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    Meet Ed Treacy, VP Supply Chain Efficiencies

    Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

    Julia Stewart:
    Hello, this is PMA PR Director Julia Stewart, and welcome back to PMA’s audio blog, “Ask Dr. Bob” with PMA’s Chief Science & Technology Officer Dr. Bob Whitaker. Bob, we’re excited today to introduce a special guest to our listeners as we welcome PMA’s new vice president of supply chain efficiencies, Edmund (“Ed”) Treacy.

    Bob:
    We’re pleased to have Ed join our team, he brings tremendous expertise in logistics and supply chain management – our members now have another very talented resource with great industry experience. And the new position that he is filling continues a deliberate course PMA set to strengthen our staff with top-level subject matter experts who understand our industry, and can design and deliver the real-world business solutions our members need.

    Ed comes to us from New Breed Logistics in High Point, N.C., where he served as senior vice president of operations. Ed designed and implemented distribution centers for various manufacturers to service major U.S. retailers like Wal-Mart, Target, Walgreens and Best Buy. 

    Here at PMA, he will serve as our staff expert in developing supply chain practices to lead the produce and floral industries forward in these areas.

    Ed, welcome to Ask Dr. Bob for the first of what I expect to be many appearances.  First, let’s clear one thing up … Is it true we had to import you?

    Ed:
    That’s right, Bob. I originally hail from Canada and am now both a U.S. and Canadian citizen, and I’ve been living in the states for four and a half years. I’ve spent much of my career developing and improving distribution capabilities for four major Canadian retail chains, including Sobeys and Loblaws. In fact at Sobey’s, I worked alongside former PMA director Wayne McKnight as senior vice president of logistics and engineering. I got my bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from the University of Toronto, and I also completed the Executive Development Program at York University in Toronto.

    Bob:
    You were also very involved as an industry volunteer in Canada’s traceability initiatives and worked closely with PMA ally Canadian Produce Marketing Association. You are a past chairman of the Canadian Pallet Council, you were a founding board member of the Canadian RFID Center, and you were vice chair of the Canadian Professional Logistics Institute. You know your business, and you’re known to our industry.

    Julia:
    Bob, what exactly will Ed be doing in this new position?

    Bob:
    His duties will incorporate much of the work previously managed by Gary Fleming, PMA’s former vice president, industry technology & standards. Part of Ed’s work will be to monitor and forecast trends related to supply chain efficiencies, and design and deliver related products, services and educational events for PMA members. He also will serve as staff lead and technical resource to the industry-wide Produce Traceability Initiative, and lead all of PMA’s data synchronization and alignment initiatives.

    Ed:
    I’m really glad to be working closely again with the produce supply chain. The food business gets in your blood, and I’ve missed it during the last few years I have been away from it. I’m also thrilled to be working with PMA. It’s such a well-respected organization, and really provides the base needed to help our industry address supply chain challenges and take advantage of all the opportunities that are available.

    Julia:
    Welcome, Ed, we’re glad to have you on the team, and we’re all looking forward to working with you to
    help support and grow our members’ businesses. We know we’ll be hearing more from you in the future.

    Bob and Ed, thanks for being here today. And thank you, listeners, for joining us!

    Produce Traceability Initiative Update

    Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

    Julia Stewart:
    Hello, this is PMA PR Director Julia Stewart, and welcome back to PMA’s audio blog, “Ask Dr. Bob” with PMA’s Chief Science and Technology Officer Dr. Bob Whitaker. Bob, PMA and United Fresh have just published results of an industry survey fielded in December, that benchmarked the status of PTI implementation and gathered input on issues, concerns, and needs for the PTI Steering Committee to consider. Can you tell us more about it?

    Bob:
    Julia, we received 263 responses from across the supply chain, with a majority of respondents hailing from the “sell” side – growers, packer/shippers and marketers. They told us that industry awareness of the PTI is very high (at over 80 percent), and three-quarters of them told us they have accessed the PTI Web site and all its tools and information. Seventy percent report they are planning to implement the PTI action plan, and more than half report they are on target to meet the milestones. We’ve posted a summary of the research on the PTI Web site on the “Resources & Tools” page.

