January/February 2012

To update you on what’s new with the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI), this edition of PTI FYI includes:

  • A personal update from Cathy Green Burns, PTI Leadership Council chair
  • Why implementing the PTI is a priority for two leading companies – a buyer and a seller
  • How PTI volunteers are advising FDA’s fresh produce pilot project
  • New resources, including best practices for handling product substitutions, and help coming soon for produce repackers and brokers
  • And more!

For more information, contact PMA’s Ed Treacy, United Fresh’s Dan Vaché, CPMA’s Jane Proctor or Angela Fernandez at GS1 US.

- Ron Lemaire, CPMA President
- Gay Whitney, GS1 US Senior Vice President of Industry Engagement
- Bryan Silbermann, PMA President & CEO
- Tom Stenzel, United Fresh President & CEO

IN THIS UPDATE:
From the Council Chair: Looking Back, Looking Forward
Editorial: PTI journey takes Publix to improved productivity
Editorial: Oppenheimer on track for 2012 implementation
News: PTI volunteers advising FDA produce pilot project
Resources: Master data items expanded to include brand, growing method and grade
Resources: Substitutions best practices unified, updated to emphasize data sharing
Resources: Multi-company pilot project video documents traceability process
Resources, Education: Repacker, broker best practices and webinars coming soon
News: PTI in the news 2011

 

From the Council Chair: Looking Back, Looking Forward

from: Cathy Green Burns, president of Food Lion family of banners, and Leadership Council chair

As we begin 2012, we have an excellent opportunity to reflect on Produce Traceability Initiative accomplishments from last year and look ahead to our plans for 2012.

As you know, PTI has seven voluntary milestones; each has a recommended completion date, with milestones 4-6 targeted for completion by the end of last year. (All the milestones and their target dates are listed on the PTI website's home page.)

We are optimistic that we have made great progress in implementing each of these milestones during 2011. While we are currently preparing a PTI survey to determine industry’s precise levels of implementation of the milestones, we believe there was great adoption among larger growers and packers last year. That said, we still have more work to do to ensure industry-wide adoption and usage. 

Our journey over the past three years to execute the PTI vision has proved complex and time-intensive, but we should be proud of how far we’ve come. I was very inspired by the conversations we had at the most recent Leadership Council meeting in October, where users shared their experiences in achieving the milestones and working collaboratively with their trading partners.

The most tangible examples of this work can and will be found in the pilot projects our volunteers are conducting. I invite you to view a list of these companies, as well as some case studies describing their work, on the PTI website’s new section for case studies and pilot projects. As results of our pilot projects become available, they will be posted here as well.

I want to commend these companies for their progress. I believe this dedication and commitment has led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to highlight the PTI as an exemplary undertaking for industry.

At the same time industry companies have been actively implementing the PTI, the PTI’s volunteers have also significantly increased their efforts in 2011 to better address the industry’s needs. Our working groups facilitated the creation of numerous best practices, hosted webinars for the industry and enhanced communication to keep stakeholders informed of our various activities, such as starting this newsletter.

In 2012, we plan to continue efforts to help companies understand the importance of the PTI and make the milestones easier to reach by sharing best practices and pilot results. If you haven’t visited the website in a while, please take a few minutes to review the new information available to you.

I want to thank each and every company and individual who has supported, and will continue to support, PTI as we work collectively together to enhance traceability.  I continue to be honored to co-chair this work with The Oppenheimer Group’s Doug Grant, and I am very proud of your efforts during the past year.  As we look ahead to 2012, I look forward to continuing the momentum from last year, as well as hearing from you how we can improve. Please provide your feedback to any of the administering organizations’ staff.

We look forward to a great 2012!

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Editorial: PTI journey takes Publix to improved productivity

from Garry Bergstrom, Publix business development director produce/floral, and PTI Leadership Council member

We distribute close to 100 million cases of produce a year from multiple distribution centers to 1,047 stores. To enhance traceability for the benefit of all of our customers, we have committed ourselves to adopting a common, standardized approach to identifying produce cases throughout the supply chain.

By following PTI guidelines, Publix has implemented radio frequency receiving, allowing us to scan by lot code. While we had a few hurdles along the way, we do expect to see improvements in accuracy and productivity in the near future. These improvements will be based on the re-engineering of our receiving processes.

Initial questions about applying PTI guidelines to our operations included concerns about the necessary process changes, new technology usage, and suppliers’ readiness for full implementation and related costs. We decided to focus on inbound traceability first, which required redesigning our receiving process. Publix has moved from a paper-based process with manual product identification to wirelessly scanning product barcodes to automatically capture product information, including lot numbers, expiration dates and even country of origin, using GS1 standards.

