GS1 Supply Chain Trace Back

March 2, 2007

With increasing customer demands in the red meat industry for dependable supply chain trace back and high standards, a project was undertaken to demonstrate the many benefits of moving to an internationally accepted supply chain standards e-business system. 
With Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and Australian Meat Processor Corporation (AMPC) support, processor Nolan Meats installed a European Article Numbering Uniform Code Council (EAN.UCC) compliant e-business system which is now known as GS1. 
The GS1 system, based on barcode technology and using simple email systems, allows reliable, unique and globally consistent product identification which reduces operating costs (through labour reduction) and improves traceability and communication between all areas of the supply chain, including producer feedback. 
The ultimate goal of the GS1 system was to replace the paper based system with a wholly electronic system and to provide product traceability throughout the supply chain. 
Project coordinator Timothy Discher said the GS1 integration at Nolan Meats, which was preceded by an audit of the company’s present system (still largely paper based with basic communication between trading partners), identified areas which needed improvement, particularly the double entry of data. 
“The GS1 system demonstrated the potential to significantly reduce the number of documents through combining National Vendor Declarations, Meat Standard Australia declarations and National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme declarations into one electronic format,” Mr Discher said. 
“It can also notify consignors of receipt of cattle electronically, send producer feedback, generate electronic Meat Transfer Certificates, send consignment information to major customers and distributors and receive notification of receipt of goods by customers.” 
He said the implementation of electronic messages would not only significantly enhance supply chain traceability by reducing trace-back times and by more accurately tracing product, but cost savings would also result through the elimination of paper forms. 
“The GS1 system in future will negate the need to manually print feedback sheets and will automatically generate an electronic feedback sheet and forward to the producer,” he added.
“Once received the producer’s system will automatically match the feedback details with the cattle details in their own system.” 
Mr Discher said several factors, including differing barcode standards and outdated or non-existent data transfer, currently hampered the beef industry’s supply chain traceability. 
“To consolidate product from many different establishments, it can be quite difficult for a company to scan every different type of barcode in the system and to maintain and transfer accurate records for product. Currently supply chain partners either don’t support this operation or it’s paper based,” he said. 
“The ‘GS1 integration at Nolan Meats’ project allowed our systems to overcome these issues through using the globally recognised GS1 supply chain standards. Standardised barcodes allow all members throughout the supply chain, including those overseas, to scan and recognise every establishment’s barcodes. The electronic messages have even been adapted for live animal transfers, allowing for full paddock to plate electronic traceability.” 
Yearly savings for Nolan Meats on time saved in cattle dispatch and transfers between abattoir and cold storage were estimated to be around $65,000 with a return on investment in approximately two years. 
“The success of this project demonstrates to the industry the benefits of the GS1 system by providing greater supply chain traceability and cost savings to all members of the supply chain,” Mr Discher explained. 
Nolan Meats director Tony Nolan said with the advent of the National Livestock Identification Scheme (NLIS) producers were becoming more comfortable with electronic data and electronic data transfer.
“Producers are now asking for information to be transferred electronically and we are now transferring electronically between all areas of our supply chain, including feedlots, saleyards and customers,” Mr Nolan said.
“I believe it’s the way of the future. All data will be transferred electronically and it’s just a matter a time before it all happens.”
Adapted from MLA’s Feedback Magazine.