Delivering correct product information presents a number of significant challenges for the fresh produce sector such as high circulation speed, a wide variety of products and the large number of variations in product information.
Nevertheless, it is this very sector that has become aware of the importance of data quality.
As Kees de Kat says,
“We cannot afford to make any mistakes.”
He is CEO of Royal Fruitmasters, a co-op that processes and markets 200 million kg of Dutch fruit and in his previous role was responsible for buying and merchandising at retailer Super de Boer, so he knows his way around in the world of retail.
“Product information leads to maximum efficiency in the entire chain. Or to put it differently, incorrect information leads to unnecessary costs of failure. In addition, product information is of crucial importance for realizing maximum relevant transparency. In a digitalizing world, accurate information is needed for people to trust the product,” he said.
In the fresh produce industry, product information requires extra care. “We deliver a natural product, not a standard factory product. For the latter, product specifications are relatively easy to determine, but this is not the case with fresh produce. Nature decides the quality of a product and also the grower’s assessment plays an important role. Our challenge lies in turning these variables into relevant data.“
As De Kat indicated, exchange of product information is relevant for the entire chain. The importance for those links at the end of the chain is irrefutable.
“In retail, efficiency plays a crucial role. When there are 20.000 products within your product range, you have to think of clever ways to limit human error. Imagine a retailer and a brewer launching a discount campaign together. One tiny deviation in crate measurements could lead to the need for several extra trucks.”
In the fresh produce sector, product information plays an important part at the beginning of the chain. For instance, the developments in precision farming allow us to determine how many and which nutrients to use for each cauliflower. With visual techniques, fruit growers can determine which apples should be picked and which ones should continue to ripen. “When the impact of technology increases, so does the importance of data. Mind you, I am referring to relevant data: data that leads to increased efficiency or more value for all links in the chain.”
Last year’s forum
Not a Dutch affair
De Kat underlines the statement that data quality is just as important as product quality.
“Just look at the importance of information about nutritional value or allergies. We cannot afford to make any mistakes in that area.”
The international character of the fresh produce sector also plays a crucial part. More than eighty per cent of all Dutch fresh produce is used for export.
“Standardisation regarding product information is important, not just on a Dutch level. Worldwide standards are imperative for our sector. Therefore, the Dutch fresh produce sector has created its own platform (Frug I Com) to safeguard international standards and they work in close collaboration with GS1 Nederland. Standardisation is not a Dutch affair any more but as a nation we can still take on a leading role”.
Take further steps
As Frug I Com Board Member and member of GS1 Nederland’s Business Council foodstuffs, Kees de Kat has been closely involved with the development of standards in the fresh produce sector.
“Of course, at Fruitmasters, we try to connect to the available standards as much as possible. We are also working on the implementation of a new ERP-system, which we can use to take further steps regarding data quality. For instance, the workflow can be restructured, allowing for an automatic request to be sent to one department to check product details, right after they are entered in another department.”
At Fruitmasters, data management falls under the responsibility of supply chain management. “After I started working at Fruitmasters in 2011, I immediately set up a department for supply chain management. This discipline not only works together with other departments in an integrated way, but also carries out the task to encourage cooperation within the supply chain. The exchange of product information is part of this.”
De Kat is a strong proponent of DatakwaliTijd 2.0, the program launched by GS1 to improve data quality.
“Having the right product information is very important. Even two per cent incorrect information means one hundred per cent wrong. Naturally, data quality remains high on the agenda at Fruitmasters. It makes no difference whether it is data from one of our own brands, such as the Kanzi apple or the Migo pear, or one of the products made under private label by Fruitmasters: data should always be correct. “Of course, some customers are more demanding than others, but we always try to live up to the highest standards.”
Seize the opportunities!
Kees de Kat:
“It is our challenge as an industry to translate future developments into concrete actions for modern-day practice. Now is a good time to start working on that. There are plenty of opportunities in this area. Seize them!”.
You can start by visiting the special GS1 Nederland data quality track at the 3rd EU Fresh Info Forum in Rotterdam. Register at www.eufreshinfoforum.com.
The 3rd EU FRESH INFO Forum & Roundtable takes place November 29-30 aboard SS Rotterdam in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.