Founded in 1965, Caito Foods operates four distribution centers that send fresh produce to multiple states in the Eastern, Midwest and Southeastern United States. As a distributor, the company must ensure it delivers safe, high-quality produce to its customers. That means being able to trace products through the supply chain from "farm to fork" and providing grocery retailers with the product information they need to sell produce to the public. Caito Foods is a subsidiary of SpartanNash.
New legislation such as the Food Safety Modernization Act and Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) required Caito Foods' customers to begin identifying the country of origin on their sales floor signage for the produce they sell. As a supplier, Caito Foods needed to be able to provide that information on demand. This wasn't easy since that meant collecting and tracking the data necessary to provide complete produce traceability to support Global Standards One (GS1) standards and ensure compliance with government regulations.
"As a distributor, our compliance requirements are different from the shippers," explains Byron Swails, Director of Operations for Caito Foods. "We are finding that our customers need information such as country of origin for their own compliance. National accounts and more progressive retailers are all asking about SQF certification for safe food quality, third-party safety audits and traceability processes."
Soon, food retailers would also be required to keep track of a unique product identifier known as a Global Trade Item Number--or GTIN code. This code identifies individual farms, enabling food professionals to trace produce from "field to fork."
As a distributor, our compliance requirements are different from the shippers. We are finding that our customers need information such as country of origin for their own compliance and in-store signage.
--Byron Swails, Director of Operations, Caito Foods
In the food industry, distributors use third-party audits to demonstrate traceability to customers. Caito Foods was still using a manual paper-based system to do this. "Auditors will come in and give us an item number. They'll say, 'We want to see the period that you sold this item number.' Usually, it's a week or several days," explains Director of IT, Cindy Garrett.
Cindy goes on to describe the cumbersome process: "We used to have to go out and look for the date range they gave us to pull the information from our system. We'd first determine our quantity on hand at that time. Then we'd look at our purchase orders--it was kind of a rough estimate. If we had three purchase orders come in and our quantity on hand never went to zero, we'd have to show all three of the purchase orders, not just the contaminated ones."
The process was not only imprecise and time-consuming but would be inadequate to meet expanding food safety guidelines. Food safety agencies expect food companies to be able to conduct a traceability audit in hours--not days. Additionally, the process Caito Foods was using could not pinpoint only the contaminated material. In the event of a recall, the company would have to destroy good product with bad.
Complicating the situation was the fact that Caito Foods was currently upgrading its ERP system from Oracle's JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 8.XE to version 9.1. Any data collection solution they implemented would have to retain software compatibility with both versions of JD Edwards.
After evaluating several advanced data collection (ADC) solutions, Caito Foods selected RFgen Mobile Foundations for Oracle's JD Edwards (JDE). Included in this JDE integration suite was RFgen Warehouse Director, warehouse management (WMS) "light" solution, License Plating for inventory batching, and RFgen-Vocollect Voice Picking that enables warehouse employees to operate hands-free while processing inventory during in inbound and outbound processes.
When asked why Caito Foods decided to implement RFgen over similar solutions, Swails quickly said: "It's all about traceability." He went on to add: "We selected RFgen because of its ease of working with JD Edwards."
RFgen's expertise is so valuable to us because they have already helped customers convert to the new version of JD Edwards multiple times. The value of that support is second to none. --Cindy Garrett, Director of IT, Caito Foods
RFgen extends beyond existing JD Edwards functionality, providing the opportunity to integrate multiple systems into a single user-friendly interface. RFgen also creates zero footprint on the JD Edwards server since it installs on its own server and does not modify or impact the JDE environment. Lastly, RFgen is version independent, making it a hassle-free solution during an upgrade--a notable concern since Caito Foods was in the middle of upgrading their server to version 9.1.
Another factor influencing the decision by Caito Foods was RFgen's previous experience in helping customers upgrade their JD Edwards ERP system. "RFgen's expertise is so valuable to us because they have already helped customers convert to the new version of JDE multiple times," Garrett added. "The value of that support is second to none."