While adopting new technology wasn’t a significant hurdle for us, managing the change process effectively required a strategic and collaborative approach. To this end, we organized a PTI project team to include representatives not only from produce and distribution, but also from industrial engineering, business analysis and information systems. We now have a truly cross-functional team working on the project, with the full support of executive management. Training and support also played a critical role in staying on task for full PTI implementation.

No retailer can succeed with PTI implementation without our suppliers being ready to provide the right data in the right format at the right time. By personally interacting with and providing PTI documents and best practice guidance to our suppliers, we were able to move toward conducting GTIN audits twice a year and implementing vendor scorecards for continuous improvement.

Our next step at Publix is to prepare for scanning lot codes for outbound shipping, and we plan to let our fellow PTI volunteers know what we learn in the process.

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Editorial: Oppenheimer on track for 2012 implementation

from: Doug Grant, The Oppenheimer Group senior vice president and COO, and PTI Leadership Council co-chair

As a full-service produce marketing and distribution company with grower partners in over 25 countries, Oppenheimer has long acknowledged that traceability is a complex but critical component of safeguarding the fruit and vegetable supply chain. We strongly believe our industry needs a standardized, whole-chain traceability system to expedite recalls, and to bolster consumer confidence that contaminated product can be quickly removed from the supply chain. 

Oppenheimer has been deeply involved with PTI since its inception — and conceptually even longer. Ed Treacy (now at PMA) and I co-chaired Can-Trace’s Standards Working Group, which developed Canada’s first food traceability standard. Then, I served on the joint CPMA/PMA traceability task force. The 2006 spinach outbreak turned the small groundswell of interest that group’s white paper had initially created into a flood. Oppenheimer was involved in the original PTI Steering Committee that began in 2007, and has been part of the PTI Leadership Council since it was formed in 2010. Our Steve Roosdahl co-chairs the PTI Implementation Working Group.

Without PTI, our industry is faced with myriad proprietary traceability systems that only work in a limited fashion. For example, almost every grower prints some traceability information on cartons in his or her own format, typically without bar codes, which makes it difficult to capture this information for later use. Once distributed to grocery stores and foodservice outlets, those cartons are recycled and their information is lost. By standardizing traceability information on every carton (or shipping unit) and capturing it at key points throughout the supply chain, PTI facilitates trading partners’ working together to recall any implicated product remaining in the supply chain. 

Today, we’re working closely with our growers around the world to implement PTI-compliant carton and RPC labels; an enormous number of pack houses and field operations are involved. Some are implementing PTI solutions on their own, and we’re working closely to assist others. We’ve also enhanced our internal systems to better meet PTI recommendations and to improve integration with our growers. We’re actively working on a PTI pilot test of Advance Ship Notices with a major retailer and look forward to sharing the results in the near future.

Once PTI pilots are complete, we plan to work closely with our trading partners to complete all PTI milestones by the end of 2012; internally, we’ve already implemented Milestones 1-6. It is likely that many other benefits of PTI will emerge over time (e.g., supply chain efficiencies and improved business information) – but before we can get there, we need a critical mass of companies to implement first.

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News: PTI volunteers advising FDA produce pilot project

When the Institute for Food Technologists soon begins a produce traceability pilot project for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it will do so with the advice and input of several PTI volunteers.  The project’s produce advisory panel includes two members of the PTI Leadership Council, as well as staff traceability experts from two of the PTI’s administering organizations. More than 30 companies are participating in the pilot project tracing tomatoes through various paths to market, including growers, packers, repackers, processors, an importer, retailers, a foodservice company and foodservice distributors. Participants will also use and evaluate modification of a PTI-developed template for recall reports.

The tomato pilot project and another processed food pilot project will ultimately help inform FDA’s choice of federal traceability regulations as mandated by last year’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). While we don’t know yet what that system will look like, the PTI is providing the leading model to follow. Check the PTI website for updates on the FDA pilots and FSMA implementation.

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Resources: Master data items expanded to include brand, growing method and grade

from: Tom Casas, Tanimura & Antle vice president of information technology and Coleena Donovan, Dole Food Company senior manager sales & marketing, PTI Master Data Working Group co-chairs

At industry’s request, the universe of standardized descriptors our industry can use to describe cases of fresh produce has been expanded. The list of PTI-identified “master data attributes” now includes three new attributes:  brand name, growing method and grade. That brings the number of master data attributes that can be used to describe fresh produce to 27. 

