July 2021 - rfxcel.com
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DSCSA ATPs: Top Authorized Trading Partner Questions, Answered

What’s being discussed to ensure interoperability of different credentialing solutions for authorized trading partners (ATPs)? Is GS1 going to set standards for ATP credentialing solutions? If a solution provider supports DSCSA compliance and customers will aggregate serial numbers, why do users need to do anything else? 

These were the Top 3questions from “Authorized Trading Partners: The OCI Solution,the third and final presentation in the “DSCSA 2023” webinar series we hosted last month. rfxcel Global Executive Advisor Brian Files was hosting that day, and we share his answers below.

We also shared our answers to the top questions from the two other webinars, The Verification Router Service: Aligning to the Standardand ASN to EPCIS: Industry Change, Your Challenge.” There’s a lot of good information there, so be sure to check them out!

Our “DSCSA 2023” webinars were part of our ongoing efforts to keep the pharma industry updated about the DSCSA and help all stakeholders be ready for the full serialization of the U.S. pharma supply chain in November 2023. If you have other questions or want more details about DSCSA 2023, contact us today. You can also watch the webinars and download the presentation slides here.

What’s being discussed to ensure interoperability of different ATP credentialing solutions?

The same industry stakeholders are involved in developing the different solutions, whether it’s the Open Credentialing Initiative (OCI), .MED, or XATP. It’s important to have systems that connect and exchange information. The HDA has been hosting meetings with the three ATP providers to determine how/if interoperability can be achieved. Great progress has been made in a short time but there are still many open issues to be resolved as of mid-July 2021.

Is GS1 going to set standards for ATP credentialing solutions?

GS1 is not setting the standards; however, as part of the HDA effort to ensure interoperability, the teams are keeping GS1 updated on their efforts to ensure any GS1 specifications are updated/clarified as needed. For example, ATP will leverage the VRS messaging standards, which may need to be updated/clarified to include ATP.

If a solution provider supports DSCSA compliance and customers will aggregate serial numbers, why do users need to do anything else? 

For DSCSA 2023, the onus is on companies to ensure they’re getting their data in the proper format. Just having a DSCSA solution will not make you compliant. You have to go through your operational protocols and procedures and design your internal systems so they’ll be DSCSA-compliant.

Some companies have been working with solution providers since the early days of the DSCSA rollout, but have yet to optimize how their compliance software works with their internal systems, how they work with their provider, and, critically, how they communicate with their trading partners. Companies need to optimize internally to get the most out of their solutions — and to ensure compliance.

More DSCSA 2023 resources from rfxcel

Supply Chain Traceability Systems Make Your Business Better

One of the best ways to get more people to buy your products is to inspire consumer confidence. And one of the best ways to increase consumer confidence is to insist on airtight food safety protocols, which absolutely should include supply chain traceability systems.

Are there some areas where your food safety can improve? It’s always a good idea to periodically reflect on what you and your team are doing. This will allow you to improve on weak spots in your food supply chain. Supply chain traceability systems are a huge help.

Most important, the ability to trace everything in your supply chain ensures you are delivering safe food to your customers — and building consumer confidence. It also helps ensure compliance with regulations. So, if you don’t have traceability in your supply chain, you should consider implementing a system as soon as possible.

Let’s take a closer look at the benefits supply chain traceability systems can bring to your business.

What are supply chain traceability systems?

Supply chain traceability systems are a powerful tool for any industry. They give you the ability to know where your ingredients and finished products have been and where they’re going as they move through your supply chain, through the “life cycle” of your business. They are particularly helpful with maintaining product safety and minimizing and proactively managing issues that could harm your business, such as a recall.

Advantages of supply chain traceability

There’s no doubt supply chain traceability systems will save your company time, money, and effort. But what specifically can they do for you? Let’s look further into the benefits of implementing a food safety program with supply chain traceability.

Effective recall management

Supply chain traceability is a key part of recall management. The food industry is one of the most vulnerable to recalls. A recent example is Tyson Chicken. On July 3, 2021, the food giant had to recall almost 9 million pounds of ready-to-eat chicken in the United States. Thanks to supply chain traceability, however, Tyson could work quickly and effectively with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, pinpointing when the products were made and what labels were on the packaging, notifying consumers, and mitigating further troubles.

Needless to say, a recall of any size can hurt profitability and brand reputation. But supply chain traceability systems help manage damage. As we’ve discussed before, having the proper systems in place for effective recall management is paramount for protecting your business’ profitability and your brand reputation.

Regulatory compliance

Another advantage of implementing supply chain traceability systems is meeting regulatory requirements. The FDA keeps a watchful eye over food supply chain processes in the United States. And, with much of our food traveling far and wide before it reaches our plates, those processes require many moving parts. Being aware of where your food has been, where it is now, where it’s going, who is handling it, and how long it’s been in transit are all helpful metrics to keep your operation in compliance with the FDA and other regulatory agencies.

