Does Your Company Have a Recall Process that’s Fit for Purpose?

The amount food products being recalled has almost doubled since 2002, according to reports. With many cases of food standards not being met, and the resulting recalls, it stands to reason that supply chain management is under a lot of scrutiny.

Huge mistakes have been made by some well known brands, which led to a product recall. Recalls bring to light issues relating to how food manufacturers and producers manage their supply chain in relation to the two main pillars of product recall, which are response and prevention.

Many supply chains are still supported by antiquated and inaccurate manual systems and techniques, others are not equipped to use the track and trace technology which they have installed. However, with the current level of technology available, there is no excuse for instances where risk is not being mitigated and could prevent a recall.

In order to reduce the number of recalls, the greatest ally of prevention is preparation. The continual refinement of processes combined with properly implemented track and trace technology will reduce the number of occurrences of food safety issues and therefore limit the effects. Using automation in the process of developing preventative measures, including the introduction of mandatory check point for products combined with quality testing when procurement and manufacturing is taking place within the supply chain should make the process of identifying issues much easier.

When track and trace technology is properly implemented it can give notifications in real-time to manufacturers so that any issues can be addressed before produce leaves the factory floor. In addition to this, the implementation of track and trace technology within the supply chain can provide managers with more visibility and chances to attain actionable insight so that distribution processes can be improved. The technology can also come into play in the event of a recall, by allowing the process to be initiated strategically, helping to avoid the common pitfalls.

A lot of executives in the supply chain use systems for tracing products, these systems vary in quality due to how precise they are and how far into the supply chain process they can delve. The question over whether they can provide end-to-end control over the supply chain process is very important in terms of being compliant and efficient.

Against a backdrop of consumer angst and demands for compliance, these changes and more are necessary for the supply chain. The time is now for managers to get their operations in order, both for the sake of consumer safety and the bottom line.

truckThe cost of fuel is an important issue for truckers, so why are rules needed when keeping consumption to a minimum is important for the success of trucking businesses? The answer is that there are a lot of hurdles to overcome that are presented by the open market, and which are slowing investment in upgrading fleets. These include surcharges on fuel and risk aversion in a marketplace, where cash flow is so important. However, the vast majority of fleet owners are in support of regulations for fuel economy. There is a growing belief that proposed regulations for fuel economy and emissions in the face of global warming will also help to save money.

A recent survey by Calstart, comprised of 45 fleets from across the trucking industry, found a number of common opinions held by fleet operators about regulations for fuel economy;

The first is that while fuel consumption adds to operating costs it can also be worked on. Adding to the efficiency of vehicles and systems will deliver higher fuel economy and lower operating costs.

The second opinion is that because of the high variety in on-off road drive cycles, more care must be taken to allow for fleets having enough options to purchase vehicles which provide higher fuel economy which can also apply to the drive cycle and capacity for fueling.

The regulations for heavy-duty vehicles apply to a wide section of vehicles, including small vans, dumper trucks, tractors and trailers, buses, even ambulances and RV’s. They apply to practically every vehicle that is not a car for passengers or a motorbike. Two government agencies, the NHTSA and the EPA, are working on rules that are more specific to each duty cycle, while at the same time, making provisions for manufacturers to be able to provide trucks that are of the highest possible for each individual market segment.

The third common opinion is that manufacturers should make sure that the technologies they use to provide fuel economy do not affect the reliability of vehicles and parts in a negative way. Goals for fuel economy must also be achievable without costing too much money or time to fleets. Ultimately, trucks should be working at the highest efficiency, and when they have downtime they are not able to do their job properly.

ITI URL QR CodeBarcodes are usually recognized as the single most important tool for tracking and managing inventory through receiving, processing, shipping and point of sale transactions. They are simple, one-dimensional graphics that serve the purpose of most businesses, providing such info as serial number, vendor, UoM and expiry date of the product. Such barcodes are used for the benefit of the business person at each point of the supply chain.

What about the customer? Today’s consumers are knowledgeable and demanding. They want to know where a product is manufactured, who did the work, what materials were used and when was it produced? Their motivation is often driven by concerns for the environment, social issues and their own health and safety.

Such consumers ask questions of retailers and endlessly speculate and debate about products in online forums. It is easy for misinformation to be spread quickly, often to the detriment of a business. In order to satisfy sophisticated, insistent customers, business are turning more and more to QR codes.

