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Food Traceability Becomes Increasingly Important in Wake of Cantaloupe Listeria Outbreak

Earlier this month, the FDA and the IFT (Institute of Food Technologists) announced that two pilot projects will be launched to explore the methods for fast and effective tracing of foods. The projects have been initiated as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act, a federal statute signed into law earlier this year intended to improve the detection of food borne illnesses and mitigate potential dangers in the supply chain. The new pilot project will consist of two studies, one which is specifically targeted to fresh produce and one that will focus on processed foods. The fresh produce pilot project will involve processors and distributors of raw fruits and vegetables and will determine the foods that should be considered “high-risk” moving forward.

In the wake of the current cantaloupe Listeria outbreak, the deadliest food outbreak in more than a decade, taking steps towards an improved traceability process could not be more timely. As many as 16 people have died and another 72 have fallen ill since the recall was announced earlier this month. Given the month-long incubation period, more deaths are expected in the coming weeks. The CDC has identified the source of the outbreak as Jensen Farms in Colorado, who publicly stated “We hope that the investigation into the entire supply chain from farm to retail identifies the source of the contamination so that appropriate steps can be taken to prevent such an occurrence from ever happening again.”

This is precisely what the FDA pilot projects are hoping to accomplish. With improved recordkeeping requirements for high-risk foods, suspect products can be identified faster and recalled immediately, reducing the number of consumers affected by such an outbreak. The pilot projects in conjunction with the Produce Traceability Initiative are helping move toward a standardized produce traceability program.

As efforts towards this solution grow in the next year, we will see a growing need for electronic traceability options and data collection solutions from Ryzex and our partners. Electronic traceability will not only result in more rapid response to contamination, but can lead to more targeted recalls and overall lower costs of recalls for distributors. In collaboration with our partners, we can help provide solutions to help identify, track and manage products from “farm to fork”, allowing growers and distributors to see the benefits of improved supply chain management.  Ryzex will also be participating in the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit convention October 14th-17th in Atlanta, Georgia which will include workshops on Traceability, Food Safety, and the recently launched traceability pilot programs.

Stay tuned for updates following the convention as well as future posts on Produce Traceability and what Ryzex and our partners can do to help work toward a standardized, electronic traceability system for the entire supply chain.


Produce Traceability – How can Ryzex Participate in the Solution?

Ryzex and our partners can provide the solutions to help companies identify, track and manage produce to improve both internal and external traceability in the produce industry. Currently, there is almost no barcode labeling on the six billion cartons shipped by the US fresh food industry each year.

As discussed in our previous post, the PTI (Produce Traceability Initiative) has put several steps in place in order for growers and distributors to work toward a standardized traceability program. Among these steps are encoding barcodes with trackable information such as:

–        Specific Company Prefix – A number obtained from the GS1 organization used to identify individual growers, packers, shippers and buyers.

–        Lot/Batch Number – A number specific to each grower’s location.

–         GTIN (Global Trade Item Number) – A 14 digit number comprised of an indicator/packing configuration number, company prefix, case reference number and check digit code.

Case labels should also contain this information in human readable format to be used by warehouse personnel for picking and storing of product.

Ryzex is promoting the Intermec line of printers for this purpose. These printers have computer-like capabilities, making it easier for non-technical users in the field to operate label printers. Barcode labels designate the grower, the field from which that product was harvested, the crew that harvested that product, and the date, all within one case label.

Along with our partners, Ryzex can help provide solutions in accordance with the Produce Traceability Initiative’s Action Plan Implementation to help work toward the goal of a standardized program across the supply chain.


Produce Traceability – A Growing Need

Between 2007 and 2009 the number of food recalls in the US increased by 400%. The importance of produce traceability (more specifically, electronic traceability) has increased significantly and calls for an improved process. The fresh food industry is working to adopt barcode labeling of food products in order to prevent the kinds of massive recalls of food that we’ve been seeing in recent years. 

What are some benefits of an improved traceability process?

•       Enhance and maintain the confidence of consumers and supports the produce industry’s      
commitment to food safety.

•       Limit the scope and cost of recalls to suspect product only.

•       Investigations can occur more efficiently, expediting tracking while minimizing business disruptions
and costs.

•        Companies can keep their own internal traceability systems while modifying them to achieve external traceability with trading partners.

•       The information can be stored electronically throughout the supply chain, permitting electronic searching and analysis that will produce answers more quickly.

