Delivering a safe and quality product to consumers is a challenge food and beverage manufacturers and retailers tackle every day. Every day that challenge increases due to a number of factors. The production rates grow, so does the level of automation in the industry. Hence, the demand of packaging inspection and assembly verification arises. Where smart technology has replaced human error, it is up to the human to ensure the technology is error-free. The combination of both, human inspection and state-of-the-art smart technology, ensures the best results and minimizes the risks.
The problem of food traceability is even greater with the growing expansion of the industry. As food and beverage manufacturers cater to an increasing number of regional and niche markets, the number of different labels they need to affix often escalates to hundreds.
The Regulations Tighten the Grip, Mandating Efficient Prevention and Timely Mitigation
The domestic and international regulations are urging the manufacturers to update their food supply chains with modern technologies and techniques to gain complete traceability.
The US FDA Food Modernization Act (FSMA) is the most sweeping food safety reform within the last 70 years. It shifts the focus of the regulations to the prevention of contamination, rather than response. It strengthens accountability of all supply chain participants – domestically and internationally. Some of its provisions affect the industry in a way that will inevitably increase the demand for automated technology and machine vision. According to FSMA, the FDA may obtain the tracking records when the need arises, be it to verify the proceedings or prevent a potential public health risk.
The International Standards Organization (ISO) mandates labeling and tracking. The laws in Japan mandate documenting every single detail from field chemicals to cattle food. The U.S. Bioterrorism Act, the E.U. Food Law, the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points regulations leave no chance for manufacturers to avoid that qualitative transition to a new stage. A stage, where smart technologies eliminate the human error, and the human becomes more efficient.
This, in turn, ensures better compliance with the regulations, as well as product safety and the entire business reputation in the long run.
The Incentives of Smart Technology Deployment
Momentum is growing for the food and beverage manufacturers to harness the power of the smart technology to ensure the whole food supply chain traceability. The incentives of implementing smart devices with integrated barcode scanners in food and beverage industry are generous.
The industry is plagued by expensive recalls and packaging or delivery errors. In an industry where a minor temperature deviation during transportation or storage can lead to multimillion recalls, the state-of-the-art technologies help prevent and mitigate the risks.
The automation of produce tracking facilitates the documenting of the entire production chain. This gives better insight and faster data processing for the management in real time. Manual inspection alone cannot ensure the results of the manual inspection coupled with the greater accuracy of barcode scanning and automated data processing.
The problem of a mislabeled allergen alone is enough of a concern to urge manufacturers to deploy the latest technology to avoid expensive recalls. Matching the package to product and verifying its accuracy with the help of 2D barcode scanners minimizes the risk of error.
Food traceability regulations mandate that the produce is easily traceable throughout the supply chain. Regulators and manufacturers must be able to quickly locate any item in their chain, and trace it back and forward. A task that is easily achievable with the help of automated technology, vision systems, and barcode scanners.
In 2010, a salmonella outbreak in the U.S. had over 10,000 people getting sick. Over 550 million eggs were recalled. The poultry industry reputation experienced a blow that resulted in the decrease of consumer trust and confidence. In this and similar, quite typical cases, barcodes, RFID and the collaboration of the entire supply chain minimize the loss and liability expenses. The food traceability provides quick and actionable data about the goods movement through the supply chain.
The traceability allows all the actors of the supply chain to identify at which stage the contamination took place. The grower, the distributor, or during the transportation? Who might be affected? The amounts of produce that need to be recalled, and who exactly received the contaminated goods? Who needs to be warned to seize the sales as soon as possible?
Food and beverage supply chain visibility saves lives when a contamination outbreak occurs. The timely response in recalling contaminated goods also saves industry reputation, minimizes the liability costs and saves business time.
A food-borne illness outbreak isn’t the only scenario barcodes can help prevent losses. The technology also helps tap the sale of products in unauthorized points, counterfeiting and diversion through item-level serialization.
- The full supply chain visibility lets companies:
- Comply with the regulations, domestic and international
- Meet consumer expectations
- Instill consumer trust and brand confidence
- Minimize the time and cost of product recalls
- Provide the regulators, retailers and food service customers with a timely access to quality, location and safety data of their products
- Improve the cost and speed of operations
- Minimize the risk of errors and mitigate the damage faster, potentially save lives in case of a contamination
- Receive direct quality feedback from each actor of the food supply chain
- Prevent or minimize counterfeiting, unauthorized sale, and diversion of goods
In fact, food and beverage industry is one of the leaders in deploying the cutting-edge smart technology to ensure the product safety. With the growing complexity of the regulations and the expanding production rates, companies are also seeking a technological solution that is easy to use, reliable, cost- and energy-efficient, and durable, such as the rugged tablets with integrated barcode scanners.