Earlier this week, we noted that if we really want to improve food quality and quell public health scares, we – as technology specialists and food industry experts – need to work towards broader implementation of mobile technologies that modernize food inspection processes and improve the accuracy and timeliness of data collection. Simply put, we need a better way to monitor food production and track the movement and handling of goods from farm to table – and mobility solutions such as those used by the largest protein producer in Mexico (Sukarne de Mexico) and the largest producer of pasture-raised eggs in the U.S. ( Vital Farms) are good models to follow.
Of course, not all mobile devices would be well-suited for such critical agriculture applications. Sukarne’s cattle ranches are mostly located in the extremely dusty and hot climate of Central Mexico, while Vital Farms’ pasture-raised eggs are sourced from independent organic farms that span from Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Illinois in the (often freezing) Midwest to heat-laden Texas, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia in the South. That means that any mobile device frequently used in these outdoor conditions to conduct “facility” inspections must be intrinsically dustproof, waterproof, shock and vibration-proof and tolerant of extreme temperatures. They must also be resistant to the effects of humidity, drops and fluid contaminants and, of course, easily readable under direct sunlight.
Therefore, simply adding a “rugged” case to a non-rugged device (perhaps like the one you’re reading this on right now) will never be an option for food producers who are striving for measurable process improvements – not even food and beverage manufacturers with indoor production facilities. There are just as many hazards that affect the performance of mobile devices inside your four walls as there are outside in the fields or feed stations – a fact that Sukarne also understands. That is why the meat producer also used the Xplore rugged tablets to create a sophisticated inventory control system versus settling for another data collection and workflow management option. Their product needs to move quickly to stay fresh, and the rugged tablets enable them to coordinate the movement of the meat along the factory line, in and out of refrigerated areas, and onto the trucks for distribution with precision timing. Workers also use the Android tablets to conduct multiple, real-time quality control inspections along the way.
The lesson from these two leading food producers? Quality control processes are easier to sustain when workers, production supervisors and inspectors have a quality engineered mobile device in their hand at all times. In fact, the only way to truly collect and aggregate accurate data sets in real-time, comprehensively manage disparate operations, and automate quality compliance reporting is via the use of mobile technology – especially as regulations become more stringent. That is why every food supplier needs to make a concerted effort to transition to a mobile computer-based data collection and management system in the next several months. These field-ready technology systems are the most effective and (in my opinion, cost-efficient) way to establish continuity in “paper trials” and achieve complete oversight of production operations to, in turn, prevent contaminated food from ever making it to market in the first place.
Click here to learn more about the process Vital Farms used to evaluate its mobility options and how it ultimately chose a quality solution capable of meeting the high standards of its USDA-certified organic operations.