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Bar-code labeling system improves peanut inventory management

March 30, 2003
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New bar code labeling system allows plant processors to quickly identify, receive and inventory peanuts as they arrive at their plant.

A committee of various interests from the U.S. peanut industry have asked a Georgia peanut crop inspector to pilot a bar code labeling approach designed to not only serve the needs of the state and federal governments, but also the food manufacturing industry. The codes allow peanut processors to quickly identify, receive and inventory peanuts as they arrive at their plants.

In fact, processors helped to initiate the project. In need of a better tracking system to manage their peanut inventory through the entire supply chain, they turned to the American Peanut Shellers Association (APSA) and the American Peanut Council (APC) to look at the problem and help develop solutions. APSA and APC assembled a committee, co-chaired by Birdsong Peanut Company and the Golden Peanut Company. Since Georgia is the nation's largest peanut producer, Georgia Federal State Shipping Point Inspection Service, a private non-profit organization charged with inspecting and certifying Georgia's peanut crop, was also a key member of the committee.

The new system, designed by Stratix Corporation of Atlanta, Ga., integrates Label Matrix bar code labeling software from StrandWare Inc. and four Zebra bar code printers powered by a dedicated personal computer that prints bar coded tags on self-adhesive labels and perforated card stock. An IBM AS400 mainframe assigns lot numbers and handles billing.

"This is the first time a USDA-graded raw agricultural product has moved through this kind of inventory system," commented Howard Valentine, director of research and technology for the American Peanut Council. "There's a little more involved with more quality parameters since peanuts are directly edible products."

As a peanut inspector, Georgia Federal State typically deploys inspectors to shelling plants to monitor quality and oversee the labeling of peanuts. Georgia Federal State prints the tags on a heavy colored paper stock, which are then attached to burlap bags, large "tote" sacks and seal boxes. Georgia Federal State uses an offset printing press to produce labels in large batches for each shelling plant. A typical printing order is 40 lots of 415 tags (over 16,000 tags). Tags are required for burlap bags, nylon mesh tote sacks and boxes that hold 2270 lbs.

With the new pilot system, Georgia Federal State continues to produce the labels in batches in response to order requests from shellers, but now each label is unique with specific information that enables processors to trace a product history back to the source and to more easily integrate product handling with their internal systems. In addition to the state and crop year, each 4" x 9" color-coded bar code label now includes a shelling company identifier provided by the Uniform Code Council (UCC), an item number describing the U.S. Grade, the APSA Grade, kind of container, the gross and net weight and a sequential serial number that resets with each new lot. A second "license plate" bar code on each label has the UCC and a non-resetting sequential number that ties it back to the first bar code.

"This is the first change that we've made to the process since we began using the offset printing more than 35 years ago," said Allen Houston, Georgia Federal State printing supervisor. "We knew printing but we needed to become educated concerning bar codes. Now we see the value because the bar coded tags provide much more information."

The installation had its challenges. One of the peculiarities of the way that peanuts are packaged is that the tote sacks and boxes, require duplicate labels. The first label is sewn to the outside of the sack or applied to the side of the box. A second, duplicate label, is affixed to the drawstring or strapping to ensure that the container is not opened and the contents are secure. The labeling software was set up to print sequential labels. It had to be configured to print duplicates of the labels used with the tote sacks and boxes but not for the other labels for use on the burlap bags.

Stratix, a Strandware Premier Partner, worked to implement the application along with the software vendor, Strandware by working with Georgia Federal State. The duplicate printing capability is now standard in all StrandWare products. Once configured, the new system was able to meet all of the requirements set by the committee.

According to Valentine, the APSA and APC hope that the bar code system will be adopted by the other peanut producing states.

Strandware Inc., 1529 Continental Drive, Eau Claire, WI 54701. 800-552-2331.

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