Traceability can be divided into two key pieces. Internal traceability is the tracking of all raw materials received, through any manufacturing processes, into any interim and the finished products you make, assigning those goods lot numbers and finally tracking which lots you sell go to which customers. This is often referred to as one-up, one-down traceability because the lot number received (one-down) is tied to the lot number shipped (one-up).
Internal traceability is the responsibility of each food processor, and a requirement to satisfy GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative programs like SQF or BRC), as well as government and large customer requirements. The internal traceability of the manufacturer becomes one piece in supply chain traceability puzzle.
Supply chain traceability is the tracking of an ingredient, or item, along the supply chain from its origin through any products it is used in making and along its journey to the end consumer. It extends across a variety of different companies. For food items, supply chain traceability involves tracking from a farmer to a variety of carriers, to processors, distributors, retailers and finally to the consumer.
Minotaur specializes in helping companies get control of their internal traceability, through the use of our traceability ERP software program. ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning and that can mean different things to different software developers. For a better understanding of what ERP software includes and what it can do for your business, read our blog on ERP.
Supply chain traceability is already being done in some segments of the food industry and many of the projects to achieve supply chain traceability involve using blockchain technology (see article on Blockchain and how close we are) to pull the information from the individual companies involved in that supply chain together.
Walmart has some supply chain requirements for fresh fruits and vegetables suppliers tracking products from farmers to warehouse or store. They started with products that aren’t transformed in the journey from farm to consumer, such as fresh fruits. That was a good place to start, because manufacturing introduces some real complexity in the tracing challenge. It’s not just retailers who have jumped on the supply chain traceability bandwagon. Starbucks has a supply chain blockchain going to track ‘beans to cup’ so that consumers can scan a package of beans and see exactly where they came from. In each of these supply chain programs, participating companies who touch the product report certain information to the blockchain when they handle the product. For example, they must report when they take possession and where they ship it. Canada has had live animal supply chain traceability from farm to primary processor going for many years. This has been done through tagging animals like cows at the farm with an RFID tag. That tag can be scanned to more easily record movement and while the information is not stored in a block chain, it is stored in a central database. These databases of information can be mined in the event of a recall, to try to quickly identify the origin of any issues.
Manufacturing complicates the attempts at achieving supply chain traceability because each raw material chain ends with the processor. The item that arrives at the processor is not the same item that leaves. A new product emerges that contains the raw ingredients and becomes the start of a new chain. It is therefore critical that food manufacturers achieve internal traceability, so that when they are asked, they have the information available to feed a supply chain traceability program.
Manufacturers will be able to use different software programs to collect their pieces of data, as long as those programs are able to contribute the required pieces to the chosen blockchain when the time comes. These requests to participate in supply chain traceability projects will come from your customers, starting with larger customers like retailers, so participating may not be optional if you want to keep supplying those companies. Ensuring you get your traceability stored electronically will not only save you time when facing audits or a recall, but will prepare you to be ready to share the relevant bits and pieces with customer block chains when you are asked.
If you run Minotaur Software, you can be confident that the information you might be asked to provide is already being tracked electronically. Talk to us if your manufacturing company wants to be ready for supply chain traceability.