The 4 steps QSCC took to enhance food traceability using GS1 standards
Eddie Phillips
December 7, 2015

Today’s dining experience has changed a great deal in a relatively short amount of time. Consumers are more empowered to learn than ever before and often turn to their smartphones to research food recalls, the links between diet and health, the sources of products, and potential allergens. The Quality Supply Chain Co-op (QSCC), Inc., The Wendy’s Company and many other foodservice industry stakeholders believe this is a phenomenon that cannot be ignored and innovation to serve this consumer need is key to staying relevant and improving the overall restaurant experience.

Starting in 2012, our organization has been taking steps to make its vision of end-to-end food traceability for Wendy’s restaurants a reality -- not only to gain operational efficiencies, but more importantly to help ensure traceability for the thousands of customers who dine at Wendy’s each day. To achieve this goal, our company joined the Foodservice GS1 US Standards Initiative -- an industry-wide collaboration, managed by GS1 US and other foodservice industry organizations, to enhance supply chain efficiencies, improve product information and lay the groundwork for better traceability. Here are four steps QSCC took to identify, capture and share information about products with our trading partners to achieve traceability.

Internal analysis. QSCC performed a needs assessment of traceability-relevant systems and processes in 2012. We found that without a widespread integration of the GS1 Standards, our organization had an opportunity for better and more consistent identification of products and locations, which could improve product visibility. Some business processes also lacked standardization which led to improper or partial setup of item information. These resulting data quality issues had the potential to negatively impact our ability to trace products accurately.

Systematic implementation of GS1 Standards. QSCC determined a “roadmap” of global standards implementation based on our capabilities and priorities. As we broke ground on our traceability program, we again looked inward at how we could perform at our optimal level and then decided how to better collaborate with our partners to achieve traceability. We focused on our relationships with suppliers by assessing their capabilities and how they aligned with their goals. We also worked with distributors by conducting a capability survey and developing enhanced data feed specifications that required Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs) to uniquely identify product across the entire supply chain.

Electronically scanning barcodes with these GS1 identification numbers for inbound and outbound transactions helps us improve the way we manage and track inventories and reduces billing, ordering and shipment errors. The use of standards also empowers all of our trading partners to trace products to specific manufacturer batches/lots and track production dates.

This year, QSCC and Wendy’s quality assurance (QA) leadership began requiring suppliers to use GS1-128 barcodes to improve the traceability of food and packaging at the case level. Based on a combination of product category risk and readiness, we outlined three separate compliance dates for a phased approach to standards implementation. Additionally, we assessed physical implementation needs for a scannable location barcode at the back of each restaurant, which contains a Global Location Number (GLN) to better pinpoint which product went where. The use of restaurant GLNs will be piloted with select distributor partners in 2016.

Engage QSCC and Wendy’s Stakeholders. What has been key to the program’s success is the establishment of strong alignment between the procurement, distribution and IT functions at QSCC and the QA team at Wendy’s. QSCC works hand in hand with the QA team to deliver on their expectations for each product category. This solid collaboration has helped to both drive forward the messaging throughout each organization and define how we execute. Communication among this cross-functional team is imperative, especially as we approach new phases of the traceability journey -- questions are bound to come up, of which we all need to be aware and collaborate to address.

Commit to the GS1 engagement process. Getting involved with GS1 US and the industry committees and workgroups available -- such as data quality or the new traceability team -- has allowed us to maintain a big picture perspective on the implementation of standards across the entire supply chain. We’ve taken the opportunity to ask industry peers about challenges and approaches that led to success. This level of industry participation and collaboration has been a main driver of our learning and development process, and will be a major contributor to our traceability program’s success.

It has ultimately been exciting to see how accurate and complete data has had a powerful impact on our operations, and has enabled us to move forward with confidence that we are evolving with the consumer. Through the implementation of these standards, QSCC and Wendy’s have been able to drive efficiencies and take significant steps toward enabling a more transparent food supply chain.

Eddie Phillips is vice president of information systems at Quality Supply Chain Co-op (QSCC).

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