Wednesday, July 5, 2017

FSMA roll out is making automated inventory systems essential

FSMA roll out is making Automated Inventory Systems Essential

With FSMA and Safe Food for Canadians rollouts in progress, many produce companies are getting your facilities in order. This includes analyzing potential hazards, creating food safety plans that detail how you will mitigate those hazards, and getting your traceability systems aligned with industry standards.
One of the key reporting requirements in common to both is the need to provide lot shipment and traceability data within 24 hrs of the request by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). This is virtually impossible in manual systems, which is stirring interest in automated inventory systems. Case labeling with GS1 Global Trade Identification Number (GTIN) and Lot Number is a required to support visibility throughout the entire supply chain. To learn more about GS1 case labeling see the following links ( & ).
Tracking shipments are manageable when shipping full pallets, but can be a big challenge for less than pallet or mixed pallet shipments.  When you add the requirement to record Critical Tracking Events such as, receipts, packing, processing, and repacking you quickly realize the manual systems you have used for years can’t get you where you need to be.

The software is the key.

You need software to help you track of all this information.  Some of the key functions of this software are:
  1. Manage Inventory and provide visibility to sales and operations
  2. Record key transactions of critical events(CTE’s) such as product receipt, transformation (packing/repacking/value-add processes), and shipping
  3. Print bar code labels for case and pallet
  4. Provide date in support electronic transactions
  5. Provide traceability information from receipt to shipment
  6. Provide recall tools to assist 
    • In mock recalls
    • Actual recalls

 As you start looking at options there are a few things to consider:
  1. Is the system easy enough for workers to reliably and consistently enter data?
  2. What types of internal resources are needed?  IT Staff? Servers? Training staff? Help Desk?
  3. Does the system track lots to cases and pallets using  mobile computers to capture real-time of data at the point of activity, or require operators  to  key in after the fact
  4. Does it support produce industry specific needs?
  5. Is it available on demand from mobile devices as well as PC’s?

If you don’t have an in-house IT staff, you may want to consider advantages of cloud-based solutions. For one,
you don’t have to buy, maintain and support an in-house server.  A second is most cloud software is subscription based, moving your costs from a depreciable asset to an operating cost. Talk to your accountant to better understand the implications for your company. A third advantage is the software provider maintains the training and support staff so you don’t have to; when you get new staff you can point them to the training materials or arrange personalized pieces of training.
If you have in-house IT staff, who can provide and support the network hardware and services listed above an on- premise solutions can be considered. Either way, finding the system that best fits your staffing and business needs is the first step to successfully meeting both your internal and regulatory needs.

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