In addition to being efficient and cost effective for the business owner and keeping customers happy, the square matrix of the two dimensional QR code offers many technical features:

  • Flexible design patterns to carry information in both horizontal and vertical directions
  • Capacity for handling up to 4,000 characters of text, compared with the maximum 20 characters of linear barcodes
  • Information such as email addresses or URLs for product websites can be embedded in addition to the usual barcode inventory info
  • Code can be scanned with smartphones in any position, unlike barcodes
  • Paperless consumer education through QR codes saves money and is environmentally friendly

For example, Femeg, a producer of frozen fish products in Germany, has learned how to cater to concerned customers. Their packaging includes QR codes that can be scanned on smartphones to access information on the origin, fishing techniques and route to market of their fish products.

In 2013, Harney Sushi, a restaurant in California, took the fish info a step further. They started serving edible QR codes on rice paper wafers right on the plate with the sushi. A quick scan with a smartphone gave the customer access to detailed info on the fish on the Harney menu and news from the larger world of seafood.

More and more often, customers question the origin and composition of products from beauty aids to clothing and baby toys. There is a feeling that the international market accommodates a wide range of standards for health and safety. Many consumers consider it their personal responsibility to check out the food they eat, clothes they wear and products they use with their children.

QR codes can alleviate concerns by embedding info and links to more detail about products such as:

  • Safety of all ingredients
  • Sustainability of materials
  • Ethical employment practices
  • Environmental impact
  • Processing route
  • Social responsibility practices

In spite of their current popularity for marketing and consumer education, QR codes were originally developed as a step up for barcode inventory management. They can be read with a smartphone so there is no need to purchase a scanner and a host server. QR codes are a good solution for a small business such as an e-commerce initiative.

Of course, QR codes are not for everyone in the supply chain. Before making a decision to move to or add QR codes to specific products, the business owner will have to weigh the costs of such a transition with the importance of such information to the customers.

Contact the IntelliTrack specialists in inventory management for help making a decision about barcodes and QR codes.

ITI9-smallSparks – Thursday, September 10, 2015

IntelliTrack Inc. has now released the 9.0 version of its full suite of inventory management systems. From basic Stockroom and Check In/Out packages to the robust ISRP and Warehouse Management Software (WMS) options, IntelliTrack 9.0 enhances the efficiency of all the inventory tracking products.

“We’re always looking for ways to help our customers achieve efficiencies in managing their inventory as we understand the impact on their customer satisfaction and profitability,” says Ron Pawlowski, IntelliTrack COO. “We believe everyone will be pleased with the 9.0 upgrades to our inventory software.”

The IntelliTrack 9.0 inventory management software works well on the newer Microsoft operating systems, SQL server technologies and Microsoft Access 2010 and 2013. This is good news for current customers who are ready to expand or update their systems. IntelliTrack 9.0 is also the answer for any warehouse manager looking for new state of the art inventory software.

Intellitrack 9.0 Stratus solutions provide web based services to boost efficiencies even further with:

  • Customized software
  • Little or no upfront capital investment
  • Fast deployment throughout your organization
  • Automatic access to updates and new features
  • High security cloud based storage
  • Immediate access to real time data
  • Minimal operating expenses

IntelliTrack is an industry leader in providing affordable, user friendly inventory management software. With more than 25 years of corporate experience in developing, installing and supporting barcode and RFID technology, the IntelliTrack professionals can address the simplest and the most complex inventory management issues. They are available to review operations and recommend the best software and hardware for tracking inventory.

For more information on IntelliTrack 9.0contact us.

3plThe number of available 3PL providers is growing, providing many options to companies who are seeking to outsourced shipping. The challenge is to find the ones which best suit your needs amongst the crowd, and conquering this challenge can provide a competitive advantage which can also lead to an increased market share. You may have some understanding of how to select a 3PL, but do you actually know the difference between a first class 3PL company and an intermediary, “pop-up” 3PL provider? Here are some tips on what you can do to get the most out of 3PL’s:

Ask for the 3PL’s History

The concept of 3PL’s is relatively new, with the first companies only appearing less than twenty years ago. Trucking companies moved into providing logistics solutions for small to medium enterprises (SME’s), and intermediaries in shipping were actively promoting capacity per haul for shipments. Understanding this history will help you how the 3PL you’re consideration came into being.

Analyzing a company’s history will also allow you to know how well they operate in global markets. Companies who do business in more highly regulated parts of the world will typically understand the importance of visibility in trade practices. This means they are using this information to improve their service, which is good news for their customers.

Do They Provide Business Process Info and Data Analytics Services?

