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Past studies have showcased the concerning lack of trust consumers have in food & beverage companies regarding product safety. A mere 22% of shoppers have stated that they fully trust companies to accurately verify product integrity. However, as consumer expectations shift throughout time, effective traceability is no longer the only driving force behind RFID adoption.

Dynamic supply chains involving a variety of similar SKU units in a wide geographical range must not only verify product quality, but also ensure ETAs are met, order accuracy, and seamless data transmission, all with a smaller carbon footprint. For example, current research shows that 77% of shoppers now use a mobile device to initiate a purchase. This means distribution centers must be able to aggregate data coming in from multiple terminals and distribute tasks proactively across the workforce. In other words, real-time RFID visibility could assist with:

  • Reducing inaccurate handling and storage risks
  • Verifying in-stock materials as orders come in
  • Tracing manufacturing workflows to prevent recalls
  • Simplifying real-time order tracking for customers
  • Connecting order picking teams with real-time demands
  • Consolidating several data points onto a digitized form for easier auditing

When “high-speed” meets “high-volume”, only the toughest solutions will do.

Distribution centers now require flexible and durable technologies to satisfy multiple demands at once. That’s where next-generation devices like Zebra’s new RFD90 Ultra-Rugged RFID Sled come in handy. Tailored to adapt to leading operating systems and mobile devices, the sled exemplifies RFID’s strides when it comes to evolving inventory management through:

  • Ergonomic design that favors worker comfort and durability
  • Enhancing scanning performance for large workspaces
  • Flexible connectivity options to pair with Android, Windows, and iOS devices
  • Tap-to-pair setup for faster solution deployment
  • Remote device management via pre-installed WiFi 6
  • A variety of charging options to ensure around-the-clock device performance

Learn more about Zebra’s new RFD90 Sled in our fact sheet.

As consumer demands continue to grow, technology can expect to mature alongside them. Reach out to an Avalon expert to learn how you can keep optimizing your warehouse with locationing and visibility technologies designed to thrive in today’s order fulfillment challenges.

When it comes to food and beverage and pharmaceutical safety, traceability is the baseline for future and sustainable success. Without it, vital products risk spoilage, impacting not only just the bottom line but also consumer safety. Ingestible and medicinal goods tend to be more prioritized since nearly 80% of consumers do not trust manufacturers to properly enforce safety measures around product quality. Moreover, drug recalls have increased steadily for the past two years, with 195 kinds of drugs pulled from shelves since 2017 – mostly due to poor quality control. Improper track and trace systems have often produced one or more of the following consequences:

  • Extensive fees and expenses stemming from downtime while production lines determine points of error. Recurrent issues may also lead businesses to sever ties with questionable companies, ultimately breaking down supply chains.
  • Damaged brand image still remains as one of the top deterrents of businesses since consumers are less likely to choose businesses known for even one safety issue.
  • Legal action may be taken on the part of affected consumers, resulting in broken consumer trust and even changes in laws and regulations.

It’s safe to assume food, beverages, and medicine will always be in demand for the years to come, which means effective traceability will also be highly sought to ensure perishable items are safe for consumers. As a result, automation continues to lead the modernization wave within manufacturing and distribution plants since it facilitates real-time track and trace for easier quality checks. However, complex training and long implementation times can stifle modernization’s benefits when it comes to effective traceability. That’s why simplicity and scalability have become foundational in accelerating deployment for faster efficiency. Whether it be through RFID scanning or mobile label printing, a user-friendly traceability system should be able to…

