To meet consumers’ demand for fresh, safe fruits and vegetables, the safety standards in the fresh produce industry are quite high. The safety protocols and practices observed in the field, packing, storage, and transit are focused on protecting the fresh produce from contamination. 

However, these perishables sometimes still get contaminated. Lot tracking and traceability systems help growers and distributors in identifying the source of contamination.

It is helpful for compliance audits, tracing batches to their origins in the event of a recall, preventing counterfeiting, and optimizing inventory processes. A good ERP like Silo comes to mind when it comes to automated lot tracking. This software simplifies your lot tracking process.

Here are some of the best lot tracking practices you should be looking to implement to make your produce business run more efficiently.

  1. Use a barcode scanning system

Some wholesalers and distributors manually enter each produce’s quantity, size, and batch number on a ledger book or spreadsheet. However, this can be quite a handful, especially where large orders are concerned.

To reduce the stress associated with this manual method, you may want to gather information about the produce or package with a barcode scanning system. The scanner reads the barcode attached to each package and logs its ID, batch number, supplier name, and relevant information onto the system.

A barcode scanner may also be used for double-checking an order. By scanning the contents of an order, the distributor can ensure they are handling and delivering the right items.

This functionality can help you cut costs in person-hours, save time, reduce all human errors in recording, and speed up your order fulfillment processes.

  1. Implement the first in, first out strategy

First In, First Out (FIFO) is a popular strategy in inventory management. In simple terms, it means the first batch of a particular type of produce received from a supplier or vendor is shipped out first.

Implementing this strategy limits your fresh produce’s chances of spoiling.

For instance, if you have lots of lemons for wholesale, you can assign lot numbers to different batches in the order they came in.

  • Batch A: The order came on January 5, 2022
  • Batch B: The order came on January 15, 2022
  • Batch C: The order came on January 20, 2022.

By FIFO, if you get an order for lemons, you deliver Batch A first before considering Batch B and then Batch C in that order.

  1. Record lot expiration dates

Fresh produce and perishables have a short shelf life. Non-perishables like rice, beans, and cereal can be bagged and stored for several years without compromising quality. On the other hand, perishables like fruits and vegetables do not last as long. They’d get smelly and rotten in a week or two, even days.

If so, take care to enter the possible expiration date of each produce batch into your ERP inventory management system. If your lot reporting is automated via an ERP, you know exactly when they would be expiring.

You reduce the risk of recalls by closely monitoring the expiration dates of your stock. Food recalls can be pretty expensive and damaging to your brand. To put things in context, the average cost of a recall to a produce business is about $10 million in direct costs.

  1. Store produce according to the lot

It is good practice to store your fresh produce according to lot numbers. Produce with the same lot numbers may be stored in the same warehouse corner or store. This system of storage introduces ease into the sorting process. It also makes it easier to follow through with recall programs if you get a formal recall notice from the food regulatory bodies in your country.

For instance, if all goods that are part of a recall process are stored in the exact location, they can hardly be mixed up with the rest of the stock. Also, it’s easier to dispose of them as proposed in the recall notice. A former recall notice would usually contain details about how to dispose of produce pulled out of circulation.

  1. Train employees

Safety inspections and quality assurance are a big deal in the fresh produce industry. This is because these consumables have a significant influence on people’s health. In response to this, all stakeholders in the supply chain are expected to observe the proper protocols and processes in all their doing.

Lot tracking and traceability is one such necessary process. Employees should be properly trained on assigning labels to each fresh produce packaging and tracking their movement along the supply chain.

They should also be trained to use barcode scanners and trace the origin of each fresh produce package based on the lot numbers allotted to each batch.

  1. Automate lot tracking and traceability

Tracking your lot manually is a waste of productive time and a loss of person-hours. You are also at the mercy of your data entry staff, who may make errors in documenting lot numbers. Automating your lot tracking system with an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software makes it more compliant with global standards.