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Why We Need Wine Industry Track and Trace, Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of our wine industry track and trace miniseries. In Part 1, we talked about how track and trace technology can help protect the wine supply chain by building product provenance, fighting counterfeits and illicit trade, streamlining logistics, and building consumer confidence and trust.

Part 2 gets into the details of the wine supply chain — its key actors and their responsibilities for wine industry track and trace. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started.

The wine supply chain, defined

The wine supply chain has the same core stakeholders as other supply chains: producers, distributors, and retailers. In its 2009 Wine Supply Chain Traceability Guideline, GS1 says these can be characterized as large companies with “significant technology requirements”; small- to medium-sized enterprises, many with niche specialty products and branding; and “support companies that provide materials, transportation, storage, and other services that are also impacted by traceability.”

GS1 further divides the supply chain into seven stakeholders: grape growers, wine producers, bulk distributors, transit cellars, fillers/packers, distributors, and retail stores. We describe these below, including their roles in wine industry track and trace.

Supply chain actors and their roles in wine industry track and trace

Ingredients and final products can change hands many, many times, so all actors must keep meticulous records and follow GS1 labeling standards to ensure wine industry track and trace. The requirements do get complicated, but there are a few fundamentals to keep in mind:

  • Global Location Numbers (GLNs)
  • Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs)
  • Serial Shipping Container Codes (SSCCs)
  • Application Identifiers (AIs)
  • GS1-128 barcodes
  • Human-readable codes
  • Universal Product Codes (UPCs) and European Article Numbers (EANs)

Grape growers

Grape growers are responsible for the production, harvest, and delivery of grapes. Wine industry track and trace begins with them, so they must keep detailed records about receiving, shipping, and the vineyard itself. The latter includes the type of vines, annual production record, origin and chemical content of water used for cleaning and irrigation, and treatments (e.g., fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides).

Key data for track and trace describes the “plot” or “block” where grapes are grown. This land is identified with a GLN allocated by the grower and should include five pieces of information:

  1. The vineyard’s name and address
  2. The identifier for the plot
  3. Size of the plot/number of vines
  4. Vine variety
  5. Contact details

Every shipment of grapes the growers send should have a GLN and the date of harvest so the receiving winery can have this provenance for the wine it makes.

Wine producers

Wine producers receive the grapes and produce, manufacture, and/or blend wine products. Key wine industry track and trace data follows the grapes as they’re transformed into wine, so producers must keep accurate records of the procedures they use to make every wine. This includes:

  • The grape growers’ GLNs
  • The wine producer’s own GLN
  • The location(s) at the winery where grapes or juice are processed, including de-stemming, crushing, chilling, and pressing
  • A GTIN for each product
  • An SSCC for shipping containers (e.g., tanker trucks)
  • An AI (315n) to indicate the quantity dispatched in liters
  • An AI (10) to indicate the batch number

Bulk distributors

Bulk distributors receive wine in bulk from wine producers and send it to transit cellars. They also store, dispatch, process, sample, and analyze bulk wine. The wine they receive has been identified with a GTIN and a batch number; like their downstream and upstream trading partners, they must keep records about what they receive and dispatch, including recording the SSCCs and AIs associated with bulk wine containers.

Bulk distributors are identified with GLNs. Bulk wine containers, such as storage tanks, may hold only one product, or they may hold mixed products with mixed batch numbers; these have different labeling requirements. Generally, they’re identified with an SSCC allocated by the bulk distributor. When put into barcode form, the SSCC is “represented in a GS1-128 symbol.” The containers may also require a GTIN and AIs for batch and quantity.

Transit cellars

Transit cellars are responsible for the receipt, storage, dispatch, processing, sampling, and analysis of bulk wine, plus keeping records about what they receive and dispatch. They may be part of a filler/packer company at the same site or at another location. They can also be a third-party service provider.

For wine industry track and trace, every container a transit cellar sends must be identified with an SSCC, a GTIN, a batch number, and the quantity of wine in liters. This information is encoded in a GS1-128 barcode and in human readable form. To ensure track and trace in the wine industry, transit cellars must record every SSCC, GTIN, and batch number of every item they ship.

Fillers/Packers

Fillers/Packers receive containers of bulk wine from a bulk distributor or a transit cellar. Their job is to put the wine into smaller containers, such as bottles, bags, kegs, and barrels, then send cases, cartons, pallets, or “other logistics units” to finished goods distributors. For wine industry track and trace, here are how these units should be labeled:

  • Cases and cartons sold at retail are identified with a GTIN and a barcode with an EAN/UPC symbol. A lot number encoded in a GS1-128 barcode should also applied as an “add-on.” Cases and cartons that will not be sold at retail are identified with AIs and GTINs encoded in a GS1-128 barcode.
  • Pallets are marked with SSCCs. Filler/Packers can also include a GS1-128 barcode with AIs containing other information that maintains the parent-child relationship between the pallet and its contents.
  • Point-of-sale units (e.g., bottles, cans, jugs, bags in boxes) are identified with a GTIN and have a barcode with an EAN/UPC symbol for scanning at the time of purchase. In the EU and elsewhere, units must display a lot number assigned during the filling process. This information can be in human readable form.

Fillers/Packers also receive the “dry goods” that come in contact with wine, such as bottles, caps, and corks, and must label them with SSCCs, GTINs, and batch numbers. Fillers/Packers also have to record other information about dry goods, such as the water used to wash filling equipment and any chemicals used for cleaning.

Distributors

Distributors receive, store, and dispatch finished goods to retailers. They are also responsible for inventory management, and may repack or re-label goods at a retailer’s request.

