Inventory Tracking for Meat Packing

Facing complex orders and traceability issues, one leading meat packer turns to a warehouse management system

Waukesha, WI  December 5, 2002  Hatfield Quality Meats has built its reputation for "quality and integrity" by delivering the best fresh and manufactured quality pork products since 1895. So when Dave Woelkers, Hatfield's vice president of logistics, says the industry is "not what it used to be," he has a pretty good perspective to call upon.

"Orders are much more complex now," explains Woelkers. "Each customer has different requirements for expiration date handling. We need to know the code dates, meaning the 'sell by' date on the products, for all items in the shipment. This puts tremendous pressure on inventory accuracy and traceability."

In addition, the recent high profile recalls in the meat industry have led to greater public awareness of potential health issues, Woelkers says. "We are taking a leadership role with product traceability all the way out to the customers to demonstrate that our reputation for quality is well earned," he says. "Inventory visibility is extremely important because of the limited shelf life of our products. In this business, you either sell the products by the expiration date or you throw them away."

Then there is the sheer complexity of manufacturing and distributing more than 1,200 fresh and manufactured pork products from Maine to Miami, as well as in several international markets.

To better address these challenging inventory management issues, Hatfield  which is based in Hatfield, Pa.  decided to implement an advanced supply chain execution solution. They visited several companies currently using warehouse management systems and hired outside consultant ROME to help them develop a weighted request for quote with which to evaluate potential suppliers. Through this process they narrowed the field to RedPrairie Corp. and another prominent supplier. RedPrairie (formerly McHugh Software International) wound up winning the bid.

RedPrairie already had experience working with such meat-industry companies as Foster Farms, National Beef and Tyson Foods, as well as such major food-industry players as Con Agra, Nestle and Kraft. That resume was critical in Hatfield's decision to go with RedPrairie, according to Dale Nice, Hatfield's manager of warehousing. "We had a number of issues unique to the meat packing industry that were critical to our success," he explains. "We didn't want to be a beta site for someone's entry to this industry. RedPrairie had a lot of experience working with food and meat packing customers. They understood our environment, terminology and requirements."

Hatfield and RedPrairie are implementing the provider's DLx Warehouse WMS at Hatfield's main production facility in Hatfield. This will be followed by the roll out of RedPrairie's visibility, extended distribution, quality assurance and product recall capabilities at Hatfield's two other production facilities in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. Hatfield may roll these systems out to key third party logistics providers (3PLs) and co-packers, as well. The goal is to drive information flow across the company's entire supply network to increase inventory accuracy and distribution efficiency to support their growth plans.

"Hatfield has a dynamic five-year plan for growth that emphasizes the need for greater information flow to increase efficiency and accuracy," says Nice. "With the food industry's focus on safety, information is as important as product for our growth plans to succeed. We need to know which customers received what products when, right down to the case level. RedPrairie's systems are the foundation on which we'll build the support for these information requirements."

But accuracy and efficiency are not the only reasons why improved information flow will drive growth at Hatfield. Noted Woelkers: "Excelling in customer service is our key competitive edge. We have a heritage of quality products and service. Our goal is to comply with all of our customers' specifications and be able to react quickly when [a] customer demands change. The new system will be a key part of our ability to accomplish this."

John Jazwiec, RedPrairie's company results leader, says: "The meat packing industry has come under intense public scrutiny recently due to several high profile product recalls. But the fact is that this industry has always had unique distribution and information flow requirements that require specialized technology support. We have been helping meat packing and other food companies to address these daunting challenges for years."

Adds Susan Rider, RedPrairie sales results leader: "What has changed is the ability of technology to facilitate greater sharing of information across the supply network. With our new applications for extending distribution support out to suppliers, 3PLs and remote product facilities, as well as our visibility and command and control tools, we are helping customers like Hatfield meet the expanding information capture, dissemination and response requirements of the Internet-connected world."