Food producers in the U.S. face a significant amount of scrutiny in maintaining accurate and updated records of their merchandise. Food traceability in particular is an important aspect of many government regulations that can mean the difference between streamlined operations and having work come to a near standstill during a recall or audit.
It's an existing problem for many organizations, as 46 percent of companies have yet to fully comply with the regulations regarding food traceability in the 2001 Bioterrorism Act and the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act. Data collection software plays a key role in helping food manufacturers or suppliers successfully track their goods throughout the supply chain.
A Clear Lack of Transparency
In the seafood industry, there's a demonstrated need for businesses to introduce more stringent traceability requirements. The Guardian recently reported that between 20 and 30 percent of seafood is caught through fishing practices that are either illegal or don't adhere to regulations, especially those pertaining to reporting.
U.S. President Barack Obama has also called for more strict requirements on seafood labeling practices, a sentiment echoed by many suppliers and distributors. For instance, The Guardian indicated wholesaler Costco, Darden Restaurants, Whole Foods Markets and several other retailers have integrated company standards that aim to ensure the fish and other ocean-going products are sustainably sourced. At the same time, the National Fisheries Institute Crab Council provides an example for others in the industry in developing a framework for practical, long-term fishing operations in Southeast Asia.
Problems in the US
Tackling the global seafood traceability issue can seem like substantial hurdle. Furthermore, there are challenges in the U.S. that require close attention. The Fish Site explained that one-third of all seafood sampled in a study by Oceana was found to be mislabeled. However, the problem can vary significantly by state. For instance, more than 50 percent of seafood sold in Southern California isn't identified correctly. Nearly the same proportion of fish and shellfish are mislabeled in Austin and Houston, Texas. Seafood distributors in Chicago also put the wrong label on products 32 percent of the time.
Taken in sum, consumers and retailers who buy and sell the seafood are being misled. This could significantly damage relationships and consumer perceptions. In addition, mislabeled seafood can impact a company's bottom line. Different kinds of fish are more expensive than others. If a retailer buys a certain product from a distributor at an inflated price, they'll end up paying too much for a less valuable item.
Automated Data Collection and Inventory Control Curtail Bad Practices
Trident Seafoods provides a clear demonstration of what a sustainable and transparent seafood organization can do. The company is one of the largest in the industry in the U.S., with processing and manufacturing facilities. In addition, Trident operates several fishing vessels, meaning the supply chain can get complicated within the organization.
Prior to working with RFgen, Trident didn't have the capability to integrate 24/7 data capture and transmission for transaction occurring at its various facilities, both on land and at sea. So, not only did the seafood company need automated data collection, but a mobile solution as well. Accordingly, the company worked with RFgen to incorporate barcode scanning functionality that worked seamlessly with its Oracle JD Edwards EnterpriseOne software.
As seafood leaves a facility in Alaska, moves through Washington and later reaches Minnesota, employees in the various locations can scan critical information that immediately recorded in Trident's ERP. The mobile data collection tools allows the organization to create custom transactions, such as inventory transfers, work order picks and pallet labels. Consequently, transfers between multiple locations are accurately managed and recorded.
With more than 150 workers responsible for data collection and nearly 1.2 million transactions processed in recent years, it's critical that Trident has a data collection solution that ensures accuracy and transparency. Scanning equipment is user-friendly, giving employees a step-by-step procedure to follow in a complete sequence. Meanwhile, the software is adaptable to unforeseen issues. Even if a local server goes down, RFgen's software continues to collect transactions until the connection is reestablished.
With more pressure to create a transparent seafood supply chain, more organizations will need to get a firm handle on their data. Automation is the most effective strategy to ensure seafood can be traced from ocean to kitchen.