If cases, cartons, and pallets are not broken up before being shipped to a retailer, the identification from the filler/packer (e.g., SSCC, GTIN, EAN/UPC symbols) does not change. If items are repacked, each gets a new SSCC. (The original SSCC must be crossed out or obscured). Distributors must record the SSCC, GTIN, and lot number of the items they ship and link these to the GLN of the recipient.

The “Traceability data and GS1 Standards” for items shipped by distributors are as follows (quoted verbatim):

  • SSCC of the inbound pallet and GLN of its supplier
  • SSCC of the outbound pallet, either unmodified or newly created
  • Links between the SSCC of the newly created pallet and the SSCC of the pallets used in its creation and, if applicable, the GTIN and lot number of each carton shipped to the retailer
  • GLN of the retail location to which the pallet is dispatched

Retail stores

Retailers receive wine from the finished goods distributor for retail sale. The wine is usually delivered in cases, cartons, and pallets, and records of their SSCCs and lot numbers must be kept. Individual units sold to the final consumer are identified with a GTIN-13 allocated by the brand owner. UPCs or EANs ensure products are scanned/traced all the way to sale to consumers. If a retailer returns goods to a supplier, it must ensure it doesn’t break the wine industry track and trace links that have been established.

Final thoughts

The wine supply chain is complex. Wine industry track and trace will help protect it, make it more efficient, improve communication among stakeholders, and fulfill consumers’ ever-growing expectations for more information about the products they buy.

rfxcel is ready to help. Our rfxcel Traceability System simplifies wine industry track and trace. From raw materials to finished goods, our solutions ensure you build a data-rich provenance for your products, communicate clearly with all your trading partners, comply with industry and government requirements, and give consumers the information they demand. Contact us today to schedule a demo and see what we can do.

Why We Need Wine Industry Track and Trace, Part 1

It was tempting to write about wine industry track and trace as a film noir (or a film pinot noir, as it were). There would be clandestine grape-stomping, midnight rendezvous in terraced vineyards, rogue chemists, cases stuffed with euros and dollars, sting operations and FBI raids, people taken away in handcuffs. In the closing scene, the one-time victim would celebrate triumph over those who did them wrong.

This much drama for wine industry track and trace? Yes, though it’s about much more than the serious work of fighting counterfeits and illicit trade. It’s about using technology to build provenance, streamline operations, and satisfy customers.

Part 1 of our two-part story covers the basics of wine industry track and trace. Part 2 will get into specifics. Let’s start our investigation.

Seriously, why do we need wine industry track and trace?

Not all supply chains are created equal. For example, if you read our Seafood Transparency Trilogy, you know a large, geographically diverse, and fragmented supply chain poses many challenges.

Plus, some products are more complex than others, which means they have more complex supply chains. From raw materials/ingredients to what consumers expect (or demand), supply chains vary wildly depending on what’s being made, where it’s being delivered, and even “the culture” of the product.

As you might have guessed, wine has a complicated supply chain. GS1, in its 2009 Wine Supply Chain Traceability Guideline, said, “The wine supply chain has always been complex and fragmented and with more distant suppliers and ever-more demanding customers, the unique characteristics of this supply chain bring challenges to implementing an effective traceability system.”

If you wanted to get technical, you could argue that there are actually two wine supply chains.

First, there’s a supply chain for “table wine” or “mass market wine.” Depending on where you live, you’ll find these in your local grocery store, in a wine/spirits shop, or in a state-owned store (an “ABC Store,” “package store,” or “state store”). This supply chain has many actors and the product changes hands many times. The product itself changes dramatically as it moves from raw materials to a finished good. Stakeholders typically have access to technology, including track and trace technology.

The second supply chain is for “fine wines,” which are produced in much smaller quantities than table wines. Though these vintages are sold in “regular” wine shops, they’re often reserved for boutique settings frequented by aficionados with deep pockets (or at least bigger budgets they’ve set aside for their passion). The steps of production and distribution may be very localized, resulting in a supply chain with far fewer actors than for mass-produced wine. For example, a winery in Burgundy, France, might do everything from growing the grapes and bottling to distributing pallets, cartons, or cases to local retailers. Because of their size, they may not have access to the latest track and trace technology.

So, why do we need wine industry track and trace? Here are the key reasons:

  • It’s a complex, fragmented supply chain.
  • There are diverse ingredients and raw materials, ranging from fertilizers and water to bottles, corks, and caps — and, of course, grapes.
  • Wine is heavily regulated.
  • Consumers of all stripes want the full provenance for what they’re drinking.

Wine industry track and trace will improve operations for all, ensure compliance with regulations, and satisfy consumer demand for detailed information and transparency.

Two other reasons for wine industry track and trace

Like other industries, wine has business and professional organizations for its supply chain stakeholders. There are trade publications and trade shows. It does big promotions. It has all the trappings of a large, important industry.

Unlike other industries, however, wine has a following. It is more than a product. Wine is a global culture unto itself. And this means there are aspects to its history and very existence that have ramifications for the supply chain.

For starters, there’s a thriving counterfeit market and illicit trade. Granted, this isn’t unique to wine, but the intricacies of the production process and the many facets of supply and demand make it an especially daunting problem. These stories from 2020 give an idea of its scope:

Furthermore, there’s a thriving, passionate collectors’ scene around the world. There’s a huge private trade, in-person and online clubs, mega-exclusive events and dinners, and auctions with nosebleed prices. And there’s lots of money changing hands. A desirable bottle of wine can cost as much as a car. Or a house. The 2019 auction market alone was valued at more than $520 million.

As a cautionary tale that combines the scourge of counterfeiting with the rarefied air of the highest echelons of the wine elite, there’s the fascinating case of Rudy Kurniawan. If you don’t know the story, start here. You might want to grab a glass of wine — just make sure you know where it really came from.

So, counterfeiting and illicit trade are major problems, including in collectors’ circles, where today’s wines are tomorrow’s pricey classics. Provenance, therefore, is vitally important across the supply chain, which is another compelling reason for wine industry track and trace.

