• Image: Getty
    Image: Getty

If you are wondering whether to make the transition to the new online Product Information Forms, the Australian Food and Grocery Council Acting CEO Dr Geoffrey Annison is confident you’ll never look back. This article was first published in Food & Drink Business September/October 2020.

The new online Product Information Form, affectionately known as the PIF V6.0, is designed by the industry, for the industry – to save food and grocery companies across Australia and New Zealand time, money and hassles.

If you haven’t yet started using PIFs, or if you’re still wrangling the old V5 Excel spreadsheet, it’s definitely worth your while to have a look at PIF V6.0 and investigate the benefits it can provide your company. Here are seven reasons why you’ll be glad you did:

1. Streamlined compliance

Are you still filling in the PIF V5 as well as the Country of Origin Annex form separately? Or you might be manually completing time-consuming specification sheets, copying and pasting data to complete your finished product PIF?

If you’re still using the PIF V5 you need to be vigilant about the gaps in your compliance data, because PIF V5 has not been updated to ensure compliance with the current ANZ Food Standards Code and other regulations. The online portals step you through everything you need to complete a PIF V6.0.

By using this fully searchable, interoperable, online form, you’ll collect and manage all the data that you need to assist with compliance to the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, Country of Origin labelling requirements, imported food controls and other regulations. All of this while eliminating time-consuming and repetitive data entry.

2. Single source of truth

No more uncertainty over which is the latest up to date version, or who updated it last.

No more scrolling through the endless V5 spreadsheet, wondering which sections need updating, and no more time wasted when the wrong version is shared with your trading partners.

You can also attach all relevant documents and certificates to your PIF, and they automatically travel with the current version. You’ll have the option to review, update and resend certificates and attachments. These will always be on hand for any teams who need to review them, and keeping them up to date is a breeze.

3. Accurate, searchable and accessible data

If you’ve ever caught yourself leafing through folders of printed documents, or searching through a shared drive for the latest version, then you’ll love a PIF V6.0 portal.

Making the move to online PIF V6.0s involves setting up a PIF portal, or using the services of a food consultant who already has a portal set up. This is your secure, centralised data repository – so any authorised team member can find the latest, finalised and approved PIF information promptly.

Every field within a PIF V6.0 is searchable, so you have all the information you need right there at your fingertips. This is an enormous time-saver, whether the QA team needs to quickly search for the product code for a raw material that has just been delivered to the manufacturing site so they can confirm its storage requirements to the warehouse, or R&D needs to identify all halal-certified ingredients.

4. Automated comparisons

Are you or your team manually cross-checking when a replacement PIF arrives and you need to know what has changed since the previous version, or when your procurement team sources an alternative ingredient from a new trading partner?

With a PIF V6.0 portal, you can automatically compare two PIFs and generate a list of all the variations and changes between them. No more side-by-side checking PIFs onscreen or manually ticking off section by section on a printout. The comparison results appear on the screen with a click of a button.

5. Secure and integrated tech

PIF portals are securely cloud-based, with access control based on password-protected authorities and permission hierarchies.

Your intellectual property is safe, and set up for secure sharing with your customers and suppliers that’s much safer than emailing.

Because access to your portal is via a standard web browser, there are no additional system or software requirements. PIF portals are interoperable with other internal and external IT systems, including your recipe management system and your enterprise resource planning solution.

The Australian Food & Grocery Council (AFGC) has licensed three Authorised Vendors to provide PIF V6.0 portals: Bizcaps Software, Oak Barrel Software and Hamilton Grant. Each has an established presence in the Australian market and will help train your staff to take full advantage of the rich functionality PIF V6.0 provides.

6. Help is on hand

Each portal has built-in access to the handy User Guide published by the AFGC, with hover text and on-screen guidance.

The AFGC’s website has a very helpful Industry Resources section, with a wealth of step-by-step information to help you assess for yourself the benefits of moving to PIF V6.0.

You’ll also find handy guides to help you get started, including a series of free webinars especially for food suppliers, manufacturers and distributors.

7. And yes, you can still email your PIF

If your customers and suppliers aren’t yet set up with a PIF portal, you can simply download a PDF of your PIF V6.0 and email it to them. Of course, the most efficient set up is when trading partners are using V6.0 PIFs and the portal transmits your PIF, together with its certificates and attachments in a single message to one or multiple trading partners.

We’re very keen to see Australian food and grocery companies leverage greater efficiencies, and keep building their data integrity while enjoying secure and risk-free information exchange. I’m confident that PIF V6.0 is a valuable part of the journey. 

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