LINKFRESH LABELCheck Saves G’s Fresh A Packet
A highly innovative label checking application helps G’s to substantially reduce produce labeling errors and improve productivity
Founded in 1952, G’s Marketing Ltd has expanded to become a leading UK and European grower in the fast growing fresh produce marketplace. From its headquarters near Ely in Cambridgeshire, UK, the company services all sectors of the food business. Customers include major supermarkets, independent retail, food service and catering and food manufacturing organizations.
G’s had made significant investments in infrastructure and ERP technology to provide the business with key information on what was really happening to their customers and products. However, the management team was increasingly concerned on the sheer manpower effort involved in ensuring that all products were correctly labelled on despatch.
A discussion with its infrastructure partner revealed that the company had a ready made suite of mobile applications that could assist. These included the LINKFRESH LABELCheck application designed to prevent product mislabelling.
Working with G’s IT and QC personnel, the application was modified to seamlessly integrate with G’s J D Edwards ERP solution.
G’s Marketing has now deployed a state of the art labelling application specifically configured to meet the needs of the business. The solution has helped to significantly improve the company’s efficiency in managing its labelling and QC activities. The application has greatly reduced the risk of emergency product withdrawals as well as providing vital management information on key performance indicators within the organization.
G’s Marketing was originally set up in 1952 by Group President Guy Shropshire. Since then, it has grown to become one of the largest growers of fresh produce in the UK and Spain with a turnover of £190 million. The company whose headquarters is based near Ely in Cambridgeshire, UK, has always been committed to managing the entire process from growing through to production and marketing.
G’s Marketing serves all sectors of the food business in the UK. Customers include most of the main supermarkets for whom G’s supply a range of own label salads and vegetables. The company has also had a long term commitment to supplying the independent retail, food services and catering as well as food manufacturers under the G’s trademark. What sets G’s apart from others is that it is a truly vertically integrated through to marketing organization. It provides specialist growing expertise, the very latest high care facilities for the preparation of ready to eat produce and marketing expertise based on consumer market research.
The key to the company’s success is the commitment to quality together with an innovative approach in meeting the requirements of its customers. This facilitates the production of bespoke solutions that ideally meets the specific needs of the client. Part of this involves a significant investment in information technology to manage the impressive growth experienced by the company.
“We have always viewed investment in IT as an important part of our growth strategy”
explains Group Systems Manager Terry Potter.
“This involved the deployment of a sophisticated server infrastructure platform to extend the reach of our information systems across international boundaries. We have also deployed an integrated ERP solution to manage all of our business applications.
“However, we needed a combined QC and labeling application to assist our dispatch people to cope with the increased amount of information required in the labeling process. With the high volume and variety of products going through the business, this was becoming a real issue for us”.
The amount of information on labels has increased significantly in recent years due to traceability regulations and the requirements of the major retailers. This has caused significant issues within the fresh produce industry.
As Terry Potter explained: “Supermarkets are now demanding more details on their labels than ever before. This includes picked from location, country of origin, destination customer, product description, label colour, best before date, display until date and product class. When you add special offers to the labelling process, it is very easy to get it wrong”.
The company needed an innovative multi-lingual labelling and quality control solution for its UK and Spanish operations that could seamlessly link to its core J D Edwards OneWorld business management system. The purpose was to reduce the risks of product mislabelling that could lead to emergency product withdrawals (EPW’s).
As Julius Joel, G’s Supply Chain Director explains:
“We had reached the point where we would have faced losing business if we had continued to dispatch produce with labeling shortcomings. We needed an absolute safeguard on what we dispatched.”
The mobile solution was required to work anywhere in the world using various data connection mechanisms, whether that be Wi-Fi, GPRS or cradle, etc.
A critical requirement was that any changes made to the master data must be immediately available to all users across G’s UK and European operations.
A further requirement was to reduce the amount of time spent in the inspection of products prior to releasing to dispatch. In addition, the solution had to facilitate the automatic production of key management information while reducing the administrative effort involved in the process.
The system is built using JDE Edwards OneWorld as the core system. This is hosted on a SQL Server Cluster. LINKRESH LABELCheck extends OneWorld by taking key information about products, customers and promotions and makes them available on a mobile device.
The LINKFRESH Drizzle technology built on-top of SQL Mobile takes this key information and replicates onto Mobile handheld PC’s. These mobile PC’s use Drizzle and SQL Mobile to periodically synchronize the data using either a GPRS connection over the public phone network or over a wireless network depending on the location of use.
This store and forward solution means that the application can be used without being connected permanently back to a network. This is an essential requirement as the label check solution is largely used in refrigeration units within pack houses or on in rigs out in the fields.
Data is collected on the mobile device then is sent back to OneWorld again using Drizzle. If an issue is found with a particular line, product managers are quickly alerted to take mitigating action. This is achieved by using a .Net component for sending email and text messages. In addition a Digital dashboard has been produced using Microsoft’s new Atlas toolkit for producing Web 2.0 Ajax applications.
In addition Anglia’s Drizzle technology is also used to rollout automatic software updates. Previously, if a major application change was required, all handheld devices had to be recalled and issued with new software. This was impractical as G’s had deployed the handhelds across Europe in Spain and Belgium as well as in the UK and a recall would incur lengthy periods of downtime while the handhelds were shipped back to UK. Now each time data is synchronized with the main database, a check is performed to ensure software versions match that on the main server. If an update is required it is automatically send to the handheld along with any new synchronized data.