Ultimately, implementing RFgen helped Caito Foods realize their primary goal of achieving full traceability for their food and ingredient products. Now the company can trace produce from suppliers as it passed through internal operations and onto grocery retailers, with the capability to institute full field-to-fork GTIN tracking. Products could be easily combined and repackaged without losing traceability data for individual ingredients. Caito Foods could even deliver country of origin information to customers, improving customer service and overall competitiveness.
These capabilities were put to the test when a recent audit confirmed that Caito Foods could track product information quickly and completely.
Now with RFgen...We can bring up the item number in the date range and create a report within minutes to show auditors the actual purchase order that it came in on. --Cindy Garrett, Director of IT, Caito Foods
A key component of the new track and trace process was the License Plating Solution. Before Caito Foods digitized their traceability efforts with RFgen, employees would have to search through stacks of paper documentation by hand. Not only was this time consuming, but it also proved to be inaccurate and error-prone. License Plating helped create efficient, traceable transactions throughout the warehouse, making individual products easy, fast and painless to locate on-demand.
"Now with RFgen, every item number has a license plate attached to it with the customer that it went out on. We can bring up the item number in the date range and create a report within minutes to show auditors the actual purchase order that it came in on," explained Garrett.
During receiving, a new record is created for each pre-printed license plate and the license plate label is attached to the corresponding pallet. "The license plates are created in receiving as soon as we put a product on a pallet," says Richard Heady, WMS Coordinator. Country of origin and certain quality parameters are also captured. Warehouse workers can scan any existing UPC or GTIN barcodes, or RFgen can add codes to the JD Edwards "XREF" table if they do not already exist.
"We print the UPCs right on the invoices from the license plates," adds Garrett. To establish full field-to-fork traceability, the Caito Foods team adds the GTIN number to the invoice from the supplier as well.
RFgen solved more than just the issue of traceability for Caito Foods. The RFgen solution provided a number of secondary benefits to their warehouse operations as well:
Caito Foods experienced all around gains in the efficiency of receiving, put away and inventory replenishment processes. "With RFgen, it's a lot quicker when we are doing things in the warehouse," said Heady.
RFgen continually monitors the quantity at each picking location and creates a replenishment suggestion when levels drop below a certain point. For example, after the receiving process has been completed, the solution creates a Put-Away suggestion that forklift drivers receive on their onboard screens. Once the first forklift driver responds and scans the license plate, the suggestion disappears from other drivers' screens.
Intercompany branch transfers and inventory transfers within the warehouse also became easier, saving time and money and also reducing paperwork. The ability to lock pallets to exclude them from picking or replenishment during receiving or transfer processes helps maintain accurate data on inventory levels as well. These pallets can be later unlocked as needed.
These new efficiencies enabled Caito Foods to redirect some employees to more strategic tasks. WMS Coordinator, Scott Billeter, used to shuffle through masses of paperwork in order to confirm that outgoing shipments contained the products and amounts ordered. RFgen automated the Ship Confirm process, so Billeter can focus on other more important tasks.
Caito Foods saw noticeable improvements in their picking process through the RFgen-Vocollect Voice solution. Designed for picking in challenging environments, Vocollect can help increase productivity by up to 35-percent while reducing errors by up to 25-percent.1
"One of the main reasons we decided to move to voice picking is that we create pallets as we pick; we don't stage. Our pickers need to have both hands free," explained Garrett. The result was faster, more accurate picking and shipping.
An additional benefit from the Vocollect Voice Picking was a significantly reduced learning curve for new employees. When new warehouse workers were hired, it used to take thirteen weeks (about three months) to fully train them and get them working at the same speed as more experienced employees. According to Heady, the RFgen-Vocollect Voice Picking has cut that learning curve down to just three weeks--a 77% reduction in training time.
Billeter also commented on how the ability to provide greater inventory visibility has allowed the team to become more analytical. "With RFgen, we're able to focus and serve other departments better. We knew on paper that some things were happening, but now we can better identify trends," said Swails, noting that analytics have been particularly helpful in solving inventory challenges.
1 Vocollect product information.