Archive for September, 2021

The ECS5 Mobile App | Planogram Design and Application

Posted on: September 30th, 2021

planogram creation software for mobile devices

Planograms and other visual merchandising tools are only as useful as they are practical for the space they are applied in.

Arrangements and designs provided by product suppliers and manufacturers can make sense on paper, but must be implemented in a way that fits the corresponding store or outlet.

One of the best ways to create a planogram and make necessary adjustments to existing store displays is to use a planogram app on a smartphone, tablet, or other retail mobile device.

This way, adjustments and product placements can be made on the move as employees walk the planogram design in the optimal order.

ECS5 is a cloud-based solution that unifies and streamlines communication between print, digital, and display technologies throughout a store.

It includes the ability to easily design a planogram or import planogram specifications from product suppliers.

Additionally, the planogram can be accessed on any retail mobile device such as Zebra and Honeywell devices, or installed on any iOS or Android smartphone or tablet.

ECS5 Mobile Planogram Appmobile planogram app

ECS5 can easily access inventory data, product descriptions, promotional offer details, shelf planogram templates, and more thanks to its seamless cloud connection to store data.

Using a mobile device and the ECS5 planogram app, any planogram and related product information can be quickly accessed by an employee as they walk the store in the defined order.

This greatly improves operational efficiency for businesses and leads to greater optimization of product placements, leading to better use of store personnel and an improved customer experience.

ECS5’s mobile planogram software can used by:

In addition to planogram details, the ECS5 mobile app gives the employee the ability to adjust electronic shelf labels and digital retail displays to reflect appropriate promotions.

ECS5 is also able to provide performance reports based on planogram analytics, further improving the effectiveness of promotions and shelf displays.

Design Your Retail Space with ECS5’s Planogram Creation Software

ECS Global Inc. is trusted globally in providing retail management solutions for POS systems, label printing, mobile retail devices, digital signage, and other technologies that are tied to store success.

With ECS5, your business can plan around an existing space to create a planogram that drives sales and redirects employee labor to better serve the customer.

Contact us today to learn more about how ECS5 can be your planogram solution.

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The Value of Unified Communications with ECS5

Posted on: September 23rd, 2021

Analysis by Isaac Gould | Nucleus Research

THE ANNOUNCEMENT

ECS Global recently announced the release of ECS5, the newest version of its Enterprise Communication Suite (ECS) platform. Building on the success of its previous versions, ECS5 will deliver advancements to channel management capabilities, graphic design tools, and store planning functions. Additionally, ECS5 has added mobile functionality and analytics on product sales performance via external data signals.

The launch of ECS5 modernizes the communication platform with integrations into new communication channels to keep pace with the increase in interactive displays and online marketing campaigns. ECS5 ensures that messaging is consistent and accurate across all forms of signage, including digital price tags, interactive kiosks, TV displays, print, social media, and web banners.

Businesses leveraging the new solution can synchronize all signage, promotions, and pricing data to automatically update online marketing engagements and digital displays or provide stores with the correct information for printing. As the vendor pursues a platform approach to solution development, ECS5 contains multiple modules centered on broadening its range of functionality.

For example, the Planogram component supports the design of shelf and store layouts to maximize product visibility and minimize planning time. Media Manager and graphic design tools enable users to quickly design and disperse videos and images without the need for costly and time-consuming third-party designers. Mobile integration means retail workers can also scan products with handheld devices to ensure pricing and promotional offerings are up to date.

ECS GLOBAL

ECS Global is a marketing solutions provider that supports the distribution of images, video, and messages across print, digital, and online communication channels.

ECS has grown rapidly in recent years, increasing its customer base along with the scope of its solutions. Serving a range of industries, such as retail, manufacturing, healthcare, non-profit, government, academia, sport and leisure, tourism, and hotel services, ECS’s customer profile now includes both small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) and enterprise-scale organizations.

While the concept of unified communications is typical of most marketing solutions, ECS has taken the unique approach of consolidating both physical and digital channel management onto a single platform. Prioritizing its customers’ need for consistent messaging, regardless of medium, ECS continuously updates its platform to ensure it supports the latest developments in signage technology.

