Focus on Traceability: Companies tackle the issue in a variety of unique ways

Traceability is a major undertaking, offering a variety of different approaches ad points of emphasis. Three traceability specialists are running at specific problems and challenges in their own ways.

RedLine Solutions

As much of the industry moves toward compliance with the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI), the need to unclog bottlenecks of information rises to the surface.  For RedLine Solutions, the traceability barrier to be taken down was “data silos,” or places where information gathered along certain steps of the supply chain was gathered and then stored, but not shared with everyone else involved in the process.

The solution is RedLine Transporter, designed to open up those silos by allowing the movement of information between applications with a minimum of interaction by users or administrators. For example, RedLine had been working with a company that had much of its GTIN (global trade item number) information in an accounting system that didn’t have the capability make PTI labels.

“They were looking for a way to take the data, bring it into our system so that they could use it to print the labels — to allow us to pull information out of one data silo (the accounting system) into a traceability system so that we had the data,” said RedLine CEO Todd Baggett.

Transporter is now available for customers who sell to Whole Foods Market, which announced earlier this year that all its suppliers needed to be compliant with PTI. 

“Whole Foods also wanted its suppliers to give ASN (advanced ship notice) information because they want to know in advance when it was shipped and that it’s en route instead of just waiting for it to show up,” Baggett said.

Transporter is designed to facilitate easy movement of data to internal or external supply chain applications. It can be operated manually or set to a specific schedule, using a “set it and forget it” approach, which can also help close the gap between the silos, according to RedLine.  This also saves the step of manually entering data on a supplier portal or formatting data into a third party EDI service, thereby avoiding human error.

Transporter supports the existing PTI Lite traceability and labeling system. The combination, Baggett said, offers smaller operations the software, printing, labeling and reporting capabilities to be PTI compliant. This option was attractive to Whole Foods, which relies on many organic and other smaller suppliers of raw product. A smaller grower can use PTI Lite to collect all necessary information, and then use Transporter to send that data to a Whole Foods portal, Baggett said.


LINKFRESH has taken an approach to traceability that uses an enhanced ERP (enterprise resource planning) system. The major issue with many existing ERP setups is that only 20 percent of a company’s workforce is able to use them, said LINKFRESH CEO Robert Frost.

“The forefront of our thinking is to empower a much wider workforce. We want to get that key data information not only to the 20 percent that are using it, but taken out to the field, the agronomists and people in the pack line,” Frost said.  “It’s all about empowering a wider workforce and giving them more information to do their daily jobs. Only a modern ERP system can do that.”

To accomplish this, there has been a major push to drive two-way traceability data directly from ERP systems into mobile devices using cloud computing technology.

At the 2014 Produce Marketing Association Summit in Anaheim, LINKFESH will be demonstrating a cloud-based quality assurance product. The system can be used with a mobile phone or a tablet (both Windows and iPad) and can store tests, quality control information and more in the field.

The system can collect information and feed it back into the ERP system, including worker performance, weather conditions and other quality control information, to create a record of where each person was and when.  After the crop leaves the field, the system incorporates other data such as that coming from scales, temperature probes and printers. All this data is accessible on touch screens located throughout a processing facility.

“We can capture all field and orchard data right from the very inception,” Frost said. “It’s not just about traceability and understanding what’s there. It’s about capturing costs. What is the total cost of the commodity? How much labor is associated with it? What fertilizers were used? How much water did you have to put on? It’s really working on a cost per acre or per greenhouse.”

LINKFRESH has two main products, both driven by the Microsoft Dynamics AX 

Enterprise platform. LINKFRESH is for larger operations and LINKFRESH Lite is designed for medium-to-small sized businesses.

“We want to have the ability to supply all fresh produce clients, no matter how large or small, with a fully-placed ERP product,”  said Frost.

Dynamic Systems

Dynamic Systems has designed SIMBA to be an all-in-one traceability package with an emphasis on providing real-time information on production, inventory and shipping.

SIMBA was first used in the seafood industry, said Kent McClure,  senior project manager, where it was used to label and track packages of fish. Produce faces many of the same issues as seafood, such as the need for more control over production to enhance freshness and yields, requirements to produce barcode labels and the need to verify shipping to eliminate chargebacks.

SIMBA was developed to address these issues and has since evolved to handle developments such as PTI and other produce safety concerns, McClure said. It was designed to provide information that was fast, easy to use and of relevance to management and to provide a total picture from the shop floor. It can print labels for cartons or pallets, provide lot traceability from field to customer and can collect details about daily production.

There are different levels of products, based on the size of the company. The starter system uses a barcode printer to print PTI compliant case and pallet labels. SIMBA Basic adds full lot traceability. Professional and Enterprise are systems that perform packing transactions on the plant floor for data collection in real time. The systems can work independently or in tandem with an ERP accounting system.

“SIMBA is scalable to fit the capability and budget of companies of all sizes, and it can be upgraded when needs change,” McClure said.

The Professional and Enterprise systems use touch screens that are durable and easy to use for workers, including seasonal workers with little or no computer skills.  At PMA Summit, Dynamic Systems will announce a new and more rugged touch screen.

 “Most customers just using it in the field will use the simple system. All they’re doing is printing out labels and attaching them to cartons. One you get into the actual production side and into the facility, they get into SIMBA Basic and do packaging or processing,” McClure said.

For in-plant systems, the methodology to collect the information has been designed for minimal impact on line workers, Each customer receives a customized touch screen to fit the unique flow of their products. 

To see a webinar on SIMBA, visit

Lee Dean, editorial director

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