Final thoughts

In our faux noir introduction, we said the victim triumphed in the end. What we meant was that wine industry track and trace protects everyone in the supply chain, from winemakers and their trading partners to everyday consumers and auction houses.

Producers can prove the provenance of their ingredients and final products. They can create a story about their wines, connect with consumers, and build and safeguard their brand reputation. Distributors and retailers can maintain the chain of ownership and help ensure only genuine products make it to market, all while streamlining and automating logistics. Consumers can know more about the wines they buy, such as where the grapes were grown, when they were harvested, and if they were treated with pesticides. For fine wines that may become collectors’ items, provenance can be “passed down” as a bottle or case or entire cellar ages, providing much-needed proof that a wine is what it’s label says it is.

As the leader in track and trace technology, rfxcel can help. Our award-winning rfxcel Traceability System is perfectly suited for wine industry track and trace. For example, our Raw Materials Traceability and Finished Goods Traceability solutions create the entire product provenance with detailed data about every aspect of production. Our Integrated Monitoring solution rides along with products as they move through the supply chain, protecting them from environmental excursions, diversion, and theft. With our MobileTraceability app, you can see and control your supply chain from virtually anywhere in the world.

Talk with one of our supply chain experts today to learn more about what we can do. And check back soon for Part 2 of our wine industry track and trace series.

How a Digital Consumer Goods Supply Chain Builds Brand Reputation & Trust

Everybody knows people don’t shop like they used to. Today, consumers demand detailed information about the goods they purchase and expect to interact with products far beyond the point of sale. To make this happen, companies have to build a sharable product provenance and create a product experience. And they can do this with a digital consumer goods supply chain. Let’s see how.

What is a digital consumer goods supply chain?

First, let’s establish that when we talk about a digital consumer goods supply chain, we’re really talking about a digital supply chain for consumer goods.

What do we mean by this? Well, though a digital supply chain can most definitely be designed to serve the specific and unique needs of any industry — consumer goods, for example — in and of itself, it doesn’t discern or care about what industry it’s working for. It’s an important distinction, because any industry can (and should) have digital supply chain.

So, a digital consumer goods supply chain is exactly that: a digital supply chain for consumer goods. It has all the wonderful, powerful, customizable, data-centric capabilities of a digital supply chain “pointed at” the specific and unique needs of a consumer goods company. That can mean an apparel company, a company that makes fast-moving consumer goods, or a laundry detergent concern.

To break it down with industry lingo, a digital consumer goods supply chain will optimize operations for the four types of consumer goods: convenience products, shopping products, specialty products, and unsought products.

Using a digital supply chain to secure brand reputation and trust

Benjamin Franklin said, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.”

Franklin (probably) wasn’t thinking about the ability of a digital consumer goods supply chain to deliver end-to-end visibility and transparency, or its unique ability to engage people almost everywhere they go, before and after a sale. But if we could explain to Ben what all this means, he would (definitely) agree that a digital consumer goods supply chain was the key to securing brand reputation and trust.

Here’s how.

End-to-end visibility

End-to-end visibility in a digital consumer goods supply chain creates a full, traceable provenance for every product. You can add critical tracking events and key data elements at any point in your supply chain. For example, add a photo of a product as it leaves the factory or integrate a quality inspection to enrich the data associated with the product. Consumers can access this information and confirm that your product is what you say it is. This burnishes your reputation and builds trust with the people who buy your products or are thinking about buying your products.

And let’s not forget the other benefits of end-to-end visibility. (In fact, all the things we’re talking about have additional benefits for consumer goods companies.) If you can see every part of your digital consumer goods supply chain from one end to the other, you’ll be able to manage operations more efficiently, including dealing with recalls and other crisis situations. You’ll make it harder for counterfeits and fakes to reach consumers. You’ll consolidate data to improve processes, outcomes, and product quality. And you’ll be empowered to make better decisions based on that data.

End-to-end transparency

Transparency is a kind of “full disclosure” about what happens in your supply chain. For example, were the ingredients sourced in sustainable manner? Are all actors in your supply chain adhering to regulations and other pertinent laws?

And consumers want transparency. According to one recent study, a staggering 81 percent of food shoppers say transparency is important or extremely important to them — and if they don’t get it, they’re more than happy to buy another brand.

In a digital consumer goods supply chain, consumers can verify that you employ sustainable practices to make and deliver your products. They can get information that shows exactly where and how their shoes or clothing were manufactured. And if they can see that you’re doing everything “right,” your reputation will grow and they’ll trust you more (and maybe even tell their friends about you.)

Engage people almost everywhere they go

The customer is always right — but today that means more than merely ensuring they’re happy with your goods and services. Now it means you’re nurturing a committed relationship. Therefore, when we talk about engagement in a digital consumer goods supply chain, we’re talking about bringing the supply chain directly to consumers. Sharing details (not just visibility and transparency, by the way) and bringing people into the “world” of your brand.

The most effective way to do this is to use mobile traceability technology, which of course is all digital. It puts the supply chain right into the consumer’s hands. For example, using their mobile device, a person scans a 2D Data Matrix code on your product and is taken to a website full of relevant content, special offers, and so on. If you sell shoes, it may be a video of a famous athlete wearing your latest model. If you sell food items, it could be recipes or information about where the ingredients came from. It can be anything you want, really, from coupons to information about your sustainability and environmental efforts.

By taking advantage of mobile traceability, you’ll build your brand reputation and trust by presenting visibility and traceability information in a clear, compelling manner; enabling consumers to share a pre- and post-sale experience with your product; and fostering a lifelong relationship with your brand.

