Solving the traceability piece is key to RedLine’s success
Tracing fresh produce from the field or the packing plant through the entire supply chain with the simple scanning of a barcode saves money and time, and just as importantly, greatly reduces the risk of mis-shipments.
That’s the value proposition RedLine Solutions offers to the supply side customers that make up the core of its business. The company was founded in California’s Silicon Valley, just a short drive from the Salinas Valley, in 1997 by CEO Todd Baggett, who entered the IT world as a salesman of barcode hardware. His former company decided to spin off that segment, which led Baggett to launch his company as a young entrepreneur. He continued selling the equipment in several different industries before his proximity to production agriculture saw that sector become the company’s main focus.
Baggett recalled that early in its development the company developed a wireless system that integrated with Famous Software, which was being widely used to automate accounting practices in the produce space. Since then, it has been one innovation after the other to essentially automate the process of tracking produce from the field or the packingshed throughout the company’s system and into the supply chain.
Baggett explained that whether the produce is field-packed or arrives at the packingshed in a bin, RedLine has hardware and software to track that product as it moves through the system. In either case, a printer generates a barcode label, which can be slapped on a bin, carton or pallet in a matter of seconds. That barcode is read as it moves through the system to capture information and follows the product along its journey through receiving, packing, storage and shipping.
For example, if it’s a field-packed product, once it arrives at the warehouse the pallet ID is scanned and married with the location ID barcode identifying where the product is in the warehouse. The pallet is verified against the sales order before it is staged for shipment. This virtually eliminates any mis-shipments whether that product is sold and shipped to a buyer across the country or across town.
The same barcode system is used if the product, such as apples, arrives at the packingshed in a bin and stored in CA rooms before being packed in individual cartons. Again, scanning of the barcode as the product moves through the system continually identifies where it is and integrates that information with the product’s origin.
Currently much of the point-of-origin information is kept in the shipper’s database, but it is easily accessible when needed for any reason such as a product recall.
Over the years, RedLine innovations have included rugged mobile devices and software solutions in compliance with the Produce Traceability Initiative.
“In 2019, we introduced the first version of MyProduce for PTI labeling from the cloud,” said Baggett. “In 2021, we introduced MyProduce Professional, which added receiving, inventory, packing and shipping from the cloud using a PC or tablet. In 2022, we added mobile device support to MyProduce Professional allowing users to use rugged mobile devices to move, stage, and ship products within their facilities.”
Baggett said the move to a cloud-based system and subscription pricing has given accessibility to this sophisticated level of traceability and inventory management to mid-sized companies, which is RedLine’s sweet spot. He noted that the larger produce companies typically have robust IT departments and budgets that can handle the purchase of hardware and software to support this type of electronic tracking. Smaller companies have the same need but not the same capital expenditure appetite.
“My rule of thumb is that if a company is loading 20 trucks a day, the RedLine systems will save them time and money,” he said. “There is definitely an ROI at that level.”
He further opined that anyone with five or more employees working in the warehouse handling inventory and loading trucks will see a significant labor savings. The company’s website features testimonials from several customer including a major apple packer-shipper who declared that purchasing the RedLine Solutions program was the “best money we’ve ever spent.” He revealed the warehouse worker can scan a truck from the field with 64 bins in as little as two minutes. During the apple harvest, trucks are coming into the shed at a frantic pace, and this company executive said, “It’s critical to get the trucks unloaded quickly.”
Baggett revealed that previously it would take a warehouse worker 20 minutes to log in those bins. “Conservatively that’s over a 75 percent productivity gain,” he said.
The packing plants general manager added in the testimonial that accuracy and efficiency are also part of the value proposition because once the bin is scanned all the information is in the system from sales to accounting and does not have to be entered again.
Baggett expects that RedLine’s business will pick up significantly over the next few years as the deadline for produce traceability, mandated by the Food Safety Modernization Act, approaches in 2026. Though the FSMA regulation (FSMA Sec 204) does not apply to all products, retailers have indicated that they are expecting suppliers of all fresh produce items to be able to provide this level of traceability before the regulation kicks in.
While there is a cost associated with adding such a system, Baggett said it also offers much cost savings. Once produce traceability from the field is the law of the land, he said there will no longer have to be blanket recalls like those that have devastated specific commodities over the past two decades, such as spinach in 2006 and more recently cantaloupes and Romaine.
Though there are other companies offering products that claim similar benefits, Baggett said his longevity in the industry and familiarity with produce supply chain sets his company apart.
“RedLine understands the produce industry and has over 100 installations in North America,” he said. “RedLine Solutions provides integrated software and hardware solutions that allow you to collect, validate, and manage your produce operations from receipt to shipment in real-time. We have been providing solutions to produce companies for 25 years; we know what works.”