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Top Reasons Your Supply Chain Is the Key to an Effective Consumer Engagement Strategy

Welcome to Part II of our series about effective consumer engagement. In Part I, we talked about the benefits of consumer engagement. Today, we’re focusing on your supply chain — and how you can use it for a next-level consumer engagement strategy. Let’s jump right in.

It’s all about data from your supply chain

Your supply chain is a gold mine of information that you can leverage for a robust consumer engagement strategy. The basic building block is serialization, which turns each one of your products into what we call “digital assets.” Each digital asset has a unique digital identity that can be monitored from production all the way to the person who buys it.

With rich, traceable data about every item in your supply chain at your fingertips, you can establish and maintain connections with consumers before, during, and after the sale. (You can also do much, much more, but that’s beyond the scope of what we’re talking about today.)

Four ways supply chain data can supercharge your consumer engagement strategy

1. You’ll share the product information that consumers demand. Consumers demand information. Every product — every digital asset — in your supply chain can be “loaded” with data that consumers can access at the store, at home, at a restaurant, at a sporting event. Anywhere. For example, a quick scan of a 2D Data Matrix code or QR code with a smart phone will reveal every detail you want to share about your product: where and when it was grown or made, its ingredients, the route it took to get to the consumer. This demonstrable provenance using supply chain data builds consumer trust and confidence; it is foundational to consumer engagement.

2. You’ll create compelling customer experiences. Consumers also want experiences. With data from your supply chain and other brand resources (e.g., an app) you can curate experiences such as contests, loyalty programs, games, and unique online content. You can encourage storytelling about your brand. If you’re a winemaker, connect people to a virtual tour of your vineyard. If you sell organic foods, share video recipes online or invite people to see your sustainable operations. If you make cosmetics, link to virtual try-ons. Importantly, you can hyper-personalize and hyper-target every engagement, and even “broadcast” specific information to specific locations or events.

3. You’ll communicate directly with consumers. Your serialized product is a device for one-on-one communication with the person who bought it. When a customer accesses the information from your digital asset, you can connect them to your website, social media, an app, a survey, or other forums where they can start a conversation with your brand. They can ask questions and provide feedback — and you can give answers and reactions. Relationship-building is another cornerstone of an effective consumer engagement strategy, and the products people are literally holding in their hands are the first step of the conversation.

4. You’ll gain valuable insight into your customers. An effective consumer engagement strategy creates a world for your customers. And as they navigate and participate in that world, they share information. Where are they buying your products? What do they like? What don’t they like? What inspires them? What engagement activities resonated the most? This business intelligence can inform every part of your business, from how your supply chain works to creating better consumer engagement strategies.

Final thoughts

The purchase used to be the last part of your supply chain; now it’s the beginning of a new realm of possibilities. Every digital asset is an opportunity to connect your customers to your brand and put your products front and center in their lives.

rfxcel’s Traceability System is an end-to-end supply chain solution that creates the digital assets. It gives you in-depth, real-time insights all the way from production to your final customers. The data you connect to your products will fuel compelling consumer engagement activities that can reach people everywhere you do business.

And now, as part of Antares Vision Group, we can offer even more ways to engage with consumers. Contact us today to find out more.

 

BONUS CONTENT!

Last year, we did a piece called “Supply-Chain Traceability Is Building a New Kind of Consumer Kingdom.” Here’s an excerpt that ties into what we’ve said about an effective consumer engagement strategy:

In fact, consumers are not only thinking deeply about where the things they buy come from and what goes into making them, they are actually becoming a pivotal part of the supply chain itself. What’s more, they’re participating willingly and with gusto, demanding detailed information about the goods they purchase and even expecting to interact with products far beyond the point of sale. Just how far will they go to get what they want? More than 70% of customers say they’re willing to share their data in exchange for a more personalized experience, according to one recent survey.

Read the full article here.

What Does It Mean to Be a CRPT Partner in Russia’s Supply Chain?

The Center for Research in Perspective Technologies (CRPT) operates Russia’s National Track and Trace Digital System. Known as Chestny ZNAK, the supply chain system was established by Federal Law No. 425-FZ, signed on December 29, 2017. rfxcel has been prepared for these regulations since 2018, and is now an established CRPT partner.