Final thoughts

If you don’t have a digital consumer goods supply chain, you aren’t maximizing your potential for building your brand reputation and consumer trust. Plus, you’re missing out on its many other benefits, including:

  • Monitoring and protecting your products 24/7
  • Mitigating risk and supply chain blind spots
  • Combatting counterfeits, fakes, and theft
  • Automating your workflow
  • Eliminating paper records
  • Future-proofing your operations

If you don’t have a digital supply chain, it’s all right. rfxcel was made for this moment. Our digital supply chain solutions, anchored by our award-winning rfxcel Traceability System, feature leading-edge products like our rfxcel Integrated Monitoring solution and MobileTraceability app for supply chain traceability and visibility. Our teams of experts can help you create a digital consumer goods supply chain that builds your brand reputation and consumer trust while delivering all the other benefits we’ve discussed above. Contact us today to find out more.

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rfxcel Continues Winning Streak in Russian Serialization, Track and Trace

Once again, Russia’s Center for Research in Perspective Technologies (CRPT) has named rfxcel an official partner, this time for software and integration for dairy, bottled water, footwear, wheelchairs, tires, perfumes, bicycles, and light industry. We’re pretty excited about this. We had already been named an official software, integration, and tested solutions partner for medications. Our team in Moscow has worked hard to make us the leader in Russian serialization and track and trace for all industries; you should contact them if you have any questions about doing business in Russia.

The CRPT is a public-private partnership that manages Russia’s National Track and Trace Digital System, known as Chestny ZNAK. Our rfxcel Traceability System (rTS) works seamlessly with the system, including a Russian-language user interface that makes integration and startup much quicker.

Let’s take a quick look at what’s going on with the dairy and bottled water industries in Russia, and why we’re leading in Russian serialization and track and trace.

The CRPT and Russian Serialization/ChestnyZNAK “Experiments”

The CRPT follows best practices by conducting “experiments” — what we would call pilots — for products before the officially enter the ChestnyZNAK system. The pilot for dairy ran from July 15, 2019, to February 29, 2020; for bottled water, the pilot began April 1, 2030, and is scheduled to end March 1, 2021.

A pilot for bicycles wrapped at the end of May 2020, and a current one for wheelchairs is  expected to end June 1, 2021. Pilots for children’s goods (e.g., baby food, clothing, toys, and games) and medical devices will apparently be announced soon.

Requirements for Dairy and Bottled Water

Russia’s supply chain regulations are notoriously strict. This is one reason being named an official CRPT partner is a feather in our cap: We’ve demonstrated that our solutions, particularly our signature rfxcel Traceability System (rTS) and Compliance Management (rCM), can meet the requirements and ensure companies stay compliant.

We’re currently working on some other materials about the regulations for dairy and bottled water (and tires and other products), so check back soon to see those. In the meantime, however, here’s some basic information to tide you over.

Dairy

All products must be labeled with a DataMatrix code. The code must contain the following:

  • The goods code (14 numerical digits)
  • An individual serial number (13 digits) generated by the CRPT or a company’s economic agent
  • A verification key provided by the CRPT (4 digits)

According to the language in the regulations, companies may include an expiration date (6 characters for non-perishables, 10 for perishables), but that is not mandatory.

Product packaging mush have a 15×15 mm space for the codes. If a product has a cap, such milk in a PET bottle, the material and surface texture must be able to accommodate printing (e.g., ink or laser).

Bottled water

The regulations recognize six categories of bottled water. In addition to three unexplained “other” categories, these include:

  • Waters, including natural or artificial mineral, carbonated, free from sugar or other sweetening or flavoring substances. (The regulations also mention “ice and snow” under this category.)
  • Mineral and carbonated waters, including natural mineral waters:
  • Non-carbonated waters

The DataMatrix code must contain the same information as the codes for dairy. And like dairy, companies have the option to include other information, such as an expiration date or a minimum retail price.

Final thoughts

Our success with the CRPT is due to a lot of hard work and our commitment to designing the best solutions for Russian serialization, track and trace, aggregation, and compliance.

When Chestny ZNAK was enacted into law on December 29, 2017, we began honing our operations in Russia. About this time last year, we reported that we had doubled the size of our team in Russia; since then, it’s tripled in size. We’re one of very few supply chain solution providers with active implementations in Russia, and we’re working with more and more companies as our reputation grows.

Our continued success with the CRPT, ChestnyZNAK, and Russian serialization boils down to the quality of our solutions and the knowledge and skill of our people, who have expertise in key areas of supply chain management and technology. They all speak Russian, of course, and they know the regulations inside and out. They understand how to meet our customers’ needs while ensuring they’re fully compliant with Russian serialization, aggregation, and supply chain compliance requirements.

Contact us today learn more about how rfxcel can help you with Russian serialization and the ChestnyZNAK regulations. Also, download our white papers about Russia’s requirements for consumer goods and pharmaceuticals. These are great resources that will help you understand what you need to do to succeed in Russia’s lucrative markets.

And be sure to ask about our other track and trace and compliance solutions. Sure, we’re the leader in Russian serialization, aggregation, track and trace, and supply chain compliance solutions, but we can optimize any supply chain anywhere in the world. Ask us how!

COVID-19: Now Is the Time for Food Supply Chain Transparency

The novel coronavirus pandemic has exposed vulnerabilities in food supply chains around the world. It’s also pushed the conversation about food supply chain transparency into the public square. Indeed, it’s likely that more people are thinking about supply chains today than at any other time in history.

However, it’s prudent to point out that the industry has resisted full end-to-end transparency. In light of the pandemic — and with the U.S. food supply chain in the news in recent weeks — we might have approached what’s commonly referred to as a teachable moment. The question is, will stakeholders finally realize that food supply chain transparency is in everybody’s best interest?

Why is there industry resistance to food supply chain transparency?