    We also asked respondents to tell us what concerns and issues they are facing. No surprise, their top concern was cost – for example the cost of obtaining a company prefix, as well as hardware, software and other logistics expenses – and of course return on investment. They also noted a perceived lack of clear commitment across the supply chain— in other words, they don’t think their competitors or even their buyers will do their part. They also told us they are concerned about the uncertainty being introduced by pending government regulation, and some questioned the need for PTI above and beyond what they already have in place.

    As for what to take away from the survey, we clearly heard the industry’s need for “more” – more communication, more education, more transparency, and more chain-wide commitment.

    Julia:
    The PTI Steering Committee, under the leadership of Food Lion’s Cathy Green, met in February. Did they consider what the industry told us in this survey?

    Bob:
    Yes, the Steering Committee along with the administering associations heard the industry loud and clear.  The Steering Committee and the implementing associations are still committed to the goal of chainwide, electronic traceability – today’s status quo is not a long-term option.  That said, we are currently working on improvements on several fronts, including revamping the PTI governance. We’re looking at who’s involved to ensure we can effect real change and meet industry’s needs, as well as how often the governance group meets. In hindsight, we probably shouldn’t have deactivated the Steering Committee after releasing the action plan in August 2008 — there is clearly still a role for a strong, active governance group.

    Additionally, we’re considering how to improve the group’s transparency with the industry, and how our technical working groups can better meet industry’s needs for more information and tools. To help on that end, PMA has just hired Ed Treacy as our new vice president of supply chain efficiencies – Ed brings tremendous industry experience in logistics to this effort.

    Julia:
    I know we’re planning to have Ed on Ask Dr. Bob soon, our listeners can learn more about him then.

    Bob:
    That’s right, he’ll join us for a post soon.

    We’re also getting GS1 US more involved, their team brings a lot to the table, too. We will also be providing more communications and education, to ensure we’re providing the tools and information needed by industry to get this job done. For example, PMA, CPMA and United Fresh just met with industry association executives at United Fresh’s convention in Las Vegas, and that was a good dialogue.

    The PTI solution really is the optimal solution out there today, because it overlays each company’s internal traceability systems rather than trashing them and requiring a complete start-over. I know there is ROI to be had from it, too. Historically, many produce companies have used different electronic tracking formats to reduce shrink and better manage their inventories – and certainly we see the same possible advantages with PTI applications. Ideally, implementing the PTI should also help narrow the scope of recalls to just the affected lots, and not a company’s entire inventory – that has tremendous cost savings.

    Bottom line is, chainwide, electronic traceability must and will happen, and it is in our industry’s best interest to drive that train rather than be driven – or get run over. For those members who are waiting to find out what the federal government is going to do, keep this in mind about how legislation and regulation work: Congress and FDA will only tell us what to do – they won’t tell us specifically how to do it, that’s not how they work. So, in fact we already know that PTI implementation does not conflict with anything coming down the pike from Congress or FDA. 

    Julia:
    Thanks, Bob. So at this point, we want our members to know they are being heard, and improvements are coming including more opportunities to get involved – given how important this topic is, that’s news everyone can appreciate. In the meantime, PMA remains committed to helping the entire industry implement effective and workable chainwide, electronic traceability. As always, for more information check out all the resources on the PTI Web site at www.producetraceability.org.

    If you’d like to communicate with Dr. Bob, you can email him at AskDrBob@pma.com; you can also post comments about this and other Ask Dr. Bob posts on the blog Web site, at askdrbob.pma.com. Please send us your ideas for future blog posts, we look forward to that. Thanks for joining us this time, until next time, goodbye!

    FDA Docket on Food Safety Standards

    Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

    Julia Stewart:
    Hello, this is PMA PR Director Julia Stewart, and welcome back to PMA’s audio blog, “Ask Dr. Bob”. PMA’s Chief Science and Technology Officer Dr. Bob Whitaker is with me again today. Bob, we currently have a very unique opportunity to shape the future of the food safety regulations that will govern us. Can you explain to our listeners what is happening and what it has to do with them?

