Track-and-trace has long been recognised for its ability to protect against counterfeiters and facilitate more effective recalls. But today’s manufacturers are using it as a strategy to better see and manage the entire ecosystem of their production facilities, and make smarter manufacturing a reality.
Before we delve into the benefits of track-and-trace, here’s a quick reminder of how it works:
Track-and-trace is the ability to identify and track a product from its point of origin all the way through the supply chain to the end consumer. For this to happen, you need unique identification at all levels of packaging: the item, the carton and the pallet.
This is where GS1 Standards and the relevant identification technology solutions come into the picture. With each product uniquely identified and labelled, information can be exchanged with trading partners at every step from manufacturing to consumer. (Learn more fundamentals of product traceability in this article.)
How track-and-trace can help create the factory of the future, through…
A robust track-and-trace system is able to record virtually every movement and operation, giving better visibility. For every action that takes place in production, a transaction is recorded in the system. This means any defective product and processes can be caught before the product is shipped, saving money, time and reputation damage.
If the unthinkable happens and defect products make it into the marketplace, track-and-trace enables faster and more effective recalls. The recall can be focused on the directly impacted product. (Check out how to how to avoid recalls due to packaging and labelling faults.)
Track-and-trace also reduces the risk of defective items getting to market in the first place. As consumers demand more product variety, the demand for a wide range of ingredients grows too.
Track-and-trace enables suppliers to demonstrate proof points from origin, as well as understand which components have gone into which product variants. Producers or ingredient providers can verify that ingredients are what they’re claimed to be, and that the process to get them there is safe and compliant.
Drive production efficiencies
Use track-and-trace to reveal efficiency potential within your processes. Today’s integrated equipment can collect data throughout the product journey, store it in a single central database, and attribute each data set to an individual code on every package.
Because the system collects data at all stages of the product journey, manufacturers can benefit from complete line monitoring. Find out the production rates, wastage, energy consumption, bottlenecks and more. Then, use this information to maximise the plant’s overall efficiency while cutting operational costs.
In effect, what we’re talking about here is the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). The data you capture via sensors and scanners along the production line enables you to pick up on inefficiencies and problems sooner, which helps you improve your operations, product quality and, ultimately, overall supply chain efficiency. (For more on this trend, see the technologies driving Industry 4.0)
Faster and easier compliance
Staying compliant with the industry’s increasingly stringent standards is an ongoing challenge for manufacturers. Especially if you’re thinking of exporting overseas. In Asian markets, traceability is becoming increasingly important – government regulations demand traceability of food products from point-of-harvest to point-of-sale. While here in Australia, the Food Standards Code requires the ability to trace items “one step back and one step forward”.
However, leading manufacturers aren’t merely complying with regulatory safety requirements, they are aiming for exceptional quality that distinguishes them from their competition. How could you use track-and-trace to elevate your standards?
Protect against theft and counterfeiting
Leading manufacturers understand that future growth depends on both safety and integrity of their supply chains, and trust in their brands. Yet, counterfeiting is becoming a disturbing issue for the food and beverage industry – especially in Asia. Wagyu beef king David Blackmore found that counterfeit beef was being sold to five-star Shanghai hotels using his brand. Most recently, Chinese police seized 14,000 bottles of fake Penfolds wine being sold by counterfeiters. (You may find this article on how wine makers can beat the counterfeiters informative.)
Counterfeit products not only hurt profits, they can also do everlasting damage to a brand and put consumers in danger. Camperdown Dairy International is an excellent example of how to address safety and fraud risks. The company adopted a ground-breaking platform to allow Chinese consumers to quickly check the authenticity and provenance of its products using their smartphones. (Learn more about the serialisation solution they used). In a country where food safety is a top concern and counterfeiting of Australian products is rife, this gave Camperdown a big competitive advantage.
Build consumer trust
As Camperdown Dairy’s initiative shows, the ability to track a product and know its whole journey from the farm to the consumer is not only a line of defence in good food safety management, it’s an opportunity for food companies to build consumer trust and loyalty.
Another company getting this right is global confectionary brand Ferrero, which has committed to achieving 100% traceability in its hazelnut supply chain by 2020. This means knowing that every hazelnut the company uses is of the finest quality and farmed responsibly. Every hazelnut.
Track-and-trace helps increase inventory accuracy and forecasting, enabling better production planning, which in turn helps optimise manufacturing efficiencies. Knowing inventory levels throughout supply chains makes inventory planning and management more efficient for each production centre. Over time, track-and-trace systems can generate data sets that show patterns, meaning manufacturers can anticipate shifts in demand and optimise production efficiency.
This also enables Just In Time (JIT) shipments, so manufacturers don’t need to keep as many components and sub-assembly materials on hand, meaning lower storage costs. Instead, suppliers can anticipate the needs of manufacturers and deliver materials as needed to meet production cycle requirements. Essentially, what you get is a more dynamic and intuitive supply chain. (JIT is mentioned in this short history of Australian manufacturing and quality improvement within the industry.)
Track and trace isn’t just about creating a defence against counterfeiters and recalls (though this is obviously a huge plus) – it’s about taking the opportunity to improve your operations, quality, efficiency and consumer trust. All of which puts you at a competitive advantage.
Matthews Australasia helps companies to build better transparency through improved identification, data collection and analytics. What track-and-trace technologies could you adopt to optimise your factory processes? How could you share more information with regulators, customers and end consumers? How can you improve your recall-management processes? We can help you design a track-and-trace solution to meet your business needs.
Matthews has large resource library full off highly informative case studies, whitepapers, presentations we’ve done to industry bodies, infographics for manufacturing, articles from our thought leaders, vids showing solutions in action, lots of detailed of brochures and more! And it’s all free to download!
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