When a single-SKU product is prepped, boxed, and palletized, it could have all kinds of adventures ahead of it. It might only be travelling a few miles down the road, it might go on a voyage to another continent, or it may have to wait around a while to find out.
Whichever direction life takes it in, the more trackable it is the better the experience will be for producers, carriers, and the consumers.
Take broccoli for example. One broccoli flower head may look much the same as another. But as any broccoli farmer will tell you, they are all unique. This isn’t sentimental — a broccoli flower head that is two days older than another will likely appear to be less fresh, so you need to know who’s who.
Improving efficiency with a barcode tracking system
Barcoding at point of palletization ensures that those broccolis will be traceable through the entirety of their journey. Because age is so critical, anyone in the supply chain will know who produced them, how old they are, where they came from, and where they are going.
Reducing shrink with automated storage
Automated storage helps ensure our pallet of broccoli is always where it needs to be. It minimizes damage (which keeps products fresh), reduces shrink, and keeps the product accessible for when it is needed. If a pallet of broccoli is misplaced (typically from manual error), it could well sit until it’s inedible and unsellable — the only journey it’s taking then is to the local landfill. Automation helps to reduce the likelihood of that happening and quickly resolve it if it does.
Similarly, the efficiency of manually handling pallets tends to depend on the operator. People don’t perform tasks in the exact same way, which means time can be wasted and outcomes are less predictable. The more automation, the less rotten outcomes.
Getting from pallets to shelves on time
Our pallet of broccoli, thanks to its original barcode, is now on its way downstream to be stored on a shelf, and this is the critical moment for distributors. Retailers are quick to punish on an enterprise level, so if one DC makes an error in one location, all locations will likely suffer. The best way to ensure holistic consistency is with a single system that maintains accuracy across the whole enterprise.
Pallets might be shipped to a wholesaler warehouse, retailer warehouse, or potentially directly to a store, but whoever the recipient is they will want to know where their product is and how long till it gets there. And when you take into account mixing centers and the fact that the number of single SKUs is on the rise, things can get complicated fast.
The barcode on the pallet — and the automation and software that has used it throughout the process — ensures our pallet of broccoli will finish its journey exactly where and when it is supposed to be. So will all the other pallets. Broccoli lovers get the products they want fresh and tasty, and producer shrink is well and truly shrunk.