The FDA is pushing hard for more traceability standards, and consumers are more aware of where their food is coming from and demanding more information about what they eat. This is yet another reason why traceability is so important today.

Maximized efficiency

Being able to trace (and track) your products as they move through your supply chain also allows you to identify inefficiencies and bottlenecks. In other words, end-to-end traceability maximizes operational efficiency. It will enable you to see which processes are working well and which ones aren’t.

Supply chain traceability systems also help you cut costs. If you have rich data that quantifies that a particular process (or trading partner) is inefficient, you can take steps to improve it or remove it from your supply chain process.

Consumer engagement

Believe it or not, traceability will also help your sales. Customers love stories — and they’re demanding more information about the products they buy. Smart companies will use their supply chain traceability systems as part of their marketing, connecting with consumers by telling their story and sharing information about their products.

You see this all of the time in the food industry. In commercials, companies highlight how far their products have traveled and how much care goes into making, packaging, and shipping them. This kind of advertising paints a picture of the journey the products take to arrive in a customer’s home and emphasizes the qualities people want (e.g., salmon from Alaska or peaches from Georgia). Being able to “play up” the source and the journey will make your food products more appealing to shoppers.

Communicating with stakeholders

You always need to consider input from stakeholders. Supply chain traceability is an effective way to keep them happy. Making stakeholders aware of this information is known as supply chain transparency.

Supply chain transparency is an important part of your business. While food safety and quality are important, you also need to keep your trading partners in the loop. Any effective supply chain transparency plan has three main components.

The first component is the “what” of your supply chain traceability. What information are you going to share with your stakeholders? You’re also going to want to determine what format you’re going to use to display the information.

The next step is to decide the “who. Who needs to see this information? Several different groups might need it, such as internal stakeholders, vendors, suppliers, clients, and consumers. You’ll also want to consider why they need to have it.

Last, you’ll want to consider the “when. When are your people going to get this information? And how often?

You’ll also need to decide how often to update your information. Today, the trend is toward real-time updates. This is the ideal scenario, but it can be a challenge to attain. Supply chains involve a lot of moving parts and have many different nodes or tiers. Providing real-time updates in this complex framework requires efficient, streamlined operations utilizing supply chain traceability systems.

Supply chain mapping

Supply chain mapping — the process of mapping every tier of your supply chain with easy-to-follow imagery — is an effective way to keep all your stakeholders happy. A supply chain map doesn’t show every person involved in the process; instead, it shows all of the players within each tier of the supply chain.

One of the benefits of supply chain mapping is that it presents an opportunity for risk assessment. Seeing your supply chain clearly mapped out allows your management team to decide which areas need to be carefully monitored. You can also analyze your supply chain with a “bird’s-eye view” and decide if you need to make adjustments for greater efficiency.

Safer, healthier food

Today, grocery stores are full of food that’s touted as being locally sourced, sustainably caught, and so on. How can companies make and prove these claims? With end-to-end supply chain traceability data. Making these types of claims requires companies to make sure they are tracking the right metrics to support them. Companies also need to leverage the correct technology to support these initiatives.

Examples of how supply chain traceability systems work

How do companies achieve end-to-end supply chain traceability? Keeping track of your products and all the important metrics requires modern technology.

One of the ways companies are doing this is by putting QR codes and 2D Data Matrix codes on their packaging. These codes contain important information and can be scanned as products move through the supply chain. This allows vendors, suppliers, and people responsible for transport to “check the food in” at various points throughout the process and add important data, including critical tracking events (CTEs) and key data elements (KDEs).

Leveraging this technology is a critical aspect of today’s supply chain traceability systems. It helps companies keep track of where their products are at all times, throughout all nodes of the supply chain. For more information about it all works, download our new white paper, Traceability in the Food Supply Chain.

A quick word about blockchain

As technology moves forward, supply chain traceability systems also continue to evolve. One of the newest technologies with traceability applications is blockchain.

Most people probably associate blockchain with cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. One of the reasons Bitcoin is so valuable is because it can be traced across the internet via the blockchain. Investors and computer programmers can map each Bitcoin to its proper place on a global digital ledger.

This and other characteristics give blockchain tremendous functionality in a wide array of industries. For food in particular, blockchain can help companies achieve a “locked down” supply chain, providing indisputable, verified data and a level of security not possible with other technologies.

What do you think tracking food products in the same manner as cryptocurrency would do for supply chain traceability systems? It’s still in the early stages, but blockchain could revolutionize traceability. It’s a complicated subject, so we encourage you to download our white paper, Blockchain-Based Supply Chain Traceability.