  1. Reduce illegible manual data entry – Pencil and paper reporting done in haste can result in illegible documentation, complicating future audits. Moreover, files may not be properly sorted and filed, taking time away from productive workflows as workers must spend time looking for vital information. On the other hand, automated data capture through purpose-built devices like Zebra’s DS3600 scanners connect data directly to your centralized database with nothing but a trigger pull, protecting data legibility while empowering workers to process products more quickly.
  2. Close communication gaps between manufacturers and distributors – As seen in recent news, supply chain changes can strike at any given moment, creating challenges for operations using just-in-time inventory management systems. Mobile computers integrating push-to-talk features and cellular connectivity and apps can bridge communication gaps by making sure teams and businesses are notified of any changes as soon as they happen.
  3. Incorporate touch-screen usability for younger workers – As younger workers ages 18-35 enter the workforce, legacy green screen apps may pose a higher learning curve even though they’re familiar to seasoned warehouse workers. That’s why applications like Zebra’s All-Touch Terminal Emulation have been developed to migrate TE screens onto a touchscreen interface for easier usability.
  4. Facilitate data sharing without compromising security – As data is shared digitally, it becomes a target for today’s cybercriminals. To combat threats, Zebra strengthens Android for Enterprise with mobility Extensions and LifeGuard, providing 90-day security patches, two-factor authentication, government-grade encryption, and many other tiered security parameters for uncorrupted data.

Learn how food and beverage businesses are enhancing operational visibility with Zebra in our vision study, available here.

As supply chains grow more complex, operational visibility will remain essential to ensure competitive product quality and consumer trust for every industry. Schedule a preliminary consultation with Avalon’s visibility experts to see how you can expand transparent tracking in your operations with simplistic and intuitive technologies.

Just in the last decade, food giant Chipotle made history when it agreed to pay the largest fine in history – a whopping $25 million in response to its part in a sickness outbreak that would affect over 1,000 customers in a span of 3 years. Unfortunately, compromised food safety is a widely shared issue amongst manufacturers and distributors within food service. The costs of one communication gap may end up being incalculable when you factor in:

  • Lost hours of productivity as teams search for operational blind spots
  • Recall execution expenses such as setting up automated phone calls and postage for returned items
  • Severed distribution relationships as partner businesses must also adjust to recalls
  • Missed compliance fees and audits that come up after mistakes are noticed
  • Reverse logistics and storage as brands must process returned items while keeping them separated from uncompromised products.
  • Broken consumer trust as shoppers will avoid brands with a history of recalls even if it’s just from one event.

Even if spoiled products are identified before leaving facilities, businesses still take a heavy blow financially as products must be discarded.  Experts estimate food manufacturers and distributors can lose as much as $750 billion per year due to poor handling procedures, improper cold storage, and inaccurate data processing. Consequently, targeting blind spots within food distribution has become an undisputable priority.

Three technologies enhancing food safety visibility

Several next-generation devices are now built to simplify tracking and tracing workflows; however, because food service often runs into the challenges of cold storage, technology solutions must also be durable enough to protect real-time visibility. In our partnership with Zebra Technologies, we’ve seen the following technologies thrive in the challenges of maximizing food visibility:

  1. Bluetooth-enabled temperature sensors – Battery-operated Bluetooth sensors mitigate interference issues to protect undisrupted temperature tracking even after products leave the dock. Sensors can be read through any Bluetooth-compatible device for real-time storage verification as products travel down the supply chain. This trackable visibility allows businesses to quickly pinpoint and remediate inadequate temperatures before they harm products.
  2. Customized labels for crisp barcodes – As stated many times by many experts, identification labels are a lifeline for your products since they display vital information such as storage notes, handling instructions, and compliance codes. Constant movement throughout the distribution process can contribute to early label damage such as scratches, fading barcodes, and peeling. Therefore, to protect inventory identification, labels should be tailored for food handling, able to survive extreme temperature changes and long transportation. Zebra’s Certified Consumables fulfill these requirements in drawing strength from several pre-tested materials to ensure consistent performance anywhere they go.
  3. Fixed industrial scanners and machine vision – Multiple purchasing options, new markets, and updated compliance standards have created a more dynamic supply chain with multiple possibilities for blind spots. Consequently, automated fixed scanning and machine vision have taken center stage in seamlessly verifying product quality without halting productivity. Conduct simple track and trace and/or quality inspections across the whole supply chain with automatic visibility that connects to your WMS in real-time for less guesswork.

Selecting a visibility device is only a small part of complete solution design and deployment. To fully reap the benefits of higher operational visibility, we recommend starting with a full evaluation of your current workflow to target hidden blind spots. By assessing where they’re located, your team can then integrate a scalable solution that stays within allocated budgets while deploying future-forward technologies. By doing so, businesses not only protect transparent traceability, but they also prevent operations from being blindsided in the future by new changes.