The majority of shippers are only concerned with capacity when it comes to selecting a 3PL to partner with. After this, the second most important consideration is investment in technology. This does not apply specifically to managed information technology services, but also should include using technology to develop efficiency in process strategies. An example of this is shippers taking advantage of TMS (transportation management systems), which can improve visibility and fleet management.

Are Managed IT Services Available?

These are one of the most frequently misunderstood aspects of the 3PL’s service. This is because managed IT services often don’t exist in the businesses office. This is due to their usage of cloud technology to communicate with their clients. Other services that fall into this bracket are support from helpdesks, technical advice, 3D printing services and data storage. You might not need all of these services initially, but it’s good to know that they’re available for when you do.

Once you’ve found the right 3PL, find the right 3PL solution for you.

Fixed-Assets-RFIDYou have finally realized that Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) inventory technology is better for your operations than basic barcodes. Perhaps you have a busy warehouse where workers need to be able to read the data on many items quickly and at the same time without directly lining up their scanners with barcodes. Whatever your business, RFID is an efficient and cost effective solution.

However, you do have another decision to make.  Are you going to use active or passive RFID tags? An IntelliTrack professional can help you select the right solution for you. To prepare for a discussion, consider these factors:

  • Data communication

The active RFID tag is on duty all the time and can initiate communication with the reader. For example, it can use sensors to monitor environmental condition such as temperature or humidity and send alerts to the reader. Data transmission in the passive RFID tag needs to be requested by the reader.

  • Data integrity

A full automated active RFID solution can ensure accurate, complete, real time data as it is working all the time. This is particularly useful if inventory loss or misplacement is an issue.

  • Power

Both active and passive RFID tags use radio frequency energy to speak with the readers but different strengths are required. Because the active tag has an internal battery power source that is working all the time, its reader can use a low level signal to access data. However, a passive RFID tag has no internal power so needs a strong high level signal from the reader to engage data transmission.

  • Cost

Active RFID tags cost anywhere from three to 100% more that passive tags. However, a handheld reader for the active RFID technology is half the price of a passive handheld and 1/10th the price of installing a fixed position portal reader for passive RFID tags. There is also a high labor cost for passive tags as workers have to actually be waving their readers near the items to activate data transmission. In a large operation, this means more work with its increased cost.

  • Movement of items

Active RFID technology works well for high volume in a designated area, especially in a dynamic operation. Passive RFID tags are adequate for high volume that has predictable areas of backlog.

The ROI of RFID technology really depends on the needs of your particular business. If accurate, real time data is essential and labor is expensive, you will want an active RFID tag system. It will pay for itself quickly. However, if you can afford more employees per square foot and have the time for them to initiate data transmission, a passive RFID tag solution will serve you well.

If you are not familiar with the most up to date RFID technology, it is time to contact IntelliTrack. An inventory management specialist can work with you to review your operations, identify your needs and discuss the pros and cons of both active RFID tags and passive RFID tags. Then you will be ready to make an informed decision that will support your operations for the long term.

Contact the IntelliTrack team to start the conversation.

amazon warehouseIn recent years, e-commerce has become more and more popular—so much so, that it’s changing the way we do logistics.

E-commerce retailers are starting to add smaller, urban warehouses to their supply chains as online shopping and delivery changes distribution demands.

According to a report from real-estate brokerage firm CBRE Inc., the demand for existing industrial structures under 200,000 square feet, located in urban zones is on the rise. This doesn’t mean that companies are completely moving away from sprawling distribution centers in rural areas, but rather, they are adding additional sites in urban areas for same-day delivery.

“You need to expand and make your supply chain much more complex if you want to be able to promise and deliver on that same-hour, same-day or overnight delivery everyone is coming to expect,” said David Egan, CBRE’s head of U.S. industrial research. is leading the trend, with 19 small warehouses throughout the U.S., in addition to their larger warehouses.

These smaller warehouses are typically older buildings in urban industrial zones—they function as a place to send orders from the big, remote distribution centers and prepare them for “last mile” delivery with carriers like UPS, or simply on-foot delivery personnel. Square footage and high-tech equipment aren’t as important as location in these smaller warehouses.

As e-commerce continues to expand, we’ll see more and more companies look for smaller, urban warehouses in order to keep up with consumer delivery needs.

Find the right solution for your warehouse.

