IBM Tracking System for Pork Enhances Safety for Consumers

A new tracking system has been developed by IBM and Shandong Commercial Group Co. Ltd that will allow pork manufacturers to track food products across the supply chain, from farms up to retailers.

When fully deployed in 2013, the tracking system will monitor and trace the movement of meat across all phases of the supply chain, including farms, processing plants, trucks and supermarkets. The tracking system brings an unprecedented level of accountability and efficiency to every stage of the pork production process.

In the case of pork production, the food is monitored by first tagging pigs with bar codes and using cameras to record their movement. Shipping trucks have been installed with temperature and humidity sensors, along with global positioning (location), to ensure the meat arrives to retailers under safe conditions.

The tracking system is aimed at improving food safety and public confidence in pork after a series of high profile scandals involving illegal feed additives rocked the industry. If a consumer becomes sick after consuming tainted food, the tracking system can better pinpoint which products should be removed, while keeping the safe products in stock.

In a fast changing world like China, there are new risks in food production, and “this tracking system helps give consumers in the Shandong Province confidence in the pork products they serve to their families” said Wang Guo Li, director, National Agricultural Research Centre for Modern Logistics Engineering, according to PigNews.com.

The tracking system is currently being used by six selected slaughter houses, six warehouses and about 100 Inzone hypermarkets and supermarkets across the Shandong province,  a powerhouse producer of pork and agriculture in the country.

How The Tracking System Works

Using IBM WebSphere software running on IBM (NYSE:IBM) System x Servers, experts from IBM China Development Lab and China’s National Engineering Research Center for Agricultural Products Logistics have created a pork monitoring and tracking system that can extract and store actionable business information from the millions of interconnected sensors that make up the “Internet of Things.”

The tracking system brings an unprecedented level of accountability and efficiency to every stage of the pork production process. These stages include:

Production: The process begins at pig slaughter houses, where every pig is tagged with a bar code bearing a unique serial number which follows the packed pork products – as they move through the province’s supply chain. In addition to tagging, better monitoring is made possible at these facilities through the addition of cameras that monitor the production process right up until shipping.

Distribution: To ensure that meat is transported at a safe temperature, Lushang Group has deployed temperature and humidity sensors and well as global positioning and geographic information systems. Using these technologies, Lushang Group can track the whereabouts of trucks and monitor the temperature and humidity conditions in each refrigerated container. If conditions exceed certain thresholds, the system will send an alert to prompt corrective action.

Retailers: Lushang Group has addressed the final phase of the pork supply chain – the retailer – by helping select supermarkets connect their ERP and point of sale systems to the platform, allowing tracking of every item sold.