•       Product information is consistent across the industry and around the world.

The Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI)

The Produce Traceability Initiative (an industry-led effort dedicated to standardizing and improving the produce industry’s approach to traceability) has launched the PTI Action Plan Implementation. This plan focuses on seven steps or milestones for achieving an industry-wide adoption of electronic traceability for every case of produce by 2012.  As these steps are implemented in the next year, we will see a growing need for data collection solutions from Ryzex and our partners.

Stay tuned for follow-up posts on how Ryzex can help in providing solutions in produce traceability!

7 Questions to Ask as You Implement Mobility Solutions in Your Warehouse

Check out this great blog post by Larry Klimczyk, Vice President, Intermec Global Solutions:

“We all know the importance of choosing the right mobile device to optimize any warehouse process or solution. Based on the products you are handling, the size and layout of your warehouse, the systems and processes you have in place and your labor skill set, there are a variety of hardware choices to be made. What’s equally important is the framework by which you will prepare and protect that hardware for performance – from the earliest stages of your implementation through end of cycle. To ensure our customers are considering each stage in the lifecycle management of their mobile devices, the following questions should be asked before any implementation:

1. Do you have an existing WMS (Warehouse Management System)?
Understanding what work tasks will be performed and the type of data that will be gathered by your workforce will help determine the optimum solution.  For some processes, you might choose a voice-enabled solution. For processes where a mobile computer screen is needed, it’s necessary to decide if Terminal Emulation or a Browser based solution is more beneficial. Those choices will influence battery management, screen refresh speeds and scan speeds.

2. Will your warehouse have wireless coverage?
There are number of advantages associated with wireless coverage including faster response times and greater flexibility which results in higher productivity and faster returns on the investment.  When setting up a wireless infrastructure we recommend a professional assessment. It can lower your overall infrastructure costs while ensuring 100% coverage for maximum ‘up-time’.

3. How are you going to prepare your devices for deployment?
Loading the right software on the device and deploying it with the user sounds like a straight forward process, however, there are essential time-saving and quality control tools that can enhance this process.  Intermec’s Smart Systems software tools have saved organizations hundreds of hours of labor costs by accurately deploying and managing devices in their warehouses.  For organizations with lean ‘in-house’ resources Intermec offers ReadiCare.  This service simplifies staging and deployment by providing ‘out of the box – ready for use’ devices allowing your team to focus in other areas.

4. Are your training plans and resources structured for a successful technology implementation?
Research shows that less than 25% of mobility project teams properly plan adequate training for users impacted by the new equipment and processes, leading to one of the highest reasons projects fail.  Without proper training, the ongoing costs escalate and benefits are not realized. Intermec’s Education team provides resources that enhance your training program through in person, train the trainer and online training. We also provide new employee training on applications due to workforce turnover.

5. How will you deal with damages and repairs?
Through extended use your devices could incur damage and need repairs. Intermec offers the options of repair services and maintaining a spares pool thereby ensuring your operations remain fully equipped and productive.

6. How will you provide and manage user support?
After deployment, who will answer your users’ application and/or device questions? Ensuring maximum ‘up time’ is vital for productive warehouses. Intermec can provide helpdesk support and offer remote device control that instantly solve your users’ questions or issues.

7. Do you use returnable containers in your warehouse / distribution network? Do you often lose them?
If you answered ‘yes’ then you should consider the benefits that RFID can contribute to these processes. With the continual enhancements to read accuracy and the increasingly lower costs of RFID readers and tags, many warehouse and distribution networks are achieving substantial returns on their investments through reduction in labor and tighter control over their assets.

Managing a distribution network is a complex, yet core element to the success of many businesses.   Intermec Global Solutions increases the value of your initial investment and protects your future investments in devices throughout their entire lifecycle with our Total Customer Experience methodology. Our software, engagement and mobile device management services allow you to dedicate more time improving your warehouse key performance areas. We ensure your teams have the right device at the right time with the right applications to manage and grow your business.”

Ryzex and Intemec offer world-class solutions through a platinum-level partnership. Contact Ryzex today to help grow your Warehouse Operations.

How to choose the right media for your barcode printing

A tiny barcode can contain a wealth of information, from product pricing to patient identification. With the efficiency and accuracy of bar codes, the uses continue to grow, as do the media choices. In addition to labels—which come in an array of paper and synthetic materials, with different adhesives for different uses—bar code printers can output to tag and ticket stock, wristbands, polyester, polypropylene, and other synthetic materials. You can use white or colored media, giving you the option to color-code your bar coded items (allowing for enough contrast between the bar code’s bars and the background color so there is sufficient contrast to make the code readable.