The main reason for resistance is that the industry views food supply chain transparency as a cost instead of an investment. As we pointed out in our “Seafood Supply Chain Traceability Trilogy,” it takes money — sometimes a lot of money — to implement the necessary systems.

Resistance also stems from the fact that supply chains weren’t really designed to be transparent. Companies see their supply chains as things to be guarded, proprietary infrastructure that’s nobody’s business but their own. Why should they “give away” information that could jeopardize their market position or possibly harm their reputation?

Another facet of this built-in opaqueness is that companies can’t always keep tabs on what their trading partners are doing. If an upstream or downstream partner is bending or breaking the law or otherwise doing something they shouldn’t, how can the company know? The gist of this problem is data: If it’s collected at all, it may be incomplete or just plain wrong.

And one final thought: Does the resistance mean the industry actually doesn’t want to be held accountable? Though some companies say that they care and want to held accountable, if they don’t embrace food supply chain transparency, this amounts to an empty promise and deflecting accountability to their trading partners.

Why we need food supply chain transparency in the time of COVID-19 — and beyond

The benefits of food supply chain transparency are not contingent upon world events (though transparency helps companies stay steady when events bring risk and uncertainty). They are what they are, no matter the circumstances. But the pandemic has illuminated the benefits, like a lightbulb going off over the collective head of the industry. Specifically, we need food supply chain transparency now for several key reasons:

    • It decreases risk. Food supply chain transparency helps companies identify problems and risks before they escalate into a crisis (or crises). If all trading partners adhere to the same clear standards and can be held accountable for their actions, they’re more likely to self-govern to avoid trouble. Furthermore, with everybody “on the same team,” it’s significantly easier to solve a problem.
    • It boosts efficiency. As we just said, food supply chain transparency gets everybody on the same team. And with teamwork comes efficiency. Stakeholders keep each another informed, enabling upstream and downstream trading partners to make better decisions, take pre-emptive action when needed (instead of waiting to react to a problem after the fact), and keep the supply chain moving.
    • It helps increase the volume of actionable data. Transparency means being open about what you’re doing — which means sharing data about your operations with your partners, customers/consumers, regulatory agencies, and other stakeholders. With more high-quality data flowing inside and outside of the supply chain, every aspect of your operations can be improved.
    • It encourages cooperation. When trading partners have seen their risks lowered and efficiency increased, they’ll be motivated, if not inspired, to cooperate more. Cooperation is great when things are going well; it’s even better if a problem arises. For example, if there’s a recall, everyone will know how to work together to get the product out of the supply chain.
    • It increases supply chain resiliency. Transparency means you can know what’s going on in your supply chain, share information with your trading partners, put it in the context of events, and execute course corrections quickly. For example, if a factory closes due to a natural disaster, political unrest, or a pandemic, transparency intel empowers you assess the situation, see the real and potential impacts on your operations, and make necessary changes. All of this makes your organization more agile and the supply chain stronger.
    • It inspires trust. The ultimate result of food supply chain transparency is trust among all supply chain stakeholders, from manufacturers all the way to consumers. Without trust, systems can break down. That’s the last thing you want to happen during a crises.

Final thoughts

rfxcel is committed to transparency in every supply chain — food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, consumer goods, and government. As we’ve shown, it’s an indispensable tool that’s more important today than ever before.

When external factors such as the current pandemic affect supply chains, transparency helps ensure products are delivered on time, safely, and to exactly the right location and/or person. It helps vital supply chains keep moving. It helps guarantee a product’s authenticity (i.e., no food fraud or counterfeit drugs). It helps protect the public health and safety.

For food supply chain transparency, our signature rfxcel Traceability System (rTS) offers the most complete and flexible raw materials and finished goods traceability solution for the industry. Our rfxcel MobileTraceability app heightens transparency even further, able to track any batch, movement, and handler at any location. And our rfxcel Integrated Monitoring (rIM) solution lets all stakeholders see their products in real time and mine rich unit-level data about more than a dozen environmental conditions.

Learn more about these and our other solutions for food and beverage here and contact us to start a conversation about transparency in your supply chain.

 

rfxcel CEO Glenn Abood Talks Supply Chain Visibility, Improving Supply Chain Efficiency

rfxcel Co-Founder and CEO Glenn Abood spoke yesterday with Channel 2 News at our headquarters in Reno, Nevada. He fielded questions about supply chain visibility, improving supply chain efficiency, and our rfxcel Integrated Monitoring (rIM) solution. Glenn last spoke with Channel 2 in November 2018, right after we announced that we were moving our headquarters to Reno.

Here’s a recap of yesterday’s conversation.

The power of rIM for supply chain visibility

Glenn explained how rIM improves supply chain visibility by tracking raw materials and finished products in real time as they are transported to their final destinations. rIM helps avoid counterfeits and out-of-stocks, and helps ensure that items get where they need to be, safely and on time.

State of the supply chain

Glenn said the transportation industry was doing a good job of keeping up with demand. There are, however, some problems. “There are certain parts of the supply chain that aren’t functioning as well as they should,” he said. There are also outages along the supply chain.

The key is supply chain visibility. With rIM and other rfxcel solutions, companies can know where everything in their supply chain came from, where it is right now, where it is going and when it gets there. For example, they can find out if an ingredient or raw material sourced from abroad is being delayed due things such as shortages and bottlenecks — whether related to COVID-19 or not.

The benefits of supply chain visibility

Glenn said supply chain visibility benefits everyone, from industry stakeholders all the way to consumers. Manufacturers are empowered to manage inventory issues more effectively. Counterfeit products are targeted and eliminated from the supply chain, resulting in greater consumer confidence.

Final thoughts

It would be impossible to explain rIM and our other supply chain visibility solutions in a 2-minute interview on the evening news. But Glenn did a great job summarizing what we do. It’s all about supply chain visibility. Contact us today to learn more about our solutions and how they can optimize your supply chain, no matter what industry you’re in.