    Bob:
    Sure, Julia. As our listeners may recall, I have spoken about President Obama’s Food Safety Working Group and their focus on upgrading U.S. food safety laws, fostering coordination of food safety efforts throughout the various Government agencies that have responsibility for food safety, and ensuring laws are being adequately enforced. We also discussed the resulting Commodity Specific Guidance which was developed for certain commodities in our industry late last year and how FDA would be looking to expand it in the future.

    Well, now we’re at that point!  FDA has announced they are working on a proposed produce Food Safety Rule with an expected release date of this October.  So, we have a tremendous opportunity for input right at the beginning of the process! FDA has announced the opening of a docket to obtain information about current production and packing practices for fresh produce. They are establishing this docket so that interested parties can provide information and share views to help in the development of safety standards for fresh produce, as well as strategies and cooperative efforts to ensure compliance. FDA will use these comments to develop the proposed rule. It’s great to have the chance to get our comments and input in now while the ideas are still being formulated, as opposed to being re-active once the rule is drafted. 

    Julia:
    What exactly are they looking for, do we know?

    Bob:
    Yes, FDA is inviting comments on a number of critical food safety issues, many of which occupy much of our food safety conversations today. They are seeking input on product testing, food safety auditing, the role the agency should play in produce safety, and the intersection of food safety practices and environmental sustainability among other important issues. FDA is also trying to gather industry’s thoughts on how FDA should measure compliance. You know, it’s one thing to comment on setting standards, but it’s a different prospect altogether to have input into how to feasibly implement and enforce those standards. 

    Julia:
    Bob, do you think the agency pays attention to the comments they receive? We invest a lot of time in developing comments.

    Bob:
    I can tell you, one of the key eye-openers I’ve had in my first 2 years with PMA, is to see how FDA really pays attention to these comments, and how writing them has opened up a dialogue between ourselves and FDA. 

    You know, when I first started at PMA I had several opportunities to comment on various FDA initiatives and guidelines.  To provide substantive – and hopefully helpful – comments takes some thought, and most importantly, time.  I found myself wondering if the time commitment was worth it; I mean was FDA really reading what we were submitting? 

    Well, last summer I had the good fortune to participate in a tour the Center for Produce Safety, set up for FDA officials in California.  The tour was designed to help the FDA folks gain a better understanding of agricultural production and what the industry was doing to improve their food safety practices – but it turned out to be informative for me.  During one of our long bus rides down through the Central Valley, I was speaking with a senior FDA scientist about a number of food safety topics only to have her start reciting back to me some of what I had commented on a few months earlier. This led into a very positive discussion on those comments and an opportunity to expand upon them.  In truth, I think she had a better grasp of what I wrote than what I had!  I became a convert right then and there and I truly believe that FDA does indeed review and consider all the comments they receive. 

    Julia:
    Bob, when is it appropriate for our members to comment?

    Bob:
    Our listeners should check out the Federal Register notice, Volume 75, number 35 posted on February 23, 2010 on page 8086.  Provide comments on those questions or topics where you have experience or a point of view that can give FDA some valuable, constructive input. You can find a link to the Federal Register notice at our food safety page on www.pma.com   

    PMA will be submitting written comments as well, and as always, we appreciate any input you might have for us. Just email me at askdrbob@pma.com.  I’d also like to take this chance to thank those who have offered helpful comments in the past. I greatly value the interaction I have in talking with people around the industry.

    Julia:
    Thank you, Bob, for giving us more background on this important public comment opportunity – and to hear your personal experience that we are in fact being heard.
    Listeners, we do encourage all of you to take a look at the FDA docket and seriously consider submitting some constructive comments that will help them in their process of writing the Proposed Produce Food Safety Rule. Again, for more information on this, go to www.pma.com and look for the food safety page under the Issues tab.

    Thanks to our listeners, and please join us next time!

     
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