PBJ anyone?

Though I am not a big fan of the PBJ, I invariably end up with a bite or two w/o really giving it a second thought – after all per the Wikipedia entry on PBJ, “A 2002 survey showed the average American will have eaten 1,500 of the sandwiches before graduating from high school”… so nothing to really worry about, right?

Wrong! Everything that’s remotely related to the beloved peanut butter has all but changed since last week.The 1920’s icon today now runs the risk of undergoing a major identity change into PBS [not to be confused with the venerable TV channel] in my book given the recent spate of Salmonella contamination [Read all about the Peanut Butter Recalls and the associated fall out at http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/01/23/peanut.probe.salmonella/index.html]

The reality really hit home a few days ago as I was grocery shopping at the local Trader Joe’s  and grabbed this flier off the checkout register:

[Please note: this is not a ding on TJ’s at all – I love this place and what they stand for and the proactive efforts they undertake for customer safety, but rather a commentary via an example on how close to home this issue was for me]



If this is not scary enough, here’s more research that we did to quantify the modern-day bane of product recalls by looking at 2 other areas of high consumer impact – recalls of medical devices and toys. [Read more at http://www.s3edge.com/solutions_product_recall.php]

The slides below show what we found with additional information on current challenges plaguing the recalls area as a whole and the overall impact to the organizations in the value chain:


On further examination, an interesting (and very relevant) observation was the fact that existing Supply Chain Management (SCM) Systems today are really not built to ‘observe’ or monitor for existence and movement of these recalled products in real-time (and hence locate + remove closer to source), which unfortunately results in tainted products reaching end-user despite these recall notices being issued. Some of the issues include:

  • Electronic record and actual inventory / location are typically out of sync within 4 walls [The ‘Actual’ vs. ‘Expected’ conundrum]
  • Lack of visibility into systems of upstream participants outside of 4 walls (disparate, distributed), Multiple parties across firewalls need to be involved to execute a successful recall process in a non-disruptive manner, and barcodes are typically not a scalable solution for proactive or on-demand recall.
  • No measurable way to track Recall execution results i.e. the ability to answer the question: “Was the recall a success?” with measurable results

All of this makes one wonder, “Is Product Recall a poster child of RFID 2.0”? – If we enabled some amount of visibility at source (i.e. if some level of products were tagged) could we leverage this information to shine a torch on the existence and movement of tainted goods in the supply chain, and hence put in safeguards early on to search, locate and prevent these contaminated goods from reaching us in the first place?

We’ll take a look at all of the above and more and showcase a RTVS enabled Product Recall prototype with a live demo to boot (stay tuned while I figure out the best way to upload clips!) – all of this and much much more coming up in subsequent posts.

But first, I’d love to get your thoughts on the importance of solving this issue and if you have additional ideas / thoughts to tackle this incredibly relevant / valuable problem – let us know if this is interesting / relevant to your businesses, and as always we look forward to hearing from you!





Skype Anush @ AllThingsRTVS


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