And be sure to check out Glenn’s interview!

rfxcel Takes Big Step as Leader in Russian Aggregation, Serialization & Supply Chain Compliance

If you follow our blog, read our white papers, or have seen our articles in industry journals, you know rfxcel is the leader in Russian aggregation, serialization, and supply chain compliance. Now we’ve taken another big step to cement our status: We’ve been named an official integration, software, and tested solution partner with Russia’s Center for Research in Perspective Technologies (CRPT).

This is big news for us, so let’s summarize how we got here and what it means.

The CRPT and Russian aggregation, serialization, and supply chain compliance

The CRPT is a public-private partnership that manages Russia’s National Track and Trace Digital System, known as Chestny ZNAK. To achieve integration, software, and test partner status, we had to show the CRPT that our supply chain software could fully manage and execute all aspects of Chestny ZNAK’s notoriously stringent compliance reporting processes. For example, here are some the requirements for pharma:

    • A 2D barcode must be placed on all units; it must include a GTIN, serial number, batch number, expiration date, and Foreign Economic Activity Common Nomenclature (FEACN) code.
    • All medications must be serialized, including over-the-counter medications.
    • Different requirements for aggregations and batches.
    • Supply chain members must report every change to individual batches.
    • Foreign manufacturers may have to report up to 36 compliance events.
    • A 44-character crypto code is required on all medicine packaging.

So, our Moscow-based team in Russia had a lot to prove when it met with a CRPT approval board in March. They presented a comprehensive demonstration of our signature full-stack solution, rfxcel Traceability System. They also answered technical questions and share examples of compliance reports.

After an internal evaluation, CRPT notified use that it had validated our solution and designated us as an official integration, software, and tested solution partner on its website. We look forward to working with companies in the pharma, food and beverage, consumer goods, and government industries to help the with Russian aggregation, serialization, and supply chain compliance.

Final thoughts

Our success with the CRPT was due to a lot of hard work and commitment to the Russian market. When Chestny ZNAK became law on December 29, 2017, we began honing our operations in Russia. In August 2019, we reported that we had doubled the size of our team in Russia; since then, we’ve tripled in size. As our CEO Glenn Abood said, “Today, we’re one of a very few supply chain solution providers with active implementations in the country, and we’re working with more and more companies as our reputation for ironclad compliance and supply chain management grows.”

Of course, we’re thrilled about our progress in Russia. It all boils down to the quality of our solutions and the knowledge and skill of our people, who have expertise in key areas of supply chain management and technology. They all speak the Russian, of course, and they know the regulations inside and out. They understand how to meet our customers’ needs while ensuring they’re fully compliant with Russian aggregation, serialization, and supply chain compliance requirements.

Contact us today learn more about how rfxcel can help you with Russian regulations. And be sure to ask about our other track and trace and compliance solutions. Sure, we’re the leader in Russian aggregation, serialization, and supply chain compliance solutions, but we can optimize any supply chain anywhere in the world. Ask us how!

Why F&B Needs Real-Time Supply Chain Environmental Monitoring

The F&B supply chain is becoming more complex. Routes that involve road, rail, sea, and air create many potential points of failure that, until recently, companies could not control or even detect. These “blind spots” include problems safeguarding food safety, deviations from required environmental conditions, theft, food fraud, and poor handling practices. This is why F&B needs real-time supply chain environmental monitoring.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these blind spots and how real-time supply chain environmental monitoring can minimize or eliminate them.

Common blind spots in the F&B supply chain

Food fraud. Food fraud costs the F&B industry at least $65 billion a year. All kinds of foods are counterfeited and incorrectly labeled, from luxury products such as Japanese Wagyu beef to more common items such as olive oil and seafood. Furthermore, buyers and consumers often have no way to trace the origins of what they’re purchasing.

Diversion and theft. Diversion and theft can happen at any supply chain blind spot. F&B cargo is valuable, easy to sell, and often perishable, and evidence of the theft does not last very long. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that cargo theft costs U.S. businesses $30 billion each year, and food and beverages were among the top commodities targeted by thieves in North America last year, accounting for 34 percent of all cargo theft.

Ensuring quality and safety. It’s virtually impossible to ensure food quality and safety when cargo is poorly handled. Products can be exposed to and damaged by water, heat, and cold. Food is susceptible to contamination and spoilage if environmental conditions aren’t just so. Such damage can be particularly acute in the cold chain, where perishable products must be moved quickly under exacting parameters of temperature, humidity, and light.

Routing inefficiencies. Not monitoring traffic? Not using GPS location tracking? Not adhering to local, state, federal, or international transport regulations? No matter how basic or complicated, routing inefficiencies have the same consequences: delayed shipments, product spoilage, shortened shelf life, lost revenue. Plus, routing and environmental monitoring have become even more important as governments tighten oversight of the F&B supply chain. A perfect example is the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration designed to better protect consumers by strengthening food safety systems for foodborne illnesses.

Recalls. Though not a blind spot, per se, recalls can take companies by surprise and are a particularly important consideration. According to a study published in 2012 by the Food Marketing Institute and Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the direct costs of a recall can reach $10 million. A separate GMA-sponsored survey reported that 5 percent of companies incurred more than $100 million in direct and indirect costs.

How does real-time supply chain environmental monitoring work for F&B?

Real-time environmental monitoring solutions give a vibrant and detailed picture of where products are and what is happening to them. Integrated monitoring in the F&B supply chain provides better continuity, visibility, security, and productivity. But how does it work, exactly?

