In addition to enormous financial damage for the economy and tax authorities, counterfeit products also damage the image of companies and reduce consumer confidence in their brands. In addition, health risks cannot be ruled out. A tried and tested means to Combat piracy, is the serialization of goods across the entire supply chain. A track & trace system forms the technological basis. This means that products of all types can be transparently and seamlessly tracked along the entire production and delivery process right through to handover to the customer. The following ten best practice tips show what needs to be considered when introducing a Track & Trace system.
1. Take a detailed look at the supply chain processes
Before you introduce a Track & Trace system, you should be clear about where in the supply chain you start: during production, during packaging or as part of the logistics process? If the system is already integrated into production processes, for example, you can also directly replace serialized individual parts or assemblies that you obtain from suppliers in the event of any defects and thus ensure the quality of your own product.
2. Evaluate specific process requirements for serialization
Depending on which products are involved, process-relevant requirements that have a direct effect on the supply chain must be observed. In the case of perishable or frozen goods, you have to ensure a seamless cold chain across the entire supply chain. This necessity must also be taken into account for serialization.
3. Define the actors involved and their responsibilities
The introduction of a Track & Trace system is an interdisciplinary project. As a rule, not only your employees from marketing, IT, production, logistics, quality assurance, purchasing and finance are involved. External partners such as suppliers or contract manufacturers are usually also involved. You should therefore clearly define the respective responsibilities and make your partners contractually responsible, for example via a service level agreement (SLA).
4. Serialization: Check for any process optimizations
In order for the required serialization to take place as efficiently as possible, it is advisable to look at processes consistently. For example, the question arises as to what condition should products ideally be labeled in: as an individual part? Or aggregated into a larger container such as bulk packaging or pallet? It is often more efficient to group products to be labeled into larger units.
5. Use proven serialization standards as a guide
You can use common standards so that the required product serialization is as efficient as possible. EPCIS (Electronic Product Code Information Services), for example, is a tried and tested standard that specifies interfaces for recording and querying not only documents such as invoices or dispatch notifications, but also for individual, aggregated or picked objects.
6. Provide manufacturer-independent recording devices
Hardware is a factor that shouldn’t be underestimated. In order for a modern warehouse to achieve maximum efficiency, the hardware used must function perfectly. Make sure that manufacturer-independent devices such as scanners, smartphones and tablets are available across the entire supply chain and are equipped with the latest software versions.
7. Serialization: Handle labeling-related data carefully
There are various options for attaching the required labeling to the packaging – which can, under certain circumstances, have a negative effect on the packaging design. That is why you should define for each individual product how it is to be labeled in order to optimally meet the regulatory requirements today and in the future. This also includes making sure that the identifier cannot simply be removed.
8. Integrate the Track & Trace solution with relevant third-party systems
In order to be able to document the flow of goods across the entire supply chain end-to-end, it is necessary not only to integrate the Track & Trace solution with other software solutions such as ERP, WMS, line management and production control systems , but also to connect them to the IT infrastructure of your business partners.
9. Provide standard interfaces for serialization
The easiest way to achieve the necessary system integration is via standardized interfaces. In this way you not only link your own systems with the Track & Trace solution, but also those of your external partners.
10. Use serialization for customer loyalty
Serialization can also be used for customer loyalty, among other things. It makes it possible to directly link a purchased product and its buyer. This information can be used in customer loyalty programs, for example for customized just-in-time promotions.
The ten tips presented show that serialization projects are extremely complex. In addition to the right software and hardware, you also need extensive specialist knowledge, extensive experience and long-term contacts with the regulatory authorities. Experience has shown that they are so complex Serialization projects Hardly possible with your own on-board resources. It is therefore advisable to work with a specialized service provider who provides companies with comprehensive advice – also with regard to technological and regulatory aspects – and who supports the introduction of a serialization solution throughout.
The whitepaper “Product serialization protects against counterfeiting“From Arvato Systems.
About the author: Carl-Rainer Stetter is an expert on counterfeit protection at Arvato Systems.
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