyeForTransport, a UK-based provider of business intelligence and C-level networking for the transport, logistics and supply chain industry, recently published their Supply Chain Big Data Report for 2013 (you can get a copy by filling out a form here), along with an accompanying infographic. The report, based on their survey done in February of this year with companies worldwide, reveals some interesting insights.

  • 84% of supply chain executives that think big data will have an impact on their company’s performance.
  • Over 61% of the supply chain executives said they were currently implementing 27.4% or considering (33.7%) implementing a big data analytics project.
  • When asked to rank leaders in the field, nearly 45% cited retailers and over 22% cited consumer goods manufacturers.

Why do so many supply chain executives think so much of Big Data? The top answer: to increase supply chain visibility.  Supply chain visibility means reducing costs (and improving efficiencies).  Respondents also said that they want to move away from making decisions using historical data and move towards real-time decision making.

One last interesting take-away: According to the EyeForTransport survey, of those executives currently implementing Big Data solutions, two thirds of those surveyed expect to see ROI on the project within 12 months.  That’s impressive. There’s that much value in the data and having the ability to improve supply chain visibility and real-time decision making.

Kevin Payne
Senior Director of Marketing

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Does the FSMA Have a Direct Impact on Retail Grocers?

Will the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) have direct impact on the retail grocery industry? According to industry food safety expert Dr. John Ryan, the answer is an emphatic YES!  The FDA published the first two sets of proposed rules under the FSMA on January 4 of this year and the rules are available for public and industry review for 120 days.  At first glance, the two proposed rules would appear to focus on the grower and the supply chain, sparing the retail grocery industry the task of having to do anything.

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But, in his new whitepaper, Dr. Ryan points out that there are three things that retail grocery executives should consider:

  1. Changes to one end of the food supply chain impacts the entire supply chain.
  2. The model the FDA will follow for subsequent rules has been established.
  3. Retailers have vicarious liability.

Because traceability and food safety are connected throughout the cold chain, what impacts one segment has implications for all of the other segments and vicarious liability represents a potentially huge risk for major brands. Dr. Ryan concludes his paper by making three recommendations that retailers should consider today:

  1. Be proactive.  Preventive planning is the name of the game.
  2. Consult with inspection agencies to determine how FSMA changes will impact retail inspection procedures.
  3. Consider there may be additional benefits, such as insurance reductions, that can result from addressing FSMA regulations.

FSMA is sure to be a complicated beast and, while it may take 1-3 years or more for it to be implemented in entirety, there are actions that retailers should take now.  You can download Dr. Ryan’s white paper here.

I would also add that the one step forward, one step back traceability requirements are part of FSMA. This is not a simple task and many retailers may find that their current monitoring and paper traceability tools aren’t up to the task.  Getting a holistic view of your cold chain as it relates to all of these issues sooner rather than later can provide the ability to turn potential liabilities into potential opportunities and advantages.

You can learn more about what Intelleflex can offer retail grocers and food service providers by clicking here.

Kevin Payne
Senior Director of Marketing

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

 

Measuring Concussions: What the NFL can Learn from the Military Using RFID Sensors

Recently Marc Gunther, one of my favorite bloggers, wrote a post titled “The Point After: Why I’m Done with the NFL” in which he details why he can no longer watch or support football.  To him, it’s simply too inherently violent.  His biggest concern is the risk associated with concussions…and it’s not just the NFL he’s worried about but college, high school and Pop Warner too when young kids, their brains still in development, can suffer permanent brain damage due to traumatic head injuries and high-speed impacts.

I’m not intending to make a value judgment about football here.  I still watch the NFL and root hard for my 49ers.  But, I see and acknowledge Gunther’s point.  Fortunately, some yardage gains are being made.

After years of doing apparently little, the NFL has now (publicly) realized this is a problem – at least in terms of public relations –  if not in terms of potential liability from the players’ association.  Last month the NFL announced it was donating $30 million to the National Institutes of Health for research, potentially including research related to concussions.  They’re running commercials during the game (featuring Tom Brady) to promote their investment in this.

The Army Uses Sensors in Helmets…so can the NFL

Injuries due to concussive force also impact the military – big time.  Instead of hits from linebackers, there’s brain injuries related to bombs and other devices that explode in the vicinity of our troops that lead to concussions.  And, like the tough NFL players, our proud and determined soldiers don’t want to be pulled off the field.  Fortunately, the military is taking this very seriously.  They’re investing in helmet-based RFID sensors and now, according to Stars and Stripes, the Army is working with the NFL to test  sensors in football helmets, and any information gathered will be shared with doctors, engineers and the military. The goal is to prevent concussions — or at least minimize the severity — and reduce the stigma of seeking treatment for head injuries.The Army has been putting blast sensors in helmets since 2007, and will use 45,000 of them to monitor head injuries suffered by bomb blasts in Afghanistan.  BAE Systems, provider of the helmets, reported on July 9, 2012 that the Army is continuing to order the helmet sensors.