Pallets, cases, or containers are equipped with Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled sensors that send data over communication networks at regular intervals. The sensors provide real-time information about how long an item has been in transit, if the vehicle transporting it adhered to the approved route, and, if the shipment stopped, where and for how long. This is crucial information, especially for highly perishable goods. For example, leafy greens can be ruined if a truck’s engine and cooling system are turned off for hours at a border crossing. With real-time environmental monitoring and tracking, companies can understand and act upon specific risks with detailed, unit-level data.

Data is made available via a software platform, through which users can set parameters (e.g., minimum and maximum temperature) to alert the system of irregularities or generate reports for analysis. This data is associated with the traceability data and becomes part of a product’s pedigree, making it a powerful tool for F&B supply chain visibility.

Environmental monitoring allows F&B companies to monitor their supply chains, protect consumers, protect their brands, and realize considerable return on investment. The technology can show companies how to maximize route efficiencies, change shippers, or detect theft or diversion in real time. The IoT-enabled sensors transmit alerts, empowering manufacturers and suppliers to use data to halt shipments that may have been adulterated, redirect shipments to extend shelf life, and manage food recalls — or avoid them altogether.

Final Thoughts

FSMA has shifted the responsibility for safety to F&B companies. Now, they must be proactive, not reactive. With real-time supply chain environmental monitoring, companies get actionable data that they can deploy to make decisions immediately, not after the fact when it’s too late. When necessary, they can divert or reroute shipments or take actions to remedy temperature excursions and other environmental concerns. Third-party logistics firms and contracted delivery companies can be held accountable for incidents and inefficiencies. This saves money and protects brand reputations.

Our rfxcel Integrated Monitoring (rIM) solution lets you see your products in real time and mine rich unit-level data about more than a dozen environmental conditions. It can integrate with multiple sensor devices or data loggers on land, sea, and air. With rIM, you get a truly complete view of your shipment — at a top-level (e.g., case, pallet, truck) and at an item level (e.g., packet, bottle). You’ll reduce costs and make proactive decisions based on variables such as temperature, tilt, humidity, light, and shock. By mitigating damage, delays, and diversion, your products will arrive safe and on time.

rIM also combats the key blind spots we talked about above: food fraud, diversion and theft, quality and safety concerns, routing inefficiencies, and recalls. Its real-time supply chain environmental monitoring will streamline your operations, prevent waste and financial losses, protect your investments and brand identity, and give you an advantage in the marketplace. If this sounds good, contact us today to talk about rIM with an rfxcel supply chain expert!

Compelling Arguments for Transparency in the Global Seafood Supply Chain

This is the last installment of our global seafood supply chain Transparency Trilogy. Thanks for reading!

If you read our first and second blogs about transparency in the global seafood supply chain, you probably feel that the seafood sector needs to change its tune. Sure, industry thought leaders are re-evaluating how they do business and have taken some initial steps to make transparency the norm — that’s what leaders do — but widespread change has yet to come.

The seafood supply chain remains opaque and complex. There are countless opportunities for products to be compromised as they change hands over and over again on their global journey “from catch to plate.” Fish populations continue to be depleted. Trading partners don’t always trust each other, and they certainly don’t always like to share their data (if they have any data at all). And people continue to be exploited and abused on land and sea.

Let’s look at a few of the most pressing problems facing the industry and how transparency can help solve them.

The specter of slavery

Yes, slavery.

In a 2014 blog post, Human Trafficking Search, an international organization that seeks to raise awareness and help prevent and eliminate human trafficking worldwide, wrote, “It is not a new revelation that slavery plagues the global food system.”

So, six years ago, slavery was “not a new revelation.” Alas, more recent headlines confirm the global seafood supply chain has not dealt with this problem:

If ever there was an argument for change in the global seafood supply chain, this is it. Transparency will combat slavery by shining a light on who is doing the fishing, who is processing and transporting the seafood, etc. We’re all in.

Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing

UII fishing includes fishing during off-season breeding periods, catching and selling unmanaged fish stocks, and selling fish caught by slaves. It threatens the stability of seafood ecosystems in every body of water where it occurs.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), IUU fishing “remains one of the greatest threats to marine ecosystems due to its potent ability to undermine national and regional efforts to manage fisheries sustainably as well as endeavors to conserve marine biodiversity.”

Furthermore, the FAO reports that IUU fishing accounts for as much as 26 million tons of seafood annually, valued between $10-23 billion. It capitalizes on corrupt governments and exploits weak management systems. In some countries, it has been linked to organized crime. It depletes resources, which can cause local fisheries to collapse. It threatens livelihoods, intensifies poverty, and increases food insecurity.

Transparency helps mitigate UII fishing because it enables buyers and wholesalers to guarantee the provenance of their product. It will help shrink markets for illegally sourced fish, as more trading partners — and consumers — will demand data that proves seafood is from a legal, regulated source and has been reported to the appropriate government agencies.

Food fraud

Food fraud is the illegal practice of substituting one food for another. It’s very dangerous, and it happens around the world, usually when the supply for a commodity fluctuates. To keep an in-demand product flowing to customers, fishermen and restaurateurs can feel pressure to commit seafood fraud, replacing one species for another.

Studies by Oceana, which works to protect and restore the Earth’s oceans, illustrate how pervasive food fraud is. For example, between March and August 2018:

    • Twenty-one percent of 449 fish Oceana researchers tested were mislabeled.
    • One-third of establishments sold mislabeled seafood.
    • Mislabeling was found at 26 percent of restaurants, 24 percent of small markets, and 12 percent of larger chain grocery stores.
    • Sea bass and snapper were mislabeled the most.

Transparency fights food fraud by holding all nodes of the seafood supply chain accountable for what they’re selling. Put simply, with transparency, there’s nowhere for unscrupulous actors to hide.

Consumer health and food safety

Without a transparent supply chain, it’s difficult to safeguard consumer health and food safety. Imagine what a widespread foodborne illness outbreak and consequent recalls would look like without supply chain transparency and traceability.