The LINKFRESH LABELCheck application provides a simple to use multilingual user interface that enables an operator to run through a series of on screen checks comparing a presented product label with all of the stored facets contained within OneWorld. The mobile application establishes from the barcode on the label the type of produce being tested and the supermarket dispatch destination. Armed with product and supermarket, the mobile LABELCheck solution establishes a workflow path to ensure an appropriate set of tests are performed. For example, head label for celery for Waitrose requires a different series of tests compared to a Tray end label for Tesco broccoli.
The workflow guides the user through a series of screens where the user is prompted for aspects such as label colour, use by date etc. The operative compares the label in front of him/her with the onscreen prompts. If a problem is found then immediately the issue is sent automatically back to OneWorld using Drizzle.
G’s had also recognized an increasing requirement within the fresh produce industry to be able to handle catch weights. This will become an increasingly important requirement for organizations who supply supermarkets. As part of the label verification process LABELCheck checks that the correct “pack-size” and corresponding weight information are displayed on the label.
To further improve the speed and accuracy of the data that the operator is recording, the user is presented with pictures of the correct labels available on the mobile device. Providing the user with a picture greatly improves accuracy as it is very easy to establish the difference between a printed label and the onscreen definitive version.
In addition the operator can also perform a wide range of QC checks. These include temperature, colouration, bruising or testing for any number of crop diseases.
The advantage of the approach taken is that the setup and management of the entire testing process is all managed centrally. A change in requirements or new mandate from any one of the supermarket customers can be easily made available by a simple single central change within the OneWorld application
THE OPERATOR EXPERIENCE
All the operator is required to-do is identify themselves to the mobile device by presenting a personal barcode that logs them onto the label check application. Once the user is logged on, the synchronization of data to/from OneWorld and the setup for the users preferred language is automatically triggered. To accommodate the multi-lingual seasonal workforce employed by G’s at its operations in Spain, Belgium and Holland, there was a requirement for LABELCheck to be easily configured to accommodate any language requirements. Using Microsoft Compact .NET framework tools for software localization, each screen provided on the handheld devices was localizable to any language. This means that G’s can carry out their own translations of the on screen information using their own native speaking employees.
G’s already have already localized the LABELCheck application in Spain where the end-to-end Spanish translation of all screens has been deployed. Translations for Holland and Belgium are planned for the near future.
The system is also designed on the premise that an operator should be able to use the entire system wearing a gloved hand. This vital requirement is mandated as many of the users work in extreme cold within refrigeration units.
In the event of a test failure, the system generates an immediate SMS, Text message or e-mail to selected key personnel. This allows corrective action to be taken at the earliest opportunity before additional costs are incurred. The SMS message can detail product, customer, reason for failure, user, location where test was completed and which handheld was used.
Similarly, once a positive test result has been returned by LABELCheck, an update is sent back to the main server. This triggers a “positive release” procedure which alerts the dispatch operatives that the appropriate pallets have been released and can be loaded and dispatched. Produce is not released for dispatch until a positive test result has been received. This means that the accuracy of all produce labeling is considered inaccurate until LABELCheck says otherwise. The positive release procedure operates for produce originating both in the UK and from Spain.
The positive release procedure was implemented to avoid the situation where mislabeled goods were incorrectly dispatched because the Text or email alert regarding the labeling error was not acted upon in a timely manner.
The LINKFRESH LABELCheck deployment provides the company with a highly innovative labeling and QC solution that is totally integrated with their business management system. This makes the management of the system relatively simple as changes made within the central ERP system are immediately available to the mobile workforce.
The system has also halved the time taken to carry out the label checking activities as well as significantly improving the accuracy of the process. This has helped to improve productivity in the dispatch department. However, the main benefit has been the significant reduction in the risk of product mislabeling.
Brian Crane, Despatch Manager of G’s Barway Services explains,
“It has increased our productivity and reduced issues on the shop floor. Whereas a supervisor was previously working 11 hours a day we have now reduced his day down to 9 hours a day. I’d estimate that we are benefiting £700 a week in reduced labor costs at this site alone.”
Grant Lockhart-White, Group Finance Director comments:
“From a staff perspective, the fact that we have not had any labeling errors since we put the system in has been a fantastic morale booster. It has lifted the whole company. It helps them do their day job and releases them to do the things that add value to the business.”
Supply Chain Director Julius Joel Summarises:
“Product withdrawals would have been costing us around £250,000 a year. We are now looking at a situation where we have not had any product withdrawal costs for a year so thankfully the system has paid for itself. If we hadn’t installed this LINKFRESH LABELCheck solution, I can categorically say that we would have continued to have label accuracy problems; we would have lost business to the order of 20% on some produce lines that would have cost us something in the region of £10m of sales. Instead we are in a position where confidence in us is high and we can continue competing for more share of the business.”
Founded in 1952, G’s has expanded to become a leading UK and European grower in the fast expanding fresh produce marketplace. From its headquarters near Ely in Cambridgeshire, UK, the company services all sectors of the food business.
G’s had made significant investments in infrastructure and ERP technology. However, the management team was increasingly concerned about the sheer manpower effort involved in ensuring that all products were correctly labelled on despatch.
- The LINKFRESH LABELCheck application was designed to prevent product mislabelling.
- The LINKFRESH LABELCheck deployment provides the company with a highly innovative labelling and QC solution that is totally integrated with their business management system.
- The system has also halved the time taken to carry out the label checking activities as well as significantly improving the accuracy of the process.
It has lifted the whole company.
Group Finance Director, G’s