The Buzz About Traceability
Although fresh food traceability has been in the news lately, the barcode industry has been promoting “track, trace and count” since the late 1970’s.
We see traceability requirements in a broad range of industries including airplane parts, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and seafood – and automated data collection is the most cost-effective method.
Quality control and traceability of components to their original lot is critical in medical manufacturing and pharmaceuticals. If the chip in a pacemaker is found to be faulty, resulting in a recall, the entire lot with which this chip was made must be identified. Each step in the supply chain is responsible for maintaining lot traceability while the components or final product are in their control.
Some traceability systems can be as simple as recording an individual product as it is stored and shipped from a warehouse. More complex applications include medical device manufacturers who have to begin tracking the individual components at receiving into the raw materials warehouse through manufacturing (including which machine was used) to the final product.
Fresh food traceability includes some complex steps including commingling (mixing lots) and re-boxing (breaking larger bins or cases into smaller bags or cartons). There are various methods of tracking the lots through these steps. The most cost-effective methodology is to track lots within containers (as the SIMBA software from Dynamic Systems does), since only those containers that have a tainted lot would be affected during a recall as opposed to any container with a lot that was commingled with the tainted lot.
To learn more about Traceability, download one of these White Papers or sign up for a Webinar on Food Traceability.
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Barcode or RFID – which is the better method to use for trace ability?
This is a common question and our response is necessarily “that depends”. Most of the time, barcode makes the most sense. It is less expensive, supported by many software applications, and not affected by environmental concerns. There are many choices of barcode readers and types of labeling materials and sizes.
There are some cases where RFID is the better choice. That might include high velocity warehouses that move volumes of pallets with like products. (For example, Walmart or Sears who purchase in large quantities.) Another example would be if the item is toxic and maintaining a barrier and distance is necessary for safety purposes.
Some key questions to ask when determining whether RFID makes sense include:
- Budget – RFID is much more expensive so is it affordable for your project?
- Software – do you have the middleware that can take the massive input received from an RFID scanner and “parse” it so the application can handle the data?
- Will the item being labeled affect the signal? For example, labeling an electronic device like a laptop requires a special type of RFID chip,.
- Environment – is there anything in your facility that will affect the RFID signal such as water or metal?
Either data collection method will be faster, more accurate and more reliable than manual record keeping.