August 2009: How to Avoid Synching Without Trace
The PTI recently published the Data Synchronization template here. This is the critical standardized schema for a packer/shipper to share their GTIN data with all of their buyers by the September 2009 deadline.
What is synchronization and what data do you need to synchronize?
To comply with PTI, the grower/shipper assigns a unique item reference number to each of their SKUs, appended to their GS1 Company Prefix. This is their GTIN. However, to convert the GTIN back into a product description, the downstream supply chain participants need to have a way to translate the GTINs of each grower/shipper. That's where synchronization comes in. According to the PTI, it's the responsibility of the upstream provider to provide their downstream customers with the list of those GTINs that they'll receive, well in advance.
There are some nuances in this requirement. A distributor who consolidates shipments from multiple suppliers, or a shipper who occasionally fills a short order with product from a third party, will have to pre-approve and synchronize all the GTINs they could potentially ship.
The Data Synchronization Template lays out in an Excel spreadsheet the 24 attributes of a GTIN. In addition to the descriptive fields of the product (commodity, variety , size, and country of origin) are the inner packaging style (e.g. 4lb bag, 16oz clamshells) and outer packaging style (e.g. Case, RPC) and characteristics (e.g. 40LB NET, dimensions, and TI-HI). The idea is that the shipper completes this Excel sheet, and emails it in Comma Delimited Format (.CSV) to their customers.
There's quite a lot of complexity in getting this right, too and some questions are still to be resolved by the PTI subcommittee. For example, many products have grade as an important attribute, but this is not included in the list. Second, the TI-HI is necessarily a nominal measurement for the case, as pallets are obviously frequently restacked or mixed as they pass through the supply chain, making the TI-HI no longer relevant. Third, without a standard naming convention for the commodity, it could be difficult to perform a trace-back of a particular product based on the name (e.g. what if someone enters "watermellon"?). We'll keep readers of Traceability Insider posted on answers to these and more questions.
If you have specific questions about the PTI - or anything related to produce traceability, feel free to contact us.
Consumers Want to see the Face Behind their Food
Ongoing food safety concerns combined with greater social awareness will continue to drive consumers' quest for more information about how and where their food was grown. PMA President Bryan Silbermann echoed this trend in July as he emphasized the importance of going back to basics beginning with "telling our story." "Locavorism, organics, sustainability, food safety and traceability ? these movements tell us that consumers want to know the face behind their food, the story behind their sustenance."
In this vein, HarvestMark recently commissioned a survey of over 450 consumers across the U.S. on their attitudes regarding produce safety and traceability. Results showed that seven in 10 stated that they would choose produce that is traceable over produce that is not, and close to half of consumers stating that they would be willing to pay more for produce that is traceable. This is a powerful message for the value of traceability and very consistent with results from a similar survey we commissioned in 2007.
Furthermore, more consumers are becoming aware of traceability with eight out of 10 stating that they would use a Web-based produce tracking system. We will be sharing additional insights from the survey in the September issue of the Traceability Insider, and will be giving away copies of the research at the United Fresh Public Policy Conference and PMA Fresh Summit (see sidebar for details).
When HarvestMark launched, we set out to provide growers an easy way to connect with consumers and share their stories. Today, three quarters of a billion produce items are traceable with HarvestMark Codes. Growers now have the opportunity to deliver even more information to build stronger connections with consumers with the new, richer HarvestMark response page, which launched this month. Click image to zoom in.