KEY BENEFIT AREAS

Nucleus interviewed both ECS5 users and users of the current version of ECS to identify the three primary benefits of their deployments:

INCREASED EMPLOYEE PRODUCTIVITY

Both retail and head office employees can leverage ECS5 to expedite various day to day activities and reduce overall labor.

Retail workers can scan products with mobile devices to select and print relevant signs and labels if anything is missing, damaged, or out-of-date. This eliminates the need to search through a pricing or graphics catalog for every carried product, which often costs stores thousands of work hours.

Head office employees no longer need to manage the individual communication systems but can instead disperse messages across all channels from a single point.

Likewise, retail employees are not required to update digital displays and price labels manually. Interviewed customers have expressed that leveraging ECS5 has allowed them to open store locations in half the time previously required.

REDUCED OPERATIONAL COSTS

Integrating with an organization’s solution ecosystem, ECS5 sources accurate pricing information at all times, eliminating unnecessary discounting and thereby saving ECS’s SMB customers hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.

Graphic design and video editing functions are available and easy to use by marketing teams, thereby eliminating the costs of third-party designers and the time-consuming back and forth between parties. Centralizing the management of communication channels may also lower operational costs by retiring legacy solutions and hardware.

ALIGNED COMMUNICATION CHANNELS

ECS5 places the central office in control over its various communication channels. As ECS5 natively integrates with all name-brand Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) applications, users can consolidate their pricing, sales, and marketing data under the solution to generate a single source of truth. This guarantees that all information put out by ECS is the same version across all communication channels and messaging has the same look and feel to maintain brand identity.

In turn, users can take a proactive approach to promotional and seasonal campaign planning by creating signage updates in advance and automating the dispersal.

CUSTOMER PROFILES

CONSUMER GOODS RETAILER

This consumer goods retailer has nearly 30 retail locations in Canada and the US with big box and large mall stores with over 5000 unique products, including eight to 12 popup shops every year.

Previously armed with a legacy solution from the early 2000s, the company was challenged by the labor-intensive nature of developing ad hoc signage, where the creation of a sign often took up to an hour. As each store had its own layout and merchandise, the company also needed location-specific signage while still maintaining a uniform look and feel across the entire organization.

Searching for a solution that could reduce the labor input and manage the signage of multiple store locations, the retailer selected ECS in 2012 for its ability to streamline the creation and printing of signs and labels.

Immediately, the retailer shifted sign making from a store manager duty down to an associate and seasonal employee responsibility. As sign creation has been shortened to about 20 minutes, a third of the time under the legacy solution, the reduction in labor at both the management and shop floor levels has enabled increased productivity to be transferred to higher value-add tasks. The company has also eliminated discounting due to pricing errors as it implemented automatically updating digital price tags.

With over 70,000 price adjustment events every year before ECS, the company now reports between $150,000 and $400,000 saved annually. The consumer goods company has deepened its investments with the solution and is now an ECS5 user, leveraging the latest features.

The marketing team utilizes drag and drop functions within the design tool to quickly create self-adjusting pricing and promotional signs since a connection to the ERP guarantees the accuracy of the information. Store managers design store and product displays with Planogram, and retail workers then select and print the correct signs all from their mobile devices.

The combination of mobile capabilities, intuitive graphic design tools, and integration with its on-premise Microsoft Dynamics NAV ERP system has enabled the company to accelerate store openings drastically. By reducing the average opening times of just its popup shops by over 50 percent, the company saves over 3000 personnel hours every year.

VETERINARY HOSPITAL

This veterinary hospital is one of Australia’s oldest and largest animal shelter and care facilities. Previously relying on siloed and manually managed signage channels, the hospital lacked a unified marketing communications solution.

Besides modernizing its signage capabilities, the hospital also sought to launch a digital display companion with its cage-free adoption center initiative to boost adoption rates. Recognizing ECS as a communication channels expert, capable of supporting both its traditional messaging needs and its specialized project, the animal care organization implemented ECS in 2016.

ECS helped establish the first cageless adoption center by creating a rotating display of each animals’ information upon large screens surrounding the new open and interactive setting. By providing placards that can be seamlessly edited and managed on TV screens and the adoption center’s website by even volunteer workers, ECS enabled its users to support a more client-friendly adoption experience as opposed to the traditional pen and cage facilities.

