Mass notification from farm to fork

Farm-blogpicAny manufacturer’s supply chain is a complicated thing, but for those in the food industry there’s an added level of complexity—a single compromised ingredient can be enough to trigger recalls, sickness and death.

That’s why numerous inspections, tests, label verifications, and the like are built into a typical food supply chain. Refrigeration needed? That has to be tracked. Allergens kept separate from other ingredients? Ditto—and all of it needs to be fully traceable, both backward to suppliers and forward to distributors and consumers.

Yet despite all these processes, food alerts and recalls happen frequently—and can be incredibly wide reaching. If one were to happen to your company, how could you quickly and accurately notify every one who needed to know

For many years, companies managed with a manual system of paper records to document their supply chain. With global food distribution, this has become tougher to do—and as a result the food industry has been warming to mass notification.

“With regional, national or international distribution, it can take a week or longer to sort out a paper trail and figure out where all your ingredients came from and where your food products end up,” says Jack Payne, VP of Enterprise Software for CDC Software and an expert in traceability technology for food service. “Then the task of notifying all those different suppliers and customers begins.”

“But if you couple SCM (supply chain management) software with mass notification technology, you can quickly figure out who needs to know what, and have the ability to alert suppliers and customers before a problem develops,” Payne says.

By integrating SCM software with mass notification software, a manufacturer could send alerts and a respond request to any number of suppliers and customers by office phone, mobile phone, SMS, email, pager, BlackBerry PIN, fax, TTY or any IP-enabled device.

And, using an automatic audit trail feature, that manufacturer could then easily determine who received the message and who didn’t, keeping a record of responses.

Mass notification software like MIR3 Intelligent Notification could also send an alert to large distributors, providing them the opportunity to join a conference call (with a touch of a keypad) to get questions answered and decide how to best manage a recall.

Consider the example, says Payne, of the company that made dips that shipped in glass bottles. The manufacturer received a load of bottles that on first inspection seemed fine, but once filled, revealed a flaw that made it seem there was something foreign in the dip. Forty different products went into those bottles, and once packed, labeled and shipped, the bottles were distributed to 18 different retailers. The flaw wasn’t discovered until the product landed on the shelf, but once it was noticed, the entire lot had to be recalled.

However, with mass notification technology in place, the complicated task of issuing a recall was completed in minutes—when the manufacturer notified everyone along the supply chain by sending just a single alert.

And yet as useful as it is in a recall, mass notification software isn’t just for messaging in a crisis. It’s also helpful for simply conveying important information, like shipping alerts or delays. “Reports are great, but they happen after the fact. They are a bit like using your rearview mirror,” says Payne. “If you’re always looking behind you, you’re more likely to make a mistake on the road ahead.”

The proper use of SCM software and mass notification can help keep your eyes on that road. Not to mention keep healthier, safer food on consumers’ tables.

Looking for the best emergency notification system? Download the Automated Notification System RFP Template.