In a span of a decade, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) along with the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) have reported a 125% increase in food recalls. In 2020, the FSIS recorded a total of 1,394,585 pounds of recalled products, pulled from markets due to pathogens, allergens, presence of extraneous materials, and import violations. Studies show that grievous tracking and traceability gaps have been responsible for:

  • 47% of recalls stemming from microbiological contamination
  • $3.7 billion spent in medical treatments for salmonella 
  • Nearly 8.5 million food units recalled yearly by the FDA
  • 601,969 pounds of recalled chicken in 2020 alone

While these numbers are ominous, one of the primary reasons behind the increase in recalls are traceability technology and new safety regulations. Real-time tracking and labeling systems now provide easier verification of compliance codes in food safety. That means manufacturers can target and catch more mistakes than before with the help of new intelligent tools and better safety parameters set by the FDA, FSIS, and CDC. However, while timely recalls can prevent pathogen outbreaks, they quickly erode consumer trust. An estimated 80% of consumers do not completely trust brands to ensure safety, and over a third report avoiding businesses associated with food-borne illnesses for many months. Therefore, visibility systems must prioritize early detection to keep compromised products from leaving facilities in the first place. 

The key to establish real-time alerts based on actionable data

Less communication gaps empowers teams with a clear overview of how products are handled, packaged, stored, and moved. Labeling systems paired with handheld scanners and mobile computers can help eliminate gaps by transcribing data from each step into a centralized shareable database. On the other hand, new rugged tablets like Zebra’s ET80/85 2-in-1 tablets emphasize the power of agile adaptability in securing food safety by:

  • Providing a lightweight consolidated computer and scanner – Despite having an integrated scanner and higher durability standards, the ET80/85 is 20% lighter and 35% thinner for easy portability. Its larger screen size permits workers to monitor products at-a-glance when operating forklifts or other heavy machinery.
  • Facilitating data entry with a detachable keyboard – Keep workflows standardized with a device that adapts to preferred data entry mechanisms for administrators and production teams alike. Detachable keyboards and universal mounting options allow the ET80/85 to fit into different work environments, simplifying training and accelerating deployment. 
  • Reducing connection drops through flexible connectivity options – Leveraging several connectivity options such as WiFi 6E, 4G/5G, and Bluetooth, the ET80/85 prevents downtime and breakdowns from signal drops within the four walls, keeping your vital data constantly available to your workforce. This also means workers can update WIPs, notifications, and compliance codes in real-time for entire teams to track. 
  • Deploying seamless push-to-talk and secured texting – Lastly, Zebra’s Workforce Connect empowers manufacturers with real-time communication between individual workers and entire groups, all streamlined through one platform. Moreover, connectivity can extend beyond the four walls, allowing transportation teams and retailers to verify shipments are ready for sale. 

To efficiently start securing real-time workflow visibility, begin with a comprehensive operational assessment to target recurring points of communication breakdowns. Contact Avalon to start your assessment today and learn more about the next generation of technologies devoted to dependable food safety.

At the core of dependable food safety is efficient cold chain management. Whether it be in pharmaceutical manufacturing or food factories, cold storage units can prevent costly spoilage and damaging recalls by keeping inventory within an acceptable temperature. However, studies suggest that nearly a quarter of all food products is thrown away every year as a result of fluctuating temperatures, leading to a $750 billion annual loss. 

Because cold storages are one of the roughest industrial environments, even common enterprise-grade devices may not be suitable for the dropping temperatures. This is problematic once inventory must be transported down the supply chain. Tracking devices must be ultra-rugged for durability, yet ideally adaptable for increased mobility. Facing rising demands for mobile temperature tracking, several businesses have sought to enhance connectivity and device durability in order to expand operational visibility for time-sensitive inventory traveling outside the warehouse. 

