Exploring the Power of Traceability at the Distribution Solutions Conference
The Distribution Solutions Conference (DSC) conference took place this week, an annual conference produced by the International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA). IFDA is an authoritative voice for food distributors, an essential tenet of the food industry: “With a combined annual sales volume of over $300 billion, foodservice distributors are vital drivers of the American economy. IFDA Member Companies play a critical role in the foodservice industry supply chain, delivering food and other products to more than one million professional kitchens every day.”
The annual IFDA DSC conference brings together leaders in the foodservice distribution space to discuss pressing topics and new innovations. Food distributors have been severely impacted by the disruptions attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, and this year DSC speakers spoke about adaptation, resilience and next-gen solutions. FoodLogiQ was proud to participate in this year's conference, presenting on the important role distributors play in tech-enabled traceability, and sharing the ways these companies can leverage technology to gain a competitive advantage.
The session, Smart Traceability + Last Mile Delivery = Customer Safety & Competitive Advantage, was presented by ExtenData Solutions’ Director of Business Development John McCabe, Quality Custom Distribution’s Sr. Information Technology Specialist Tami Niccum and FoodLogiQ’s Vice President of Supply Chain Strategy and Insights Julie McGill. John McCabe began the session pointing to how mobile solutions can enable more seamless interactions in last mile delivery, including contactless delivery. Such technologies also enable the capture of essential data elements required for traceability such as customer information, GTINs, quantities delivered, temperature at delivery, and more. Capturing data has become essential in the face of changing COVID-19 safety measures, customers preferences and FDA regulations.
Julie McGill spoke more in depth on the forthcoming changes to traceability regulation, and the importance of technologies for achieving efficiency in the distribution sector. The FDA’s recent proposed traceability rule will, in particular, impact food distributors recordkeeping practices. McGill noted, “This proposed rule, which is the Food Safety Modernization Act, or FSMA 204, lays the foundation for end-to-end traceability. And this regulation will affect many in the food system, as these recordkeeping requirements focus on tracking food at every step in the supply chain.” To prepare for such requirements, distributors will need to be ready to engage with a digital food system, and be able to manage supply chain partnerships with traceability technology.
Tami Niccum underscored the value of implementing supply chain management technology when working with clients. Tami had three tips for distributors looking at traceability initiatives:
Collect and understand your customer’s requirements: learn what they are looking to get out of traceability technology.
Identify data points and process flows: how will you capture the data your clients are requiring and flow that through the system?
Measure your performance against KPIs: make sure you are meeting requirements and doing so efficiently for your team.
Niccum indicated that more of QCD’s customers are asking for traceability data and using technologies like FoodLogiQ and ExtenData, the company is able to deliver. Scanning at the point of delivery, and being able to share that data, is a differentiator and competitive advantage that has put QCD at the cutting-edge. Capturing data digitally and being able to view it has also opened the door for new business insights; by comparing data from ExdenData in FoodLogiQ, the QCD team is able to identify discrepancies in what is happening in their supply chain, versus information they receive from suppliers. “Being able to view the data is very powerful,” said Niccum.