Why is the right combination of both technologies not only enhancing the products’ quality and safety by combating counterfeits but also in mitigating risks?
The traceability paradigm has been known since the 1930s, when some European countries aimed to verify the origin of high-qualified food and beverage products, such as French champagne – in order to establish that the product bought was in fact worth its value and upholds all the relative safety compliance. It is defined as “the ability to trace and identify the history, distribution, location and application of products, parts and materials; and to ensure the reliability of sustainability claims in human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption” . Later, the concept starts to be elaborated globally to not only cover food & beverage; being the first protagonist; but also pharmaceutical products and cosmetics for not talking about other products with less harm on end-consumers.
So, why is it primordial to implement it? The answer is very clear: product safety is strictly connected to consumer safety.
Consumers are most affected by high-risk food/ beverage contamination as well as pharma/ medical device counterfeiting for example, based on the millions of recalls yearly. The World Health Organization estimates that around 11% of medicines in developing countries are counterfeit.
Other reasons related to
- high consumer demand to know more about the products they are buying,
- the need of a supportive tool for companies to prove claims and manage recalls, and
- another certification to validate for quality assurance - especially for pharmaceutics and medical device companies, in order to combat counterfeiting, grey market, diversion and abuse.
Many international bodies are always promoting track & trace worldwide to help manufacturers, stakeholders and all suppliers understand and advance global supply chain traceability. For example, United Nations Global Compact and BSR has published a guide to traceability that highlights all the practical approaches and best practices to improve sustainability in global business supply chains. GS1 standardization body, FDA regulations authority, as well as many international forums and working groups are considering traceability as a key objective to efficiently manage any issue related to falsified products, thus allowing cross-border circulation.
From the technological point of view, many disruptive ones are considered in traceability solutions including:
- those supported by GS1 standards to identify, capture, share and use products worldwide,
- DNA marking technology for textile,
- Industrial Internet of Things,
- Near Field Communication (NFC) and many others, to cite few.
As consumers and regulation authorities are increasingly asking for more information about each saleable product, the collaboration along the global supply chain becomes a key objective to implement successful traceability software tools, integrated kits and machines for Track & Trace.
Implementing one unique system in terms of Hardware and Software, that combines traceability and inspection functionalities is indeed the most optimal strategy for smart manufacturers in any sector. With “Transparent Labelling”, production managers can identify clearly and efficiently the location of smart products worldwide, retrieve only the defective ones (if any) instead of the entire batch, so the recall management is faster, more efficient and reduces money losses while preserving brand reputation.
It is the era of smart controlled products that can offer bifold benefits: a tool to improve the multinational companies supply chain sustainability and a trustworthy guide for end-consumers to guarantee their safety and that what they paid for is indeed worth the value. In consequence, an intelligent ecosystem for smart factories is born.