Connectivity and Durability Lead to Visibility 

Not only must ultra-rugged devices survive low temperatures, but they must also remain functional in the event of a sudden temperature change such as moving in and out of freezers.  As a Zebra Premier Solutions Partner, Avalon highlights the following three devices both durable and adaptable options to enhance temperature tracking:

  1.  Zebra’s New Electronic Temperature Sensors – Designed to simplify temperature tracking, Zebra’s newest electronic sensors can be added onto your storage unit to record temperatures in real-time and update data onto the cloud for easy remote access. Moreover, the EDGEVue tracking app can be deployed on any device, eliminating the need for a complete restructuring of your mobility solution.
  2.  Long-range push-to-talk connectivity – While temperatures are monitored in real-time, your field teams also require a way to communicate with little delay in the event any temperature changes must be made. Connectivity solutions such as Workforce Connect empower field teams with real-time task assignments, location history, and actionable insights delivered onto your Zebra handheld. 
  3.  The freezer-grade MC9300 mobile computer – Built on a legacy of tested durability, the MC9300 can be altered to meet the demands of cold storage with a freezer-rated battery, condensation-resistant screen, integrated heater, and higher IP ratings. 

Regardless which technology you choose to implement, the goal should always be to expand inventory visibility to protect temperature-sensitive products. Failure to do so has commonly resulted in:

  • Recalls that half productivity
  • Negative publicity that discourages brand loyalty
  • Legal action, fines, and missed compliance fees
  • Future recurrent audits
  • Disruptions in the supply chain that cause further delays

To prevent these from happening, Avalon recommends that you evaluate your temperature tracking system. Reach out to our automation specialists today for a step-by-step assessment of your current workflows to see where you can start expanding visibility within your operations. 

One of the biggest challenges set to impact supply chains in the years to come is reestablishing customer trust. The coronavirus pandemic simply enhanced previous concerns many customers already had surrounding product fabrication, compliance, order accuracy, etc. From retail goods to manufacturing parts, studies show consumers are more and more skeptical of supply chains, increasing the demand for transparent traceability to soothe worries such as: 

  • Brand’s ability to ensure safety – Only 35% of consumers actually believe the food industry is technologically capable of ensuring proper safety guidelines.
  • Delayed order tracking – Since 2017, it’s been estimated that over 90% of customers expect to be able to track their orders from start to finish, preferably in real-time.
  • Seamless returns in the event of inaccurate orders – At least 96% of customers admit to returning to a business that offers easy returns, which means complicated reverse logistics can deter over half of prospective clients.

Whether you run a business-to-business or a business-to-customer operation, no company is immune to disruptions, and these disruptions -whether via a cyberattack or a sudden spike in demand- can either weaken or strengthen your brand’s identity. While disruptions can happen at any given moment, traceability solutions offer preventive measures to protect consumer trust and minimize damage. Below are 5 ways companies are re-establishing trust in the New Normal: 

  1. Verified contact tracing and social distancing – Needless to say, health concerns are far from gone and will most likely be around for a while. That’s why contact tracing solutions have remained crucial to prevent mass germ spread while targeting potential infections without completely halting productivity. Efficient systems like Zebra’s MotionWorks Proximity have recorded a 75% reduction in proximity events within one week of deployment all while providing an easy-to-follow traceability system between events for scheduled alerts.

  2. Real-time notifications – Time is now more than money. It is also safety and possibly your first defense against sudden changes. Real-time visibility, whether through RFID technology or high-speed WiFi connectivity, equips your workforce with valuable updates as they happen, allowing your teams to respond proactively to change. 

  3. Dependable data security – To mitigate cyberthreats, businesses continue to migrate to supported operating systems such as Android. Zebra’s fortified Android goes a step further by embedding automatic OS updates, government-grade encryption, two-factor authentication, and customizable security parameters along with recurrent security patches. 

  4. Long-range networking to connect customers and field teams – To enable tracking for field teams, long-range and flexible networking systems must survive in difficult environments at all times. Not only does this allow customers to track orders, but it also connects field teams to any real-time updates and changes in the warehouse. 

  5. More safety stock – Depending on inventory type, increasing safety stock may be helpful to prevent stockouts during spikes in demand. To efficiently increase stock quantity without losing track of in-house inventory, we recommend adding automated data capture technology that connects to your inventory management system, along with easy-to-ready durable labels.

To see how you can adapt any of these methods into your business, reach out to our modernization specialists and see how you can set your operations on a firm footing to face 2021’s new and recurrent challenges.