You can also buy brand protection media with over and covert security features for authentication, counterfeit deterrence, and secure data code encoding. Media can be coated to resist extreme temperatures, moisture, harsh chemicals, UV exposure, and other hazards.

Environmental conditions and needs will vary from one warehouse to the next, so it’s important to understand what your media will and won’t do so you avoid any mishaps that can lead to costly problems.

Ryzex specializes in bar code printing solutions, from the hardware to the supplies and accessories. We understand the intricacies of choosing the right media, which is why we rely on Genuine Zebra supplies. Because you can’t afford to compromise on quality, we don’t either. Talk to us about conducting a free needs assessment so we can provide you with cost-saving options.

What do you need your bar code label media to do? Are you satisfied with the results? What challenges have you had to face with media in the past? Please post your thoughts, ideas, and solutions here so we can share them with others.

Calculate the ROI for mobile bar code printing in your warehouse

Are you getting the maximum return on investment for your warehouse’s bar code printer? You might benefit from adding mobility to this labeling task. By printing and applying labels at the point of application, you increase operational efficiency and reduce operator errors that occur when labeling in inconvenient locations.

A mobile bar code printer means less time spent traveling back and forth from the warehouse floor to the printing station to pick up labels. You will also remove potential distractions that could lead to wasted time and errors during this trek.

Consider this. If your warehouse holds $10 million worth of inventory and operates at 99 percent accuracy, you have $100,000 worth of missing inventory at any given time. Let’s assume you have 10 inventory turns annually. That one percent error is costing $1 million per year.

Now add in the cost to resolve those errors. At the standard error rate of 2.5 percent and an error cost of $100, a company loses $250 for every 100 orders processed. Operating five days per week, 52 weeks per year, your annual cost to fix the errors is $65,000. Improving your error rate by one percentage point would save your business $41,600 in error-related expenses every year.

Does it make sense to incorporate mobile bar code printing into your warehouse? In truth, it doesn’t make any sense not to!

See for yourself. Use this handy ROI calculator to enter your data.

Talk to a Ryzex representative about the mobile printing options available. We carry the wide range of printers and supplies from Zebra, the worldwide leader in bar code printing technology. Let us find the best solution for you.

Have you met the return on your investment with a mobile printer? Are you still thinking about incorporating the technology? Please post your thoughts, opinions, and experience here so others can learn from you as well

Can I print bar code labels on my laser printer?

When you have a laser printer sitting right there in your warehouse, it seems the logical choice to use it to print bar code labels as well. Why invest in a bar code printer when you have a perfectly good laser printer? The answer is in the technology. A laser printer does not have the native support for bar code symbologies in order to output clear, readable bar codes. You would have to upgrade your laser printer with additional fonts and/or programming that supports bar coding. Laser printers also lack many of the key features that a dedicated bar code printer provides:

  • Laser printers cannot produce single or small labels. A minimum of half a page of media is typically required for the printer to maintain control of the sheet. Unless the label is at least that size or multiple labels are needed at once, the remainder is wasted.
  • Laser printer label adhesives must be carefully selected to ensure stability under the heat and pressure of the fuser. Otherwise, the adhesive may seep onto the printer mechanism, where it will capture stray toner, or the adhesive may cause the labels to curl at the edges.
  • Because of the pressures used in the image transfer process, many laminated label materials are not compatible with laser printing. Those materials that are compatible may not always be available in the sheet form necessary for laser printing.
  • A laser-printed paper label has limited durability. For example, laser printers cannot produce chemical- or water-resistant labels and images.
  • Toner, drum, and supply costs can skyrocket when printing bar codes instead of typical text. While text printing requires only about five percent black toner, bar code needs can exceed 30 percent to ensure proper contrast between dark and light elements. Toner costs alone could be six times higher when printing bar codes rather than text.

You can squeeze 8 people into a compact car but that doesn’t make it a minivan. And a laser printer can print bar codes but it’s not the right vehicle for the job. Talk to us at Ryzex to learn more about the benefits of a dedicated bar code printer, like the wide variety designed and engineered by Zebra, the global leader in bar code printing solutions.

Have you ever used your laser printer to output bar codes? What was the result? Please share your experiences so others can benefit from your knowledge.