Final thoughts

Supply chain traceability systems are an essential part of any business. But they’re especially important in the food industry. The safety and quality of your product is the most important part of your business. Consumers’ health depends on it. Your brand reputation depends on it. Your bottom line depends on it.

rfxcel can help. We have the software solutions you need for your business — for supply chain traceability, regulatory compliance, serialization, monitoring, and even vaccine track and trace.

Contact us today if you have any questions about supply chain traceability systems or would like to see a short demo of how our solutions can help you build your business, no matter what your business is.

 

DSCSA 2023: Top EPCIS Questions, Answered

When will companies start sending EPCIS? If a solution provider supports DSCSA compliance, why do users need to do anything other than ensure their products are aggregated? 

These were among the questions people asked at our second “DSCSA 2023” webinar last month, “ASN to EPCIS: Industry Change, Your Challenge.Herb Wong, rfxcel VP of Marketing and Strategic Initiatives, was the host, and we share his answers to the most-asked questions below.

Check back tomorrow, because we’ll be posting the top questions from the third and final webinar in the series, “Authorized Trading Partners: The OCI Solution.” You can also read our answers to the top questions from the first webinar, The Verification Router Service: Aligning to the Standard.

If you have other questions or want more details about DSCSA 2023, contact us today. Oh, and you can watch the entire “DSCSA 2023” webinar series and download the presentation slides here.

When will companies start sending EPCIS?

It has already started. However, the industry hasn’t achieved the volume it will need for 2023 (or right now, for that matter). There aren’t exact figures of the current volume of returns supply chain stakeholders (e.g., manufactures and wholesale distributors) are generating, but we do have anecdotal information from one of the Big 3 that they’re getting only about 10 percent. That data is a few months old, though, and that number could have increased. But overall, the industry needs to continue boosting the volume.

If a solution provider supports DSCSA compliance and industry (e.g., HDA) requirements, why do users need to do anything other than ensure their products are aggregated? 

A DSCSA solution should ensure you’re compliant and adhering to industry standards. But there’s more to it than that. For example, a solution provider needs permission from a manufacturer to send its serialized data; however, some manufacturers have chosen not to send this data, even though they have the means to do so. Right now, it’s important to be sending this data so solution providers can continue to work with the industry to ensure that all the data entering the system is clean and the VRS is working well.

So, it’s not that a solution provider can’t handle this for you. The issue is that providers need their customers to agree to send the information and communicate with their trading partners to make sure everyone’s on the same page. This needs to occur throughout the supply chain (e.g., as manufacturers send data to wholesale distributors and wholesale distributors send data to dispensers). Also, dispensers need to be able to receive the data. It’s all about communication and coordination.

What is the vision for the Center of Excellence? Will membership be open to everyone in the industry at no cost, or will membership be limited to certain organizations?

The current vision is that there will be no fees. The intention is to facilitate broader coordination among all participants to encourage data to flow through the system and to build an optimal method for resolving issues. As for membership, the reality is there has to be coordination with certain groups, because it will be difficult to succeed without some sort of organization to “rally around.” In all likelihood, the Center of Excellence will probably be coordinated through the Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA). But even if you’re not an HDA member, that shouldn’t preclude you from participating.

What about transformation of events of inbound to outbound serial numbers for 2023 requirements?

Here, “transformation” means, for example, sending a pallet to a wholesale distributor who then “transforms” it by opening a case and sending individual products downstream (e.g., to a dispenser). The vision is to have each entity that transforms — unpacks and repacks — products to manage that process inside their own organization. The role of EPCIS is to handle the actual communication of every transformation. It’s important for the industry to understand and be able to verify every transformation event, and EPCIS is the tool that makes this possible.

In terms of repackaging, an example would be if a company puts different medicines (with different SKUs) together in a new configuration, or package, that meets a certain need (e.g., a combination of pills to treat a specific condition). In that process, the repackager must issue a new serial number that would have to be DSCSA-compliant in terms of EPCIS data flow.

These are the kinds of scenarios the industry needs to flesh out and be ready for by 2023.

More DSCSA 2023 resources from rfxcel

DSCSA VRS: Top Verification Router Service Questions, Answered

When do I need to implement the DSCSA VRS? Are there any new developments the industry should be aware of? What are some of the “sticking points” with the VRS today?

These were just a few of the questions asked during the first of three “DSCSA 2023” webinars that we held last month. In “The Verification Router Service: Aligning to the Standard,rfxcel VP of Marketing and Strategic Initiatives Herb Wong and Global Executive Advisor Brian Files answered these and other questions about the DSCSA VRS. Below, we give their answers to the most-asked questions.

Check back throughout the week, because we’ll be posting the top questions from the other two webinars in the series, “ASN to EPCIS: Industry Change, Your Challenge” and “Authorized Trading Partners: The OCI Solution.

