Lot tracking and traceability are defined as systems used to source inventory back to a supplier or point in the supply chain. They’re essential to ensuring safety and compliance for production and distribution, and are especially crucial in the produce industry. When product recalls are needed, traceability plays a major role.
Foodborne illnesses are often associated with undercooked or tainted meats, but according to the University of Georgia's College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences, 33% of foodborne illness cases in 2016 originated from raw produce. Contaminated products included raw nuts, cantaloupe, jalapeno peppers, and pre-packaged leafy greens like lettuce and spinach.
The reason? When leafy greens are cut, it leaves the plant tissue exposed and vulnerable to bacteria. This type of contamination can’t simply be washed away and is hard to identify with the naked eye, so the product makes its way down the supply chain undetected and onto marketplace shelves.
When brought home and consumed, customers can become sick and develop illnesses. Accordingly, a quarter of produce outbreaks are linked to leafy greens.
So what can be done to prevent cases like this from happening? A comprehensive traceability and lot tracking system enhances visibility so businesses can respond more effectively when food recalls are necessary. Technologies like enterprise resource planning (ERP) platforms further simplify this process.
Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of lot tracking, and how Silo offers features to improve traceability.
The benefits of lot tracking for produce businesses
Here’s how produce businesses benefit from implementing better traceability and lot tracking.
1. It ensures that recalls are fast and effective
When working with consumables like produce, speed is important not only during transportation, but in cases when fruits and vegetables have been identified as tainted. A fast response reduces the likelihood that contaminated products will be sold and eaten.
Businesses with the most sanitary facilities can still be at risk for receiving bad batches. Managing recalls by following an effective traceability process prevents a contaminated series of lots from becoming an outbreak.
Not taking the proper precautions, after all, can damage trust in trade partnerships and tarnish your business’ reputation when you’re held liable.
A lot tracking system allows lots to be separated into identifiable units and given unique ID numbers so it’s easier to pick out defective batches received from a certain supplier and pull them quicker from the market. More effective recalls means less panic, reduced waste, and decreased costs.
2. Lot tracking helps with quality assurance and supplier visibility
With consumers becoming a lot more concerned with the food they’re buying, bringing home, and eating (as demonstrated by surveys from The Food Industry Association), businesses will have to adapt by increasing transparency and delivering consistent, quality products.
Tracking lots increases visibility, so you know exactly where your inventory is coming from. This then allows you to identify which suppliers are providing you with high-quality produce, and which ones you’re experiencing quality issues with. Lot number tracking and traceability empowers businesses and allows them to make more informed decisions about who they’ll be purchasing from.
Managing supplier information becomes even easier with an ERP system that has a centralized database. Ideally, it would also document communication at every step so you have a way to go back and check vital information.
Overall, tracking lots with technology makes your produce business’ operations more efficient as you can more easily monitor quality. With less overhead, you can focus on improving trade partnerships and strengthening your supply chain.
3. Businesses can better optimize their inventory
Tracking every lot means you’ll know exactly how long each batch has been sitting in the warehouse, so you can transfer older lots first to get the most out of its brief freshness window, preventing spoilage. In other words, lot tracking helps businesses better optimize their available inventory.
Poor visibility of inventory can cause waste, which cuts into profit margins and is overall unsustainable for businesses and for the environment. With lot tracking and traceability, you’ll be able to improve sustainability while saving on costs.
4. Lot tracking ensures product safety and regulation compliance
The worst-case scenario is having a consumer bite into a tainted fruit or vegetable and get sick from a batch that you had provided to a retailer. Even if you were not the producer, you could still be held liable for the oversight.
Tracking lots ensures that you’re complying with local and federal safety regulations to not only prevent contaminated products from making it to the shelves, but to respond effectively if it happens.
5. With lot tracking technology, reduce human error and enhance organization
It’s no secret that manual lot tracking leaves room for human error and can be a sloppy, inefficient ordeal.
Electronically capturing information streamlines the inbound and outbound process and organizes data to be more readable and accessible. The right technology will also provide you with valuable insights, making use of the plethora of data that tends to accumulate in produce businesses.
Track your lots more efficiently with Silo
Produce businesses can increase visibility, transparency, and control over their operations by investing in the right technological lot tracking and traceability solutions. A good ERP system gives you a place to store and analyze lot data, consolidating it into one location.
Silo is a produce ERP system that eliminates the guesswork by letting you accurately source the details of your produce. With Silo, you’ll truly know your inventory, even as it changes day by day. Our platform expands your field of vision with comprehensive lot tracking and traceability tools.
Produce businesses benefit from:
Effortless lot-level management. Get insight into a lot’s history and current status, including availability, profitability, quality, and waste.
Greater transparency. Need to notify customers and vendors about a recall? Ditch the detective work. All the data you need is just a few clicks away.
Valuable performance metrics. See exactly how your lots are performing with profitability calculations. Organize by date, supplier, BOL invoice, or PO to see lot level performance details.