IBM working with Norwegian food supplier to improve traceability

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 12th August 2008

IBM has signed an agreement with Matiq, the information technology subsidiary of Nortura, Norway’s largest food supplier, to use radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to track and trace poultry and meat products from the farm, through the supply chain, to supermarket shelves.

IBM and Matiq are developing the first food tracking solution of its kind in the Nordics, which will help ensure that meat and poultry products are kept in optimal condition throughout the supply chain.

The food manufacturing industry is facing some of the most challenging market conditions in its history. Consumer pressure, government regulations, and industry requirements for quality and traceability mean that producers are under pressure to provide more detail on products. With foods being sourced across international borders, consumers are demanding to know more about the products they buy and the conditions they were grown and kept in as they travelled from farm to dinner table.

IBM and Matiq will develop and manage the technology infrastructure needed to enable track and trace solutions for the Norwegian food market. Product packaging will be tagged with RFID chips to help ensure that products are kept in optimal conditions throughout the supply chain. Using this solution, Norwegian suppliers and supermarkets can monitor and analyze their entire value chain, increasing efficiency and reducing costs.

For retailers, the information provided by this solution will make it easier to keep track of stock and avoid “out of stock” situations. It will also help manufacturers and supermarkets to improve the responsiveness of the supply chain to quickly adapt to changing consumer buying patterns.

“IBM was one of the key players involved in creating the EPCIS standards upon which the success of this project relies,” said Are Bergquist, CEO of Matiq. “We are therefore confident that IBM has the right technology and expertise for this project. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of food quality, safety, origin and traceability. This creates greater pressure on manufacturers to keep track of every component in the manufacturing process, in order to ensure that their products are safe for the consumer. IBM and Matiq are developing solutions that will help ensure food safety on the consumer’s terms.”

At the core of the system will be IBM’s WebSphere RFID Information Center, software for enterprises seeking to share product movement information with trading partners which are also using EPCIS compliant solutions.

“The integration of infrastructure and food tracing solutions is complex and challenging,” commented Morten Thorkildsen, country general manager for IBM Norway. “IBM is helping market leaders like Matiq remain at the forefront of the retail industry by employing RFID in their entire IT infrastructure, which enables new ways of doing business and at the same time delights customers. This agreement is proof of how IBM’s RFID solutions improve efficiencies for our clients while building customer loyalty in the store.”

The issue of traceability has become a major talking point globally in the wake of the salmonella scare in the US, which led to over a thousand people falling ill and a long, arduous search for the source of the outbreak.