The webinars were part of our ongoing efforts to keep pharma stakeholders up to date with the DSCSA and help the industry prepare for the full serialization of the U.S. pharma supply chain in November 2023. If you have other questions or want more details about DSCSA 2023, contact us today. You can also watch the webinars and download the presentation slides here.

When do I need to implement the DSCSA VRS?

Manufacturers and wholesalers/distributors should be implementing right now. VRS is a cornerstone of the DSCSA; it’s not going away. As you go through the 2020 to 2023 period, working with your partners is going to be critical. You should also be working with your solution provider — or finding one if you don’t already have one. Keep your eyes on the November 27, 2023, deadline and always be working toward it so you’ll be ready and compliant. Dispensers should be looking carefully at the benefits of VRS and requirements for validating saleable returns. (See response to next question.)

Are there any new developments the industry should be aware of?

VRS is the first interoperable system in the DSCSA. Error management and handling the complexities involved with the enormous volume of returned products contributed to its delay until 2023. (Read our articles about the FDA’s decision to delay enforcement of the DSCSA saleable returns requirement.) Downstream partners only add to the volume and complexity the VRS must handle in sub-second time. So, it will be important for the industry to determine exactly how the VRS will be used and what type of volume controls and error management it will have. You must also consider what type of outcomes your partners will need, as well as what you need for your own business model.

What are some of the “sticking points” with the VRS today?

The Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA) collected feedback from the industry about optimizations/improvements it would like to see in the VRS network and presented its findings to solution providers on June 11, 2021. We’re now in the process of evaluating the feedback to determine next steps.

The “sticking points” fall into six categories, as shown in the graphic below. The most predominant concern is how to deal with data synchronization issues. The process for resolving all these issues needs to be streamlined among service providers.

Industry Feedback on DSCSA VRS

What’s the current implementation rate and use of VRS?

That depends on which part of the supply chain you are referring to. There is no accurate estimate of this across the industry, but based on our observations, this is what we’re seeing: Manufacturers and distributors have the highest “implementation rate.” Approximately 70-80 percent of our manufacturers can support VRS and 80-90 precent of wholesalers/distributors are VRS ready. The numbers further down the supply chain are lower, but are increasing quickly as dispensers become more aware of the benefits of VRS.

My wholesale distributor takes care of VRS for me. What is my responsibility? Am I covered if I were to be audited?

This is a little tricky, because there’s a lot of information circulating about what wholesale distributors will and will not do in the VRS ecosystem.

Wholesale distributors are doing a lot of heavy lifting with VRS, but they’re not completely responsible for your DSCSA transactions. They’re responsible for your information that’s being plugged into the VRS, but they are not responsible if there are any problems with a returned product.

The simple truth is that every stakeholder is responsible for their own DSCSA compliance. Your wholesale distributor should be there to help coordinate to the extent of the arrangement and partnership you have, but they are not responsible for your compliance. It’s not their job to “take care of VRS” for you. As we get into 2023, you’re going to need hardware, software, and system updates ready to go, and you can’t “pass the buck” for VRS to your wholesale distributor — or any other trading partner.

More DSCSA 2023 resources from rfxcel

Traceability in the Food Supply Chain

Traceability has always been an important part of the food supply chain. It helps ensure food safety, speeds recalls and investigations, and makes the food supply chain faster and more efficient. In recent years, however, there has been a stronger push for traceability from regulators and consumers alike.

Regulators, notably the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, have developed new traceability requirements for food products, including rules governing specific types of food (i.e., those that are more prone to contamination), guidance for stakeholders to collect more data at every node of the food supply chain, and modern, digital systems to optimize safety and efficiency and aid recall management.

Similarly, consumers are demanding more information about the foods they eat. They want a demonstrable provenance of what they’re taking home to their families, “on-demand data” that demonstrates that foods are exactly what companies say they are. And if they don’t get this, they’re only too happy to take their business somewhere else — and let other people know that Brand XYZ isn’t living up their expectations of quality and transparency.

Every stakeholder in the food supply chain, from manufacturers and processors to distributors and retailers, has to think about traceability. If they don’t, they’re risking problems with regulators, alienating consumers, damaging their brand reputations, and, ultimately, putting their business in jeopardy.

This rfxcel white paper covers the fundamentals of traceability in the food supply chain. It describes how critical tracking events (CTEs) and key data elements (KDEs) build “digital assets,” that can be traced (and tracked) from farm to fork. It takes an in-depth look at the FDA’s initiatives to modernize the U.S. food supply chain using digital technology, including the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the “New Era of Smarter Food Safety,” the “Food Traceability List,” and the pending “Requirements for Additional Traceability Records for Certain Foods,” also known as the Proposed Rule. It also describes the many benefits of food traceability, which include better consumer engagement and brand protection.