Hopefully, for the sake of all of the soldiers as well as the men and boys that  play football, forward progress can be made.

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!

From NPR: Tissue Tracking and Health Risks

During my drive to the office this morning I heard an interesting story on NPR’s Morning Edition titled Little Regulation Poses Problems Tracking Tissue.  You can listen to or read the entire story here.  According to the story, each year in the United States, almost 1.5 million medical products are used  for surgeries made with tissue taken from cadavers.  Despite this vast number, fortunately there have been few issues or problems so far associated with using human tissue but, when there is an issue, it can be tricky to catch and the consequences can be life threatening.

1.5 million medical products are used each year for surgeries made with human tissue

The story describes a case where tissue contaminated with Hepatitis C was accidentally distributed for use by patients.  Hospitals had to be alerted and the race was on to find where the tissue had been sent.  The story states: In this case, 44 ligaments, tendons and other donated tissue were sent to hospitals and clinics around the country. Unlike organs, which are quickly transplanted, tissue can be saved and stored for use at a much later date. A month later [Italics are mine], the CDC found 15 people already had been implanted, but didn’t contract the disease. That’s because their tissue was scrubbed with strong chemicals. But there was one infection: A child in Boston received a heart patch, and because heart tissue can be cleaned only lightly, that child contracted Hepatitis C. The child’s current health condition hasn’t been made public.

According to the story, the FDA says it continues to evaluate the need for new regulations and has started requiring tissue banks to do limited tracking but, once the tissue is sold to hospitals, clinics and doctors, it is voluntary for those surgeons to report back what tissue gets transplanted into which patient.  And, as the business grows globally and tissue comes to the U.S. from countries around the world, keeping track of tissue is even harder.

Matthew Kuehnert, a doctor at the CDC whose job it is to protect donated blood, organs and tissue suggests the process of receiving tissue should be similar to buying cereal at the grocery store.  Said Kuehnert, “It has a bar code on it, and it can be tracked back if there is some sort of problem with it in terms of quality,” he says. “You can’t do that with tissue right now. And that is a gap.”

While I get where Dr. Kuehnert is going with his cereal analogy, I think it comes up a bit short.  Unlike cereal, tissue is temperature sensitive.  You not only need to be able to track where it has come from and where it is going but also monitor and track the condition that it’s been stored in along the way.  If tissue isn’t stored at the right temperature, it can also cause problems that can lead to health implications.  Bar codes can’t monitor for that. Fortunately, RFID temperature sensors can, while also storing the information about the tissue and help improve track and trace capabilities.  You can read about this here.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

Study Documents RFID Safe for Biopharmaceuticals

A study published this week in the July/August edition of the Parenteral Drug Association’s PDA Journal documents research that showed that in vitro test results for more than 100 biopharmaceutical products from eight major drug companies demonstrated no non-thermal effect by radio frequency radiation.

RFID is OK for Tracking and Monitoring Biopharmaceuticals

What does this mean?  The research conducted by researchers at The University of South Florida, Blood Center of Wisconsin, Abbott, Georgia Institute of Technology and the Madison RFID Lab at the University of Wisconsin documents that using RFID in conjunction with biologics is safe.  The thermal effects of RFID on biologics have been well understood (no impact) but there had, to this point, been limited research on the non-thermal effects (RF radiation) of RFID on product integrity.

Why is this important? Pending ePedigree laws in California (going into effect in 2015 and ultimately impacting the entire industry) are likely to require a combination of RFID and 2D barcoding systems.  Some had questioned whether or not RFID was safe to use for these types of applications but this report (available to PDA members on the PDA website) demonstrates RFID’s safety, enabling technology companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers, shippers, 3PLs and health care providers to move forward more aggressively on developing solutions for ePedigree and documenting the safe and authentic shipments of biopharmaceutical products.  But, RFID can add even more value.  Temperature sensor RFID tags, beyond providing the ability to document track and trace records for ePedigree can also be used to monitor and manage the temperature (and related safety and efficacy) of drugs as they move through the supply chain to reduce waste and improve cold chain operations.

You can learn more about Intelleflex solutions for pharmaceuticals here.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing