JBT’s FLEX-ID Labeling System is a high-speed, innovative solution for fruit and vegetable producers that can boost efficiency and improve traceability. With pressure on producers to trim costs while at the same time tackling the threat of food-related illnesses, the system is not only a highly-efficient labeling option, but also a means of tracking down problematic shipments.
JBT Product Development Engineer Jonathan Stokes, who was involved in the development of the system, explains that FLEX-ID helps obtain variable and trackable data on an individual piece of fruit. It is also able to reach the labeling speeds that customers are looking to achieve.
Instead of a typical speed of 600-700 pieces of fruit – or cups – per minute, FLEX-ID can label 1,000 pieces of fruit per minute, which Stokes describes as being at the “really high end” of what labeling systems are able to reach.
However, FLEX-ID’s ability to deliver a flexible, user-friendly labeling system is the key selling point for the technology. Enabling customers to create their own label layout, FLEX-ID helps keep track of where individual produce originated from by adding in a lot code, as well as standard data such as the Price Look-Up (PLU) code and quantity.
“Our system keeps track of the lots,” Stokes explains. “Let’s say it’s December 14 and you are running lemons, and four months later, someone gets sick. They can track down the lemon which made the person sick to the batch and a particular time, and that’s what gets recalled.”
With an estimated 48 million people taking sick and 3,000 deaths each year in the US due to foodborne illnesses, Stokes emphasizes there is clear need for effective tracking and isolation of any potentially contaminated products.
FLEX-ID also allows customers to make significant time-saving and logistical savings by eliminating the need for manual replacement of labels. “Say I’m running large lemons which have their own PLU number, and then halfway through the day I switch to running small lemons with a different PLU number,” says Stokes. “Typically what happens is you have to have someone walk out to the machine, pull off those labels, grab a new cassette with the new labels, drop it on the machine, and make sure it’s all good, which all takes time.”
“These labels are preprinted, so they don’t have any tracking information. With the FLEX-ID system, you go to your computer, change to running small lemons, add in the PLU code and the lot number and it ends the previous lot, keeping track of when that lot stopped, records the new lot and sends the new label.
“From a logistics point of view, this also saves on having to stock rolls of 40 or 50 different labels.”
JBT will highlight FLEX-ID, alongside other solutions for the fresh produce sector, at Fruit Logistica 2019 from February 6-8 in Hall 3.1, Stand D-03