Over the deployment, annual adoption rates have increased by the hundreds, with over 1000 animals finding new homes every year. The hospital also utilized ECS to build customizable ad banners, donation options, and other useful information on its TV displays, posters, and website to drive revenue and further enrich signage to remove the stigma surrounding animal shelters.

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Natasha’s Law to Affect Allergen Labeling Requirements

Posted on: September 15th, 2021

natasha's law food allergen labeling

There are many people who suffer from food allergies and food hypersensitivity.  Some who consume a food product that contains an allergen will suffer severe allergic reactions that can sometimes be fatal.

Such was the case with Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, a teenager who had an allergic reaction to a Pret a Manger baguette and died from the complications in 2016.  The baguette she ate did not have allergen information displayed on the packaging label.

As of October 1st, 2021 the UK has enacted a law requiring the labels of prepackaged for direct sale (PPDS) foods to include allergen information.  This new law known as “Natasha’s Law” after Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, changes the requirements to ensure that PPDS food packaging contains a full list of ingredients and allergens.

This law is now in affect as of 1 October 2021 in the UK in Wales, England, and Northern Ireland.

What is Natasha’s Law?

Natasha’s Law is a new law that takes effect in the UK in October 2021 that requires all PPDS foods to be labeled with a complete list of ingredients.  The law also requires labeling to highlight any of 14 different allergens that the food product contains.

With this law, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) hopes to make the UK the safest place for those with food allergies and hypersensitivities.

There are around 10 people per year who die from allergic reactions to food allergens in the UK and the goal of Natasha’s Law is to reduce and eventually eliminate these avoidable deaths.

What are Considered PPDS Foods?

Prepackaged for direct sale (PPDS) foods are foods that are packaged and offered to customers in the same place, and they are packaged and presented before a customer orders or selects them.

There are three criteria used to determine if a food product is PPDS: when it was packaged, where it was packaged, and how it is packaged.

  • When: PPDS food is packaged before it is ordered or selected by the customer. Food that is not packaged when it is ordered or is packaged after it is ordered is not considered PPDS food.
  • Where: PPDS food is packaged on the same premises in which it is offered or sold to customers. This includes food packaged and sold by a business at a temporary or mobile site, and foods packaged and offered in multiple places within one building complex like an airport.  Foods sold through distance selling, meaning sold over the phone or internet, already must include allergen information before it is ordered and when it is delivered, so these products are not affected by the new law.
  • How: Foods are considered PPDS if the packaging meets the following criteria: food is fully or partially enclosed, food cannot be altered without opening or changing the packaging, and food is ready for final sale.

What are the New Labeling Rules?

The food label requirements of Natasha’s Law are simple on the surface: labels must include the name of the food and a full ingredients list that emphasizes the allergenic ingredients on all PPDS food products.

The FSA has a list of 14 food allergens that must be emphasized on the ingredient label:

  • Celery
  • Gluten containing cereals (barley and oats)
  • Crustaceans (prawns, shrimp, crabs, lobsters)
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Lupin
  • Milk
  • Mollusks (mussels, oysters)
  • Mustard
  • Tree nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios, macadamia nuts, etc)
  • Peanuts
  • Sesame seeds
  • Soybeans
  • Sulphur dioxide and sulphites (if more than 10 parts per million)

Each of these 14 allergens must be emphasized meaning that they should be bolded, underlined, printed in all caps, or printed in a different color than other ingredients so that they stand out.

It is not necessary to indicate an allergen when the name of the food clearly indicates the inclusion of the allergen, like with “milk.”  All food additives and flavorings must also be listed in the ingredients.

All lists of ingredients should be preceded by a heading containing the word “ingredients” and all ingredients must be listed in descending order of weight at the time the food product was made.

food alerrgen label compliance law

Compound Ingredients

A compound ingredient is an ingredient of a food product that contains more than one ingredient itself.

An example is the bread in a prepackaged sandwich.  The ingredients of compound ingredients must also be labeled.  In the sandwich example, this would mean that the list of ingredients for the bread should be listed after the word “bread.”

Quantitative Ingredient Declaration (QUID)

Under Natasha’s Law, meat products are required to have Quantitative Ingredient Declaration (QUID) to let consumers know the percentage of a meat ingredient.

