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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.

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. 

By now, most businesses have begun to understand the importance of traceability systems as it safeguards operations from missed compliance standards and satisfied skeptical customers. Simply put, when it comes to products that will be entering the human body -i.e. food, medicine, and vaccinations- transparent traceability can either make or break consumer trust, yet almost two-thirds of businesses have yet to adopt modernized traceability technologies.

Creating and/or updating a traceability system can be time-consuming and costly. Consequently, Avalon’s Experts work diligently in setting a firm foundation for your solution with Zebra’s Certified Consumables to address today’s major traceability concerns. 

Listen to our podcast to see how to find a traceability label fit for your business.

Top Traceability Concerns Label Can Address:

Yellow Forklift Picking Up Box in a Warehouse to Improve Traceability System

Traceability system by tracking crucial indicators such as order preparation, storage environment, transit times, and delivery status

To recap, your enterprise labels anchor your traceability system by tracking crucial indicators such as order preparation, storage environment, transit times, and delivery status. With these perks in mind, it’s clear to see how labels assist in diffusing popular consumer concerns such as:

  • Proper Storage – From the production floor to the checkout lane, over 40% of food is discarded in the U.S. due to improper handling and storage. Temperature-sensitive labels can help ensure storage requirements are met without requiring additional freezer-grade hardware, and dissolvable labels like Zebra’s 8000D help identify containers while seamlessly dissolving away once containers are ready to be reused elsewhere.
  • Foodborne illnesses – In addition to preventing waste, proper storage labels can also curb the spread of foodborne illnesses. The label’s smear-proof and coating and temperature-resistant adhesive help secure the tag on the product as it moves between drastic temperature changes, preserving vital information.
  • Product origin – Allergies and intolerances have created a greater demand for easy-to-read labels that detail product origin and ingredients accurately. While Passive RFID tags help monitor production steps in real-time, long-lasting product labels connect the consumer to the product’s key facts, securing ultimate profitability.
  • Recalls – Recalls can damage brand identity and consumer trust, but careful tracking can help minimize the number of products recalled, minimizing damage. By creating custom labels to store more information, you can better track product variety to best manage recalls if and when they occur.
  • Worker hygiene – Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, cleanliness has always been a top concern for consumers regarding food and medicine. RFID locationing can also help track your team and assets to prevent crowding and unmonitored touchpoints.

While there is much more to efficient traceability than labels, exploring consumable options is a great place to start. Speak with our labeling specialists today for more information as to how you can implement greater visibility in your operations with a label made for success.

Energy consumption can account for a substantial part of your operation’s total expenses. However, the push for sustainability goes beyond lowering operational costs. Sustainability has gathered the attention of most North American consumers as studies indicate that nearly 70% of consumers prefer brands that integrate eco-friendly practices into their supply chains. In addition to fulfilling customer expectations, sustainable warehousing can help in the following efforts:

Establishing cost-effective traceability

Establishing Cost Effective Traceability

80% of consumers wish to know the origin of their purchased products

Studies conducted by IBM and the National Retail Federation, at least 80% of consumers wish to know the origin of their purchased products. Moreover, today’s changing compliance standards have also increased the need for fast and accurate traceability down the whole supply chain. 

Sustainable traceability solutions built with RFID tracking can help eliminate errors by providing real-time insight and data throughout a product’s lifecycle from production to checkout. By monitoring operations in real-time, your team can reduce wasteful labor and ensure compliance on the go without adding new devices or complicated steps into your workflow.

Allocating limited resources efficiently

Allocating Limited Resources Efficiently

By streamlining crucial tasks through one platform, operations can reduce the number of deployed devices

High turnover rates continue to be a prevalent issue in today’s supply chains; plus, new worker safety measures require warehouse managers to be mindful of high-density areas. This means your workforce as well as your digital devices must be intelligently distributed where needed most without overcrowding. While equipping workers with more devices can solve this problem, it may lead to future e-waste that results in a larger carbon footprint

By streamlining crucial tasks through one platform, operations can reduce the number of deployed devices while empowering the workforce to do more.  Modern enterprise-grade technologies, such as Zebra’s line of mobile computers, can help minimize purchasing and/or leasing new equipment since they can combine data capture, data sharing, connectivity, and visibility all into one platform.

Reducing upgrade costs

Reducing Upgrade Costs

Zebras’ most recent Warehouse Vision Study shows that nearly 77% of warehouses worldwide have moved towards automation

Zebras’ most recent Warehouse Vision Study shows that nearly 77% of warehouses worldwide have moved towards automation to meet customer demands without exacerbating costs. However, inefficient cheap upgrades can contribute to the production of e-waste, which capped at 53.6 million tons last year alone.

To make modernization equally available to everyone, Avalon Integration partners with Zebra Technology in the GO Zebra Trade-In Program. Instead of just purchasing new upgrades, we recommend trading in outdated devices to prevent them from ending up in landfills that could later damage the environment as well as your brand’s values.

When choosing between remaining competitive or lowering expenses, Avalon eliminates compromise by creating a sustainable modernization solution that minimizes waste while meeting consumer demands. To measure the efficacy of your workflow’s current sustainability efforts, meet with one of the specialists for a step-by-step assessment of your operations.

Working with supply chain optimization since 1994, I can safely say that there is no such thing as a problem “too new” that can’t be addressed. However, I also understand where this concern comes from.

In the past two decades or so, technology has taken enormous leaps previously unimaginable. Phones became smart. Cars can be driverless, and the list goes on, yet most people would agree that not every technological innovation is necessary, which is why businesses may be uneasy at first to jump on board with new technology. Indeed, even in warehousing, most decision-makers don’t see automation replacing human efforts. It’s all about finding a balance. While seemingly new issues such as complex e-commerce transactions, drop shipping, and high labor turnover rates may seem unsolvable at face-value, there are generally deeper issues at the root of your main concerns which can be resolved by a combination of intelligent technology and human expertise. A few common supply chain issues include:

  • Reduced Productivity – From bulky devices that weigh down your workers to costly bottlenecks that halt workflows, reduced productivity is always costly and affects the whole supply chain. Sometimes it comes in the shape of a broken printer or lost connectivity across state lines.
  • Inefficient Inventory Management – Dynamic supply chains have increased the complexity of inventory/asset movement. From production to shipping, to receiving, to packing, and so forth, your inventory passes through a lot of hands before reaching its final destination, which means there is a lot of room for costly errors if done inadequately. Also, repetitive tasks such as labeling parcels or manual data entry can lead to employee disengagement which exacerbates error risks and contributes to labor turnover as employees may feel undervalued. 
  • Traceability Issues – Evolving safety standards have increased the need for better traceability. From the food industry to auto production, batch numbers must be tracked and traced accurately even beyond the point-of-sale. Cradle-to-crate traceability can be the differentiator between a chaotic polemic recall and safe, government-compliant operations.

What are my options?

QLN420 Supply Chain Warehouse

When it comes to optimizing your supply chain there is a lot of options.

  • Highly ergonomic devices – These devices can boost productivity while preserving worker comfort. Instead of choosing between bulky industrial devices or breakable consumer-grade technology, you can streamline productivity with rugged yet lightweight enterprise hardware, built for strain and success.
  • Automated data entry – Even a 1% error rate can impact your workflow. Luckily, mobile computers can help increase data entry accuracy by eliminating human error. This also frees up your workforce to concentrate on other more crucial tasks instead of repetitive labeling.
  • RFID and Real-Time Locationing – From better inventory management to visible traceability, RFID technology gathers the intelligent insight you need to optimize your operations. Scalable to grow alongside your company, real-time locationing solutions can track inventory, assets, and resources in practically any industry.  

How difficult are these technologies to deploy?

MT2090 Scanning in a Warehouse

Deploying warehouse optimizations is easy with Avalon Integration

With the correct technology provider, implementing durable enterprise-grade solutions is simple. Working with leading manufacturers (like Zebra Technologies, Newcastle Systems, etc.), we closely assist you in planning, piloting, deploying, maintaining, and upgrading your technology for streamlined supply chain management.

Message Mike Kula today to see how you can start optimizing your operations with the best tools available. 

Watch Mike Kula on the Summer of 50 PGH Tech Stories Podcast.

Listen to Mike Kula on the Summer of 50 PGH Tech Stories Podcast.

$30 million dollars – That’s the average amount companies expect to lose in one single recall. As technology continues to advance and consumers become more conscientious of their decisions, safety compliance standards and guidelines continue to evolve across multiple industries, from healthcare to manufacturing to agriculture. In-depth scrutiny measures have contributed to a 10% increase in recalls between 2013 and 2018 in the food industry alone. While increasing recalls don’t necessarily mean products are becoming more unsafe, they do create a higher demand for reliable traceability systems to handle the high recall influx.

  • One out of four children’s products were recalled in 2018.
  • Over 1.3 million cars were recalled in 2019 alone.
  • The USDA reported 97 Class I (based on “reasonable” chance of health issues) food recalls in 2018.
  • As of February 2020, there have been 20 drug recalls issued by the FDA.

To better serve consumers, each product must be traced throughout the supply chain and beyond.

Equipped with both tested expertise and enterprise-grade technology, Avalon Integration optimizes traceability with Zebra’s best tracking technologies. From versatile rugged handhelds to pretested consumables, track and trace your inventory with technology made for complete visibility in and out of the warehouse.

Meet the Dream Team for Efficient traceability

Efficient traceability can be a valuable asset in any industry. From counterfeit prevention to batch numbering, traceability can give you insight into inventory composition and movement through complex workflows. To increase consumer safety and lower costly risks, we recommend automating previously manual data entry systems. By optimizing your data-entry process with Zebra Rugged Tablets and certified consumables, you can integrate accurate visibility that facilitates efficient tracking.

Why Rugged Tablets?

Why Rugged Tablets for Traceability

Streamlining data capture and workforce connectivity through one device

Zebra’s latest line of rugged tablets are built to handle tough environments and adapt to multiple uses. Integrate barcode scanning, unbroken connectivity, and simplified data sharing all through one ergonomic device. Lowering operational costs sustainably, L10 tablets carry high-performing functionality by:

  • Preserving up to 24-hour uptime with hot-swappable batteries
  • Housing Zebra’s versatile Mobility DNA apps which augment productivity
  • Streamlining data capture and workforce connectivity through one device
  • Adapting to your space constraints with 3 form factors (XSLATE, XPAD, XBOOK)
  • Sustaining long-range connectivity so even your remote team members stay connected

Download our e-book to learn more. 

Why Zebra Tags?

Why Zebra Tags for Traceability

Zebra Tags can be tailored for specific applications

Tested for continuous performance beyond the moment of application, Zebra certified labels preserve your inventory’s crucial data, making it easier for your team to scan and share information. Plus, because they can be tailored for specific applications, labels can be matched to fit:

  • Size and color requirements
  • Temperature durability for direct or thermal transfer printing
  • RFID inlay requirements
  • Individual compliance codes 
  • Perforation styles
  • Front and backside printing

As a Zebra Premier Solutions Partner, Avalon provides customized tools to optimize your tracking and inventory management systems. Speak with our visibility specialists today for a free assessment of your inventory management solution and integrate crucial visibility back into your operations.