As a result, the PTI Master Data Working Group has updated PTI’s master data worksheet, which is now available in two formats. A new horizontal view includes example data sets and shows how it aligns with the Global Data Synchronization Network or GDSN. The traditional worksheet format, designed to facilitate synchronizing data with trading partners, has been expanded to include the three new attributes. Industry members who have been using PTI’s original data synchronization worksheet will find it easy to adopt the enhanced worksheet. To access the updated worksheet in both formats, visit PTI website’s Resources & Tools page. To volunteer to join the working group, contact Scott Brown of GS1 US.

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Resources: Substitutions best practices unified, updated to emphasize data sharing

from: Tom Casas, Tanimura & Antle vice president of information technology and Coleena Donovan, Dole Food Company senior manager sales & marketing, PTI Master Data Working Group co-chairs

We are pleased to announce PTI best practices for handling product substitutions have been streamlined and updated by the Master Data Working Group. Previous best practice documents for internal and external substitutions have been merged into a single guide.  The best practices have also been updated to emphasize the importance of, and outline a recommended process for, sharing master data among trading partners. The updated best practice features a new worksheet to track substitutions, and more illustrative diagrams. 

You can access this updated best practice document on the PTI website’s Resources & Tools page. For more information about PTI’s updated substitutions best practices, contact PMA’s Ed Treacy, United Fresh’s Dan Vaché, CPMA’s Jane Proctor or Angela Fernandez at GS1 US. To volunteer to join the working group, contact Scott Brown of GS1 US.

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Resources: Multi-company pilot project video documents traceability process

Moving traceability from concept to reality is the theme of a new video documenting a pilot project conducted by LoBue Citrus, Associated Grocers, C.H. Robinson, GS1 US and FoodLogiQ. Underwriters Laboratories sponsored the recent pilot project.

Associated Grocers is a retail operations support center that buys and distributes products for more than 200 members of independent grocery retailers. To strengthen their compliance with the recently-enacted Food Safety Modernization Act, Associated Grocers partnered with C.H. Robinson, which sources and distributes produce and transports commodities as a third-party logistics provider. For this pilot, C.H. Robinson sourced product from grower LoBue Citrus and utilized traceability technology provider FoodLogiQ.

In a collaborative effort, the organizations set out to improve produce traceability from citrus grove to grocer. They developed traceability capabilities for inbound, slotted and outbound products to increase efficiencies. With technology improvements and software solutions, they not only reached their goals for traceability, but also encountered unexpected efficiencies and bottom-line improvements. For more details about how pilot participants approached the PTI milestones, critical tracking events, case and pallet labeling and more, watch the video on PTI’s website.

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Resources, Education: Repacker, broker best practices and webinars coming soon

from: Steve Roosdahl, The Oppenheimer Group’s director of supply chain management, and PTI Implementation Working Group co-chair

New tools will soon be available to specifically help two segments of the produce industry implement the PTI: packers who are repacking or commingling produce, and fresh produce brokers. The Implementation Working Group is now developing best practices for your use; once they are completed, the PTI will host webinars to introduce the new best practices and answer your questions about them. Watch the next edition of PTI FYI and the PTI website for updates about these coming resources; in the meantime, you can review the PTI’s current best practices and webcasts. To volunteer to join the working group, contact PMA’s Ed Treacy.

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News: PTI in the news 2011

from Jon Mellor, GS1 US external affairs director and Sabina Pokomandy, JemD Farms marketing & public relations manager, PTI Communications Working Group co-chairs

As PTI Leadership Council Chair Cathy Green Burns noted in her 2011 year-in-review message in this edition, the PTI made considerable progress last year. Here are a few highlights of news articles and editorials reporting on the work of PTI volunteers last year:

  • Retail Leader, Aug. 1, 2011: “While all eyes are on the Food Safety Modernization Act, the produce industry is ahead of the government with its 4-year-old Produce Traceability Initiative…”
  • The Packer, Dec. 5, 2011: “Through efforts like the Produce Traceability Initiative … the fruit and vegetable industry has shown it understands that the financial well-being of all stakeholders — growers, packers, processors, shippers and retailers — depends on comprehensive and precise implementation of food safety programs.”
  • The Produce News, Oct. 21, 2011: “..there are hurdles to jump and pitfalls to avoid, but [the] PTI can be accomplished despite the fact that it will take longer than first anticipated.”
  • Food Logistics, Dec. 14, 2011, reported how the PTI is helping to promote standardized traceability across the industry.

In addition, new PTI webinar offerings and best practice updates, news from PTI vendors and other developments were covered in news and social media outlets including Perishable News, Fresh Plaza, Potato Grower and From Field to Fork, just to name a few.

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