December 2010: An Update on the PTI
The calendar is getting closer to rolling over to 2011. We're also hearing clearer signals from the market on expectations for compliance with next year's PTI milestone. At a PMA event in October, Terri Miller made Food Lion's commitment to PTI clear. At a similar event in November, Walmart's Mike Agostini made the strongest public announcement by a major retailer to date, stating that Walmart expects its suppliers to be 100% committed to the PTI timeline and standards. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many retailers are gearing up to collect GTIN information from their suppliers, and exploring how to handle the additional data.
By the end of 2011, shippers need to have created and shared a GTIN list, and should be putting PTI-compliant information (a GTIN and date-specific Lot in human readable and barcode format) on every case. Finally, an electronic record needs to be kept of the ship-to information for each GTIN and Lot.
HarvestMark is the #1 provider of PTI solutions, with over 100 systems deployed in production, including line pack, shed pack, and field pack. We've helped our customers implement everything from single systems running in a packing shed to synchronized solutions across multiple co-packers.
Whether you're wondering how to interpret GDSN rules, GS1 standards, label standards, or looking for ways to capture a payback from implementing PTI ... please drop us a line. We would value the opportunity to work with you.
What's this Voice Pick Code Thing?
The PTI leadership committee recently announced that it had adopted our VoiceCode technology as part of the PTI label standard. You may be wondering what it is and why it's important, so here goes (without getting overly technical):
- PTI Milestone 7 requires that retailers and foodservice operators record the GTIN and Lot number of every case they ship out, and where they shipped it.
- Scanning billions of case labels was going to add huge equipment costs and delays into highly efficient distribution systems.
- The VoiceCode is a 4 digit 'digest' of the GTIN and Lot number that's calculated by running the GTIN and Lot number through an algorithm, called a CRC-16. This algorithm basically crunches the numbers and letters of the GTIN and Lot down to 4 numbers. Change any part of the GTIN or Lot and the VoiceCode changes. The VoiceCode is calculated when the label is generated, and printed on the label.
- The majority of large distribution centers use a voice-operated case picking system (often called voice pick), that uses a headset and voice recognition to guide operators which slot to pick cases from.
- With the VoiceCode, the operator now simply reads out 2 or 4 digits on the label when they pick cases at a slot, instead of scanning the label with a barcode scanner. The VoiceCode is clearly printed in large, contrasted letters - making it easy for an operator.
- The system can figure out which GTIN and Lot was picked in a slot based on the VoiceCode, and handles situations where cases with different GTINs or Lot Numbers in the same slot have the same VoiceCode.
- The system works because everyone uses the same hash algorithm.
The good news for the industry is that VoiceCode is completely free. After we came up with the idea back in 2009, we decided to give the method away to help the industry tackle the problem of Milestone 7. Major retailers have credited the VoiceCode with making outbound scanning achievable. We published some sample source code you can use to generate VoiceCodes yourself. Because the VoiceCode is now part of the PTI standard, the PTI refers to it in a generic way: the PTI voice pick code.
If you want the technical details and all the math behind how and why VoiceCode works, you can download our whitepaper. One of the big voice picking software companies, Vocollect, also wrote a white paper on VoiceCode - you can get that here too.
|Sample label, showing the VoiceCode in the bottom right hand corne
HarvestMark Kicks Off Consumer Campaign
Last spring we partnered with a large national grocery retailer to understand the impact of HarvestMark traceability on shopper behavior. Focus groups, shop-alongs, and a large qualitative study concluded that shoppers are much more likely to purchase products offering HarvestMark traceability.
With over 2 billion items of produce with HarvestMark codes in the marketplace, the single best source of awareness is the package itself with visible call-to-actions like "see when and where I was grown" or "trace me back to the farm." To complement our customers' efforts and raise awareness of HarvestMark, our marketing team partnered with a national brand customer to raise awareness in a single market, Portland, Oregon.
Our campaign in Portland confirmed the research findings. When our customer added HarvestMark traceability to their products with a strong on-pack callout, and marketed in-store, sales grew significantly. In addition, the trace rate tripled vs. our national average, and we received over 2 million press impressions for HarvestMark and our customers' brands. Shoppers really do care about being able to follow their food back to the farm and value the peace of mind it creates.