How to Leverage GS1 Barcodes for Outstanding Food Traceability
More and more food manufacturers are slapping GS1 barcodes on everything in their warehouse. Though these barcodes offer up an incredible opportunity for complete supply chain traceability and the seamless flow of inventory between facilities, companies, and countries, the complexity of the GS1 standard presents no easy task. Let’s take a look at the considerable benefits of GS1 barcodes and how you can reap the rewards anyway with the Icicle ERP system.
Friends from the Start: GS1 Barcodes and the Food Industry
Supply chains are varied and complex, more so for food manufacturers who have to contend with the perishable nature of their products. From sourcing raw materials to processing, packaging, and distribution to sales, there are numerous steps before food reaches consumers. All the while, manufacturers must keep a sharp eye on freshness, food safety, and compliance with regulatory agencies.
That’s why the food industry – in particular grocery stores – played such a big role in the popularization of barcodes in the 1970s. Those black lines that appeared on a pack of Wrigley’s Chewing Gum in 1974 and the numbers they represent are now key to the food industry’s ability to track inventory, minimize waste, reduce human error, and ultimately simplify international logistics operations.
But especially as the technology advances to include RFID, 3D barcodes, and even go beyond barcodes altogether, it is only effective if it is truly standardized. That’s where GS1 comes in: the organization develops and maintains standards (including barcodes) for exactly this purpose. In recent years, GS1 has spearheaded a shift from UPCs (Universal Product Codes) to GTINs (Global Trade Item Number), which is particularly relevant for the food industry since these new identifiers now include manufacturer information and so can be extremely useful for complete supply chain traceability.
Today, GS1 standards have become the global standard. Implementation takes some effort, but once a food manufacturer obtains its GS1 Company Prefix to identify its brand in the global supply chain (and on every UPC barcode they create), it allows for seamless traceability as product moves from suppliers to end customers.
Let’s take a look at the benefits of GS1 for the food industry in more detail.
How GS1 Barcodes Transformed Traceability for Food Manufacturers
Why is traceability important in food manufacturing? If you own or manage a large company that’s related to the food industry, incorporating GS1 barcodes into your daily operations lets you move products, materials, and equipment more easily and with fewer errors.
Since GS1 barcodes allow you to store data, you can easily track and trace items between facilities, check inventory you receive from suppliers, as well as ship to distributors and customers. Barcodes can store information including: location, serial numbers, shipping information, important dates (such as the manufacturing date), manufacturer ID, and batch and/or lot number. All this information is important and relevant for food traceability systems and logistics operations.
Different barcode types exist to automate track and trace at the wholesale and product retail levels:
With this information on hand and easily accessible through digital scanners, supply chain traceability is transformed. GS1 barcodes that adhere to GS1 image standards are internationally standardized so you never have to worry about their reliability or compatibility with other traceability systems. Food manufacturers can track and trace ingredients, materials, and products throughout the entire supply chain using stable and reliable identifiers that contain relevant information. For example – and this is just a taste – if you have the manufacturing date encoded into an ingredient, your receiving staff can simply scan the barcode and input that information into a system like Icicle, which can then help you prioritize production consumption efficiently and automatically calculate best-before dates for finished products.
Enable GS1-Compliant Track & Trace Systems with Icicle
Access to Icicle’s food production software allows you to manage the major aspects of your business through one centralized system. It brings together key elements that are important to food manufacturers like food safety, inventory, quality assurance, procurement, product traceability, and production.
Here’s what you can expect in terms of:
1. Complete Food Traceability
Working with Icicle means working with its automated traceability program. You can easily assign codes to items and monitor where they are throughout the production, processing, and distribution process.
Icicle’s food traceability software is compliant with GS1 standards. GS1 barcode lookups are automated, reliable, and straightforward, allowing you to easily look up the right information with significantly fewer chances of human error.
2. Digitized Warehouse Management
Enjoy full traceability in manufacturing with a scanner, a barcode label printer, and Icicle’s food production software. You can know where different inventory is at any time while reducing manual intervention and errors.
Instead of manually copying down information and entering it into your system, employees only need to scan the barcodes to account for inventory.
This automated process can increase efficiency, especially in large, high-volume food operations — an advantage that can translate into real bottom-line results. One Icicle client found that the added efficiency reduced the time required to pick each item from inventory by 10 seconds. Multiplied by the hundreds of products picked daily, this saved the company at least $150,000 each year.
3. Automated Inventory Management
How many times has your company thrown out food for being past or too close to their “sell-by” date? Icicle allows you to take control of your inventory by giving you full visibility over important dates like the manufacturing and the expiry dates of food products.
Better inventory management means supplying fresher food and reducing the risk of stale inventory that goes to waste. Icicle’s Expiration Management tools allow you to identify which batches to process, ship, distribute, or sell first.
4. Integrated Sales & Order Management
How much time does your company spend on order fulfillment? Icicle’s warehouse management features make it easy to pick, pack, and ship orders quickly and correctly. Better sales management through Icicle empowers you to fulfill orders by scanning and picking the right products from different warehouses and transferring them to a central location before shipping.
GS1 barcodes through Icicle’s software streamlines the shipping process, saves time and money, and helps ensure you deliver the right product which ultimately leads to higher customer satisfaction and fewer returns.
With scanners and barcodes, you can also use Icicle to check if you’re receiving the right inventory from your suppliers in the right quantities for production runs. Booked sales order data and planned production details are automatically factored into purchasing suggestions that give you full visibility of the required ingredients, materials, and packaging you need to keep customers happy.
5. Laboratory Management
Icicle was built as a food safety software first, so compliance with food safety regulations is always the highest priority. One of the ways Icicle does this is through integrating Laboratory Management to support food traceability in testing by creating tests, collecting and recording the results, and putting together relevant audit details. If there are incidents that need attention, you’ll receive system alerts and assistance with root cause analysis.
This presents food manufacturers with an attractive value proposition: They can use barcodes to retrieve laboratory test results more quickly and respond to possible incidents and crises before they become bigger.
Conclusion: GS1 Offers an Affordable Upgrade for Food Traceability Systems
With all that in mind, it’s isn’t hard to understand why the biggest food manufacturing companies in the world employ food traceability technology that uses GS1 barcodes. The best part is that this technology is not out of reach for small and mid-sized food manufacturers either. With the right software to bring it all together, you only need affordable scanners and label printers to implement this solution and see a rapid return on your investment.