The QUID must be presented in one of two ways:

  • Pork (80%)
  • Containing 80% pork

Exemptions from Ingredients List

There are a few exemptions in which ingredients do not need to be listed.  This mainly includes fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as potatoes that have not been peeled, cut, or treated.  For these foods, existing requirements contained in food law should be followed and the presence of allergens must still be indicated.

Precautionary Allergen Information

Though not required by law, it is highly recommended by the FSA to include precautionary allergen information concerning the possible unintentional presence of an allergen.  This information should be provided if a risk of allergen cross-contamination has been identified and risk management actions cannot remove this risk.

The labeling for precautionary allergen information should use the phrases “may contain” or “not suitable for” on the packaging.  This will help those with food allergies or intolerances understand the risk.

For more about the specifics of Natasha’s Law, check out the Allergen Labelling Changes for PPDS Food guide form the FSA.

FDA Food Guidance Compliance Regulatory Information

fda allergy labels compliance and requirements

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also has food allergen labeling requirements that must be followed in the United States.

According to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA) that is enforced by the FDA, foods that must include an allergy statement include packaged foods for sale labeled after 1 January 2006.  Single ingredient packaged foods like canned tuna also fall under this category.

All ingredients must be clearly identified and listed, and allergens must be emphasized.

As of writing, FALCPA identifies 8 food allergens that must be identified on food labels:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Shellfish (prawns, shrimp, crabs, lobsters)
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios, macadamia nuts, etc.)
  • Wheat
  • Soybean

The Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research Act (FASTER) signed into law on 23 April 2021 declares sesame as the 9th food allergen recognized by the FDA.  This becomes effective 1 January 2023, so sesame does not need to be labeled as an allergen until this date.

FALCPA Labeling Requirements

Per FDA allergen labeling requirements, allergens need to be included in the ingredients label in one of two ways.  The allergens can be included in the main ingredients list in parentheses after the ingredient that contains the allergen, or they can be listed after the word “Contains” in a section below the main ingredient list.

Food packaging can also include a “may contains” label but it is not required by the FDA.

In the US, facilities are expected to use good cleaning and production practices to prevent cross-contamination from allergens.

Putting a “may contains” label may stop some with food allergies from eating food, but it does not exempt a business from liability if one of these food products does contain an allergen that harms a customer.

Exemptions from FALCPA

The requirements laid out in FALCPA are enforced by the FDA for most packaged food products.

There are some foods that are exempt including meat, poultry, and egg products that are regulated by the US Department of Agriculture, alcoholic beverages that must follow labeling regulations from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, raw agricultural commodities, drugs, cosmetics, and most foods sold at food service establishments and retail stores that are not prepackaged.

Highly refined oils made from one of the listed allergens, such as peanut oil, also do not have to follow the labeling requirements.

How ECS Can Help with Allergen Labels

In both the UK and the US, businesses that package PPDS food products are legally responsible for ensuring that food labels contain a full ingredients list with the recognized allergens emphasized.

This makes it very important to effectively manage the labeling for your food products so that all required allergens are included.

ECS Global Inc. can help grocery stores, restaurants and cafes, hotels, and catering outlets stay in compliance with Natasha’s Law and FDA allergen labeling requirements with ECS5.

ECS5 is a cloud-based software solution that can be used to print labels for PPDS foods that automatically contain the correct list of ingredients and allergens.

Within the cloud, the ingredients of each of your PPDS food products can be stored and automatically included on the label design, and the ingredients can be tagged with allergens so that they always appear on the label.

By tagging ingredients with allergens within the cloud, you will never have to worry about inaccurate labeling, even as the ingredients of a product change.  The labels within ECS5 will change automatically to reflect the updates in ingredient and allergen information without the need to redesign the label.

In both warehouses and retail stores, you can use ECS5 to update product information not just on product labels, but also across signage, shelf labels, POS terminals, and active promotions.  This ensures that no errors will be made regarding pricing and product descriptions and can successfully communicate to customers the presence of food allergen ingredients and other disclaimers.

Natasha’s Law is now in effect in the UK as of 1 October 2021.  Talk to our professionals at ECS Global Inc. to learn more about how ECS5 can keep you in compliance.

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