Let’s take a look at what it means to be a CRPT partner, including the benefits it brings to our customers.

What is the CRPT?

The CRPT is a public-private partnership akin to the European Medicines Verification Organization. Its many responsibilities include generating the serial numbers and verification codes (i.e., crypto codes) required by Chestny ZNAK.

Business giant USM is the CRPT’s principal partner, with a 51 percent stake. USM was founded in 2012 and has interests in many of Russia’s key sectors, including metals/mining, telecom, technology, and internet. According to USM, Chestny ZNAK is the country’s first public-private partnership in the IT sector and the first of its kind at the federal level. Private investments totaling more than 200 billion rubles ($2.5 billion) are expected over the next 15 years.

rfxcel as CRPT partner

Last year, rfxcel earned official CRPT partner status in 10 of the 11 industries for which the organization has chosen partners: medications, footwear, tires, light industry, perfumes, dairy, bottled drinking water, bicycles, wheelchairs, and tobacco. Furthermore, we are the only official CRPT partner for several of these industries.

To be named a CRPT partner, a solutions provider must prove it can work with Chestny ZNAK, comply with its strict serialization requirements, and support companies that do business in Russia.

For example, to be named an official integration, software, and tested solution partner for medications, members of our Moscow team met with the CRPT to demonstrate the rfxcel Traceability System, answer technical questions, and share examples of compliance reports. After an internal evaluation, the CRPT notified rfxcel that it had validated its solution and designated the company as an official partner on its website.

What does being a CRPT partner mean for our customers?

The benefits we bring as a CRPT partner are pretty straightforward. First and foremost, we have proven that our signature rfxcel Traceability System integrates seamlessly with Chestny ZNAK and meets regulatory requirements for key industries.

Russian law calls for serialization, aggregation, unit- and batch-level traceability, crypto codes, and electronic reporting and records management. Our rfxcel Serialization Processing and Compliance Management solutions ensure you’ll comply with these mandated labeling and reporting requirements. Plus, our solutions have a Russian-language user interface that makes integration and start-up much quicker.

The other benefit of being a CRPT partner is that we’re trusted. The CRPT knows our solutions, knows our team in Moscow, and knows that we take compliance very seriously. They know our customers include major pharmaceutical and consumer goods brands. They know we’re committed to making the transformation of Russia’s supply chain smooth and effective, and support the mission “to guarantee the authenticity and declared quality of goods being purchased by customers.”

So, when you work with rfxcel in Russia, you’re working with a CRPT partner that is equipped to deliver quick integration and compliance today, tomorrow — always.

Sneak peek: another recent rfxcel accomplishment in Russia

We’ll share more details about this soon, but earlier this month we received accreditation as an IT company from Russia’s Ministry of Digital Development, Communications, and Mass Media. The Ministry develops and implements national policy and legal regulations for a range of industries, from telecommunications to Internet governance.

That’s all we’ll say for now. The official IT company accreditation is another reason why we continue to be the leader in Chestny ZNAK integration, operability, and compliance.

Final thoughts

We are proud of being an official CRPT partner. It’s proof that our software ensures companies in any industry will remain compliant while they do business in Russia.

Contact us today for more information about how we can help you succeed with Chestny ZNAK. And be sure to download our white paper about Russian compliance. Fully updated for 2021, including information about new pilots for beer and beer-based drinks and biologically active food additives , it’s an easy-to-understand guide to Russia’s strict supply chain regulations for every industry.

The L1-L5 Solution Providers, Explained

Jargon. For better or for worse, it’s a fact of life — more so for people like us who work in the highly technical field of supply chain management. From ANSI to XML, an alphabet soup of shop talk can rain down upon us without warning, often leaving us scratching our heads (or at least searching online). L1-L5 solution provider? What does that mean?

And if we say rfxcel is an L4 and L5 solution provider, what does that mean? With as little jargon as possible, let’s find out. (Hint: It has nothing to do with alleviating back pain.)

What does the “L” stand for in L1-L5 solution provider?

The “L” in “L1-L5 solution provider” stands for “level,” as in the level of serialization in a supply chain. To put a finer point on it, it means the level of serialization and information management in a supply chain. And if you hadn’t guessed, there are five levels:

  • Level 1: Device
