Track and Trace Solutions
Serialized Datamatrix encodings according to international standards (e.g. GS1) on sales packages and logistics units will in future help to reliably cover the traceability of the product, batch and sales unit across all logistics levels in (agricultural) chemicals. The article uses a concrete case study to describe how operators can implement consistent tracking and tracing in accordance with the Cristal guideline.
A successful harvest does not only require fertilizers: IPT Pergande, founded in 2008, operates numerous production plants at the Weissandt-Gölzau site for the manufacture of liquid formulations and fluid bed granulates as well as plants for filling and packaging. It also has its own laboratory for quality monitoring and product quality approval. As a contract manufacturer for well-known companies, the service provider manufactures a wide range of products in the fields of crop protection and detergent precursors. The customer-related services begin in the laboratory and pilot plant and extend to the execution of complete large-scale productions on the company's own plants.
Adjustments at all levels
In addition to quality monitoring during production (certified to ISO 9001), the contract manufacturer is also preparing to enable customers to track and trace the manufactured products in accordance with the Cristal guidelines of the ECPA. This provides for serialised Datamatrix codes in accordance with international standards (e.g. GS1) on sales packages and logistics units, which should contribute to reliably covering the traceability of the product, the batch and the sales unit across all logistics levels. In order to implement this, the operator must integrate Track & Trace functionalities into its production lines. The extension of the IT infrastructure is also necessary in order to take over the handling of the information and its control/allocation to the individual plants with suitable software. Hardware and software components should have a modular structure so that they can be retrofitted at any time to meet new requirements.
The service provider chose B+B Automations- und Steuerungstechnik in Beerfelden as partner for the realization of this project. Following initial negotiations in May 2016, the contract was awarded in January and the project partners agreed to conclude it in December 2017. The new hardware components are distributed over several buildings of the company and include, among other things:
Two fully automatic labelling systems to apply labels on both sides or all around and on the top of containers. Integrated are thermal transfer printers and high-performance camera systems for checking the printed data. The supplier is retrofitting a further existing labelling system. Two fully automatic labelling systems to apply a total of three labels to precipitated cartons. Here, too, thermal transfer printers are integrated for applying the variable data. The supplier is retrofitting a further existing labelling system with technical equipment.container scales and three carton scales for checking the filling weights.a multi-pack aggregation for three product feeds, whose (identical or different) products the operator converges in one outer carton. The system includes three camera sensors for data acquisition, scanner and control. Five mobile aggregation workstations for pallets, each equipped with thermal transfer desktop printers and 2D hand-held scanners. Here the operator records the data matrix codes of the cartons during the manual palletising process with a stationary 2D code scanner. Once the stored target quantity has been reached, the system automatically generates an SSCC pallet label. Once the label has been applied, an employee records it using a handheld scanner. A rewinding system for printing labels with variable serialization data from roll to roll. The system is equipped with three drives, web edge control, thermal transfer printer and high performance camera to control the printed data.
Modular software approach
The core for controlling all processes is the provider's software architecture, which consists of four different modules. The first module is the site server, which acts as the central database for the entire software modules: It manages the database data and user authorisations and enables data exchange with the production lines and external systems. It is also responsible for license management of the software modules (production/workstation PCs) and for data and message exchange with various external repository databases (e.g. EU hub) on an XML basis. The second module is the Site Manager, the central administration software for the server database. Via its user interface, authorized users (e.g. within a network) can manage all FertigungsauftrÃ¤ge The Site Manager also feeds the production data to the various production lines. At the end of the batch, the respective line automatically reports the collected data "including the lists of serial numbers" back to the manager.
Whether primary, secondary or tertiary
The aggregation module is used to print, check and record the aggregation and serial numbers of all primary, Secondary and tertiary labels. For this purpose, the module accesses the order, batch and article data contained in the database of the site server, which is managed by the site manager software. The "LabelsPlatform" (LP4) labeling software is used as the printing engine. The Aggregation Label Module uses the LP4 print libraries and printer connection for label printing. Using the LP4 label editor, the system generates the layout templates (*.LP4 files) and stores them in a central label directory.
Cristal in detail:
Cristal (Communication Reliable Information and Standards to Agriculture and Logistics) is an initiative of the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA). As the European Crop Protection Association, ECPA represents numerous companies such as BASF, Bayer Cropscience, Dow Agrosciences, Dupont, Monsanto, Syngenta, etc. and various national industry associations. Cristal enables clear documentation of the product flow: Track & Trace from production through the complete distribution channel to the end consumer. This transparency along the supply chain creates the basis for trading in agrochemical products on the Internet. The system relies on standardized coding standards. These are based on the global standards of GS1, which are also used for FMD in the pharmaceutical sector and are used worldwide. Machine-readable codes (e.g. Datamatrix codes) are applied to product packaging and logistics units. With these it is possible to cover all levels of traceability of the product, batch and sales unit. In addition, the serialization of products and aggregated packaging makes it possible to identify counterfeit products.
(Still) only one recommendation: Cristal is so far only a recommendation of the association to its members and the entire European plant protection industry. There are no binding regulations and dates for the use of Cristal yet. However, the declared aim is to achieve legal standards at European and global level. Some of the industry leaders mentioned have now started to implement them and have their suppliers (contract manufacturers and packers) install the appropriate hardware. This also includes the expansion of the operational IT infrastructure in order to use suitable software to handle the information and control/allocate it to the individual systems.