Inventory-Software-Reports-300If you want to take full advantage of your inventory software, you need to know how to set up and use the reports it can generate. From the beginning, identify what data you need to capture and plan how you are going to use it. You will probably want to be able to produce reports for one or all of these three reasons:

  • Ongoing supervision
    • Product quality control
    • Performance management
    • Financial accountability for purchasing, pricing and invoicing
  • Trouble shooting
    • Identify cause of operational breakdowns
    • Decide on solution
  • Management planning
    • Efficient workflow
    • Personnel complement and scheduling
    • Financial management

Designing the Inventory Software Reports

There are five key steps to designing reports that are useful for your particular business:

  1. Identify information you need about your inventory in order to run your business efficiently and productively, perhaps including:
    • Inventory turnover
    • Workflow patterns
    • Shipping patterns
    • Invoicing efficiencies
    • Employee use/processing
  2. Identify key elements of data collection that will translate into that essential information, including:
    • Detailed description of inventory items
    • Time between purchase order for product and receiving it
    • Current stock levels
    • Location of stock
    • Names and numbers of employees using/moving stock
    • Length of time from receiving product until using/shipping
    • Length of time from receiving orders until shipping
    • Time between invoicing and payment
  3. Determine level of detail for each data field such as:
    • Serial number, lot numbers, UoM, color, vendor, cost and expiry date of each item and any other pertinent descriptor
    • Specific location in stockroom or warehouse such as bin number
    • Each change in location of items
    • Employee ID number and time for each transaction/move of product
    • When and where shipped
  4. Set up regular reports by determining:
    • The parameters of the report; e.g. number of pallets of specific products received in 30 day period; turnover ratio; length of time employees take to pick and pack product
    • How often you need these reports and when; e.g. quarterly within two weeks of the end of each quarter
    • The format that is most useful for you; e.g. metrics for changes in turnover ratios; charts showing trends for number of orders with corresponding length of time for shipping
  5. Set up capacity for on-demand reports for trouble shooting, random product quality control or performance management by deciding:
    • Parameters of queries for trouble shooting, random quality control, vendor responsiveness, etc.
    • Format for organizing report data to ensure quick analysis and interpretation

Do not overcomplicate the inventory reports. Rather than being overwhelmed by too much detail at the beginning, start with organizing basic data which you can adjust and expand later. There is no need to be daunted by the task of developing a report system. IntelliTrack professionals are there to help, walking with you every step of the way.

winter Shippers are starting to bypass 3PL’s in favor of making deals with truck owners directly, in an effort to save some money in times of rising prices. But will this cause problems for them in the future?

It may be the height of summer, but truck shippers are already contemplating another winter like the one at the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014, and aligning their strategies accordingly.

The winter they are still troubled by saw snow and ice paralyzing the road network and keeping a large number of trucks from delivering their payloads. In their desperation, shippers went en masse to brokers and 3PL’s for precious space on their shipments. This, unsurprisingly, led to an over dependence on non-contract deals where the rates can be a lot higher than the contracting market. There has been estimates suggesting that as much as 40% of all truck shipping was conducted via non-contract deals during the harsh weather conditions, compared to a normal rate of 15 – 20%.

Intermediaries are able to demonstrate their capacity to operate carrier networks in such conditions, and bring shippers goods to market. This service comes at a high cost to shippers, however, with some van-based services costing over $2 per mile, and high rates continued into the summer.

This means that 2014 was the year many procurement and logistics executives busted their budgets, with some spending double their normal amount on brokerage services. This was tolerated at boardroom level, as the weather conditions were both extremely severe and unprecedented. However, CEO’s and other executives will not be happy if there is a repeat performance in the near future, and have put their staff on notice that they need to make better provisions this time around to ensure they get reasonable rates.

Hopefully, this winter will be a mild one, but either way, shippers will be prepared!


On July 12, we made some updates to our Stratus products. We’re happy to report that the updates went well and record keeping and updating are now much easier for our end users. Updates include:

1) Customer/Vendor Records: We added a Country field to the customer/vendor record. This allows the user to designate a country with the address, which will make it easier for Stratus users to deal with international customers and vendors. This update can be found in the Web and batch applications.

2) Optional lookup list fields in Item/Asset records: We added a clear option to the optional lookup list fields at the Item and Asset forms. This allows the user to easily clear an entry from this field, and leave it blank, if desired. (This update is found in the web application only.)

a. Item lookup list fields that now contain the clear option are: Model, Manufacturer, and Category.

b. Asset lookup list fields that now contain the clear option are: Assignee, Condition, and Account.

The user should be sure to update the batch application so that the customer/vendor records there also contain the new country field.

We apologize for any downtime caused by the updates, but hope you will be able to enjoy these great new features. Contact us should you have any questions regarding the updates.