Analytics verifies shipments and reduces complaints

SMART Surveillance 2024 AI & Data Analytics

When most people think about the challenges of operating a large-scale meat-packing company, loss prevention probably is not at the top of the list. However, lost or stolen shipments present a considerable financial risk to these companies, and the situation seems to only get worse as inflation rises.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index, the food at home index has risen by 12% over the last year, with meats, poultry, fish, and eggs (one of the major grocery store food group indexes) posting a 6,8% increase over the same time period. With prices for meat rising, it should come as little surprise that opportunistic thieves have decided to take advantage. Last year, retail giant Walmart even opted to leverage anti-shoplifting technology on some of its pricier cuts of steak.

Of course, shrink can also occur on a much larger scale in the supply chain, with entire pallets of meat being lost or stolen at a given time. That is why one of America’s largest poultry producers, which provides a wide range of frozen and fresh chicken products to supermarkets across the US, recently decided to deploy solutions from ISS (Intelligent Security Systems) as a way to mitigate against these types of losses.

Given the considerable size and scope of its operations, the poultry giant faced a number of operational challenges inside their processing facilities, some of which encompass more than one million square feet of space.

Video evidence required

Looking for a way to gain better insights into the issue, the company reached out to Control Concepts, LLC, a Mississippi-based systems integrator, to develop a solution that could help them take a closer look at their packing and shipping operations and thus enable them to locate products in the supply chain or determine where they might have gone missing.

“Basically, there were claims of cases of chicken missing once it reached the customer and sometimes entire pallets,” explains Michael Brown, Partner at Control Concepts. “So, they were looking for a way to verify that each pallet actually left the plant with the correct number of cases.”

Additionally, the company needed to ensure that the deployed solution would have limited or no impact on backend operations, so as not to affect the shipping process. It initially explored implementing radio frequency identification (RFID) as one viable option, but Brown convinced them to adopt a system that would provide video evidence in the event of future incidents of lost products.

“If you can show a customer using video footage that every case was on the pallet and that the pallet was loaded into the trailer, it is hard for them to refute that they did not receive everything,” Brown adds.

POS to the rescue

To address this unique challenge, Control Concepts turned to ISS to provide a solution that could meet the requirements of minimal backend impact and easily track chicken shipments as they are prepared to ship to their respective destinations. After consulting with the ISS engineering team, it was decided that installing surveillance cameras in the packing area in conjunction with the ISS SecurOS POS (point-of-sale) module would provide the best overall results.

SecurOS POS is an intelligent video analysis software tool designed to work with the SecurOS video management platform to link live video with transaction data from a POS system. In this instance, the company could cross-reference barcoded data on product shipments with recorded video clips to ensure that everything placed on a pallet made it onto a truck.

“Cases (or boxes) of chicken come down the conveyor and are stacked on a pallet. Each case has a unique barcode, which is scanned by an employee using a handheld barcode scanner. Then, a master label is generated for that pallet identifying each case of chicken on the pallet,” Brown explains. “That master label tells them exactly what is on that pallet, so we are taking the master label and scanning it into the system when they get ready to package it at the shrink wrap machine. That creates a transaction in the POS terminal, which now gives them an event they can track.”

Control Concepts has also provided a control panel at the packaging machines where the pallets are monitored and scanned that not only houses the network infrastructure necessary for the cameras to operate, but also provides red and green indicator lights to let employees know if the required scan has taken place. Once the green light comes on, the packaging machine is activated, and the system continues to monitor the wrapping process before starting over with the next pallet.

Surveillance footage is subsequently recorded for each transaction, thereby linking the pallet data with video clips that can be easily retrieved from the SecurOS platform and provided to the customer upon notification of products missing from their shipments. Because it can take some time before the pallets ship, cameras installed at the loading docks are used as another layer of confirmation to show that the products were indeed placed inside the proper trailers.

“It is another safeguard where the master label is scanned at the dock, generating a short video clip to prove that the pallet was loaded on the trailer,” Brown adds. “We also have general wide-angle cameras monitoring up to three dock doors at a time. So, the employee would drive a forklift up to a panel, scan the label – we have multiple cameras looking at different sides of the pallet to verify the number of cases – and the wide-angle cameras are there to follow them as they drive it into the trailer to prove that it was the same pallet at the wrapping machine as was loaded into the trailer.”

Future investigations simplified

Prior to the deployment of SecurOS POS, it would have taken staff at the poultry producer hours to verify whether products were missing from customer shipments and determine where they might be located in the supply chain. In fact, the company even hired additional personnel to walk around with digital cameras, taking pictures of all four sides of every pallet and storing them, in case a customer called. Upon notice of a missing shipment, staff would then have to go back and look at this database of images and figure out if the shipment was sent or if it was incomplete. Now, however, this same process takes only minutes.

SecurOS POS has been deployed at two of the company’s processing plants thus far, and there are plans to expand it to even more facilities. According to Brown, additional ISS analytics and software modules could be installed at these and other processing plants owned by the company in future to provide them with even more actionable data.

For more information, contact ISS South Africa, Eugene Kayat, +27 83 330 8767, [email protected]


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