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It is estimated that 40% of the entire US food supply is wasted every year due to visibility breakdowns in the storage and transportation process. Missed temperature changes, idle wait times, and overlooked expiration dates can all jeopardize product integrity while slipping under the radar, resulting in mass product recalls and contributing to approximately $161 billion lost in food waste annually. Between fluctuating shortages and increasing last-mile costs, distribution centers have no money -or time- to spend on excessive food waste.

 

That’s where Intelligent Labels Come In

 

As stated so many times before: Manual data entry leaves room for error. Despite this, many businesses still employ pen-and-paper systems due to its simplicity and low cost. On the other hand, the cost of recurrent recalls and damaged brand identity greatly outweigh the savings. To mitigate errors while lowering costs, intelligent labeling systems employing automated data capture and digitized reporting have been shown to increase accuracy up to 99.99%. At its core, a proper labeling system should include…

  • A printer that matches your throughput volume
  • A label that matches application and storage requirements
  • A scanner capable of reading your barcodes regardless of size and location

 

Once these factors are in place, companies can start taking a look at different label types to create a tailored solution. Regardless of which labels are selected, your identification system should aim at…

 

  1. Reducing errors before items progress through your facility – By tagging inventory straight at the receiving dock with long-lasting labels, you prevent early mis-identification and improper storage. Zebra’s Certified Consumables assist with this by leveraging strong adhesives tailored for the application and storage environment. RFID tags take this a step farther by enabling teams to track multiple identifiers with one tag, providing real-time verification through your mobile device.
  2. Accelerated identification with less wait time – Needless to say, automatic data capture is much quicker than manual logging; however, intelligent labels like Zebra’s freeze indicator labels provide at-a-glance temperature monitoring. Moreover, pairing intelligent labels with mobility solutions specifically built for cold chain operations like Zebra’s MC9300 help reduce costs and cycle times to increase sales and sustain easier data sharing even within the cold storage environment.
  3. Simplifies team communication by making track and trace easier – A smoother flow of information and less downtime play a critical role in simplifying track and trace operations. Intelligent labeling solutions streamline track and trace and equip your workers with important data they can use to respond to demands and each other faster. Furthermore, because data is stored digitally, audits become easier to perform, and data can be retrieved from anywhere in the facility between your secured devices.

 

While intelligent labeling sets a strong foundation for maximized visibility, it is only one part of the equation when it comes to lowering operating costs. Before selecting a label match, experts recommend meeting up with a labeling specialist to evaluate your environments and customize a solution that grows alongside your business. In addition to finding your best match, a proper workflow evaluation can also uncover more optimization areas hiding within your operation, giving you the upper hand to overcome challenges before they affect productivity.

Studies show that today’s consumers are far more conscious of a brand’s environmental impact, placing a demand for complete traceability, especially in the food and beverage industry. A mere 20% of consumers truly trust brands to ensure food safety, fueling further skepticism regarding sustainable practices in food distribution. With Earth Day (April 22, 2022), being a few weeks away, companies are encouraged to revisit sustainability plans and ensure proper tracking visibility. As a matter of fact, around 96% of supply chain decision-makers agree that operational visibility provides a clear advantage. Therefore, optimizing sustainable tracking proves to be both beneficial to your brand and your customers. 

How to get started:

While there are several tools available today for sustainable distribution, very few systems prioritize ease-of-use in and out of the four walls. Though indispensable in any automation solution, hardware alone cannot carry to sole weight in securing sustainable traceability. When adding an eco-friendly layer to your visibility solution, consider the following…

1. How are GS1 standards being tracked?

Developed with the sole purpose of facilitating system communication and visibility, GSI standards help ensure products are ready for purchase by aggregating identifiers in a common language. From organic meat to processed candy, products are expected to be identified by markers readable through any system. GS1’s simplicity and compatibility have led nearly 90% of small and growing businesses to adopt its system, also confirming its cost-effectiveness. 

To best leverage GS1 standards, companies are encouraged to verify raw materials, completed products, and shipments display unique GS1 identifiers and any other necessary variable information. Production status should also be easily identifiable, so field teams and retailers know when to expect shipments. These identifiers can be recorded digitally with the help of barcoding or RFID technologies for reduced manual errors. 

2. Can the number of deployed devices be minimized?

More deployed devices per worker maximizes the risks of increased electronic waste. Although several next-generation devices have been optimized to consolidate workflows, food distribution provides additional challenges as devices must be rugged enough to survive drastic temperature changes within one facility. When it comes to field delivery teams, solutions must factor in long distances to verify connectivity is maintained. 

In addition to consolidating workflows through one rugged device, a push-to-talk communication solution may also be beneficial to eliminate two-way radios while connecting field teams and distribution centers without more devices. For example, Zebra’s Workforce Connect app provides instant communication and secured text messaging independent of cellular connectivity, so transportation teams can update ETAs and optimize routes for less wasted fuel.  

3. Are legacy/outdated devices being properly recycled?

Although e-waste composes only 2% of American landfills, it’s responsible for 70% of overall toxic waste. Every effort to minimize toxic waste empowers future generations to live on a cleaner planet. That’s why companies are encouraged to verify decommissioned devices are properly recycled according to local and federal compliance standards. Currently, 25 states are actively targeting electronic waste through mandated recycling initiatives.

As a Zebra Premier Solution’s Partner, Avalon strives to pair proper recycling with enterprise-ready upgrades through the GO-Zebra Trade-In Program. Outdated devices from any manufacturer may be traded in for cash rebates to be used on newer Zebra upgrades. Outdated devices are properly disposed of without compromising the environment or data security through our trusted recyclers. 

If you are unsure on how to answer any of the questions above, it may be time to rethink your tracking system to ensure it meets compliance standards and consumer expectations. Reach out to Avalon’s optimization experts to get step-by-step assistance in assessing your tracking system to best target optimization opportunities.