As with the problems we’ve discussed above, the seafood industry isn’t fully part of the solution for consumer health and food safety concerns. Food fraud (species substitution) continues to make people sick and cause death. Mishandled seafood continues to carry high histamine levels, posing health risks to millions of people.

People want to assume they are eating safe, authentic food. Transparency will not only give consumers peace of mind, it will go a long way to build — or rebuild — their sense of trust with the seafood industry. In every aspect, transparency is a win-win for everybody.

Final thoughts about transparency in the global seafood supply chain

To wrap up our transparency trilogy, we want the seafood industry to know that supply chain transparency is within reach and that it doesn’t have to be painful.

Forgive the pun, but the world is the industry’s oyster: Help is available all around you. Government and global initiatives such as the GDST want to work with you to become more sustainable, environmentally friendly, and ethical. Consumers are also ready to help; if you build transparency into your supply chain, they will come.

And rfxcel is with you too, here to answer your questions about achieving transparency in your supply chain. We want you to know you have three options that we call “Keep, Replace, Provide”:

    • Keep your current system, but integrate it with new solutions.
    • Replace outdated systems with less complicated solutions that, in the long run, do more for less money.
    • Look to rfxcel to provide a new supply chain system that closes all the gaps and brings you to full transparency.

Take a look at our signature rfxcel Traceability System (rTS), the most complete and flexible raw materials and finished goods traceability solution for the industry. Check out our rfxcel MobileTraceability app, which can track any batch, movement, and handler at any location, putting the power of a digital supply chain at your fingertips. And our rfxcel Integrated Monitoring (rIM) solution lets supply chain actors see their products in real time and mine rich unit-level data about more than a dozen environmental conditions.

Learn more about these and our other solutions for F&B here and contact us to start a conversation about transparency in your supply chain.

How Transparency Benefits the Global Seafood Supply Chain

This is Part 2 of our global seafood supply chain Transparency Trilogy. Check back on Friday for the last installment, as well as other food and beverage news!

In the first part of our trilogy, we talked about why the worldwide call for global seafood supply chain transparency has gotten louder and louder. Now we’re ready to talk about how transparency benefits the supply chain itself.

Spoiler alert: It just makes everything better!

Can a penny-pincher be proactive?

If asked, most seafood companies would probably say their intentions are good and they support a “do no harm” approach in their operations. They see themselves as guardians of a well-managed resource; indeed, they’d argue that it’s in their best interests to promote sustainability, legal fishing practices, environmental responsibility, and supply chain transparency. After all, if fish populations dwindle, they could be out of business.

Many companies have policies that require their buyers to verify (as much as possible) that the seafood they procure meets minimum standards for sustainability, safety, and quality. Such self-regulation is a good first step, but the reality is that enforcing these standards is tough. Very tough.

Lack of transparency in the supply chain is one reason for this. But given its overwhelming “pros,” why do seafood companies continue to view transparency as a cost rather than an investment? Sure, it takes money — sometimes a lot of money — to implement the systems, but there are compelling reasons for actors in the seafood industry to open their wallets and get on board with transparency in a digital supply chain.

The benefits of global seafood supply chain transparency: What stakeholders should know

From “catch to plate,” transparency benefits everybody in the seafood supply chain. Here’s how.

Suppliers. These are the processors and manufacturers. They benefit from transparency because it allows them to protect their business investments and comply with regulations. Suppliers can use transparency data to show their trading partners and consumers that they are doing things the right way, the responsible and sustainable way. Transparency also lets them control their supply chains more accurately and improves the quality of their product, also important selling points for partners and consumers.

Suppliers can also use transparency to build their brand reputations. For example, they can engage with consumers directly, using data to demonstrate that their products are sustainably sourced and legitimate, and that they are responsible corporate citizens. These are qualities that consumers will demand more, not less, as they have ever-expanding ways to verify what they’re buying and more options for where to spend their money.

Brands and distributors. Transparency lets brands and distributors know exactly what they’re purchasing, which will give them peace of mind about the origins, sustainability, and legitimacy of the products they offer. Furthermore, like suppliers, they can comply with regulations, such as the U.S. Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP). Brands and distributors can also use transparency to build their reputations and solidify their relationships with customers. Being able to prove the who, what, when, where, how, and why of their products is a powerful tool for branding and communications.

Retailers, food service groups/providers, and consumers. High-quality products with traceable provenance give retailers and food service companies better control over their supply chains and more ways (i.e., data) to protect their brands. Like suppliers, brands, and distributors, they’ll be able to entice customers and secure their loyalty.

At the very end of the supply chain, it’s consumers who stand to gain the most from transparency. They’ll know where their seafood comes from. They’ll know it’s safe, and they’ll feel good about being responsible shoppers. And as transparency really becomes the norm, they’ll be inclined to purchase only products that can prove provenance, and only from companies that can prove they are “doing the right thing” when it comes to the global seafood supply chain.

Final thoughts about global seafood supply chain transparency

rfxcel is part of the transparency solution. If you read our last blog about transparency in the global seafood supply chain, you’ve seen that our solutions optimize traceability, transparency, efficiency, and quality so supply chain stakeholders and consumers alike can reap the benefits.

For seafood and all other F&B supply chains, the latest version of our signature rfxcel Traceability System (rTS) is the most complete and flexible raw materials and finished goods traceability solution for the industry. Our rfxcel MobileTraceability app can track any batch, movement, and handler at any location, putting the power of a digital supply chain at your fingertips. And with our rfxcel Integrated Monitoring (rIM) solution, supply chain actors can see their products in real time and mine rich unit-level data about more than a dozen environmental conditions.

Learn more about these and our other solutions for F&B here. And be sure to visit again soon for the last installment of our seafood transparency trilogy.