ERP-Powered Automated Labeling and the Produce Traceability Initiative

We recently discussed how the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) stands to impact the CPG industry, as well as the general relationship between PTI and enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.  Let’s now take a closer look at PTI and ERP, with specific regard to automated labeling.

PTI requires that each individual carton or case of produce have a label that includes specific items and information, including:

  • Barcode (GS1-128 of 48 characters) with a supplier identifier (GTIN ID) and lot or batch number (if lot/batch is not harvest date-specific, the harvest date must also be included)
  • Human-readable GTIN and lot/batch number
  • Harvest date if not unique to the lot/batch
  • Commodity and product description and pack configuration
  • If not already printed on the case, country of origin and supplier name and address must be included as well

Sourcing these labels and ensuring their correct application presents a significant logistical challenge, but one that can be smoothly handled with a solid ERP package. State-of-the-art ERP solutions like SAP Business All-in-One it.cpg can function as labeling command-and-control centers.

The ERP solution plans which fields get harvested at what time, calculates the expected volume and assigns necessary equipment (e.g. pack trucks) and materials (e.g. cartons).  Lot ID numbers can be manually assigned rather than system-generated, to ensure that each label includes the ID information and still gets printed in advance of harvest.  This harvest-planning component of the ERP solution also automatically creates work orders for printing the required labels.  Taken together, these capabilities give growers foresight into harvesting, allowing them to ensure that the right cartons and labels reach the right fields at specified times.  Just as importantly, growers can guarantee that each label contains information that correctly corresponds to the content of each carton.

In this respect, the labeling process begins well in advance of cartons reaching the fields, thus greatly reducing errors from a PTI-compliance perspective.  However, PTI presents growers with opportunities that far surpass error-avoidance.  As we see in this example of ERP as labeling control center, growers can more accurately forecast and plan for harvest, thanks to increased visibility into production cycles.  This does indeed allow growers to better comply with PTI.  More importantly, however, enhanced planning makes for a more efficient, and ultimately profitable, enterprise.

In our next post on PTI, we will examine in-the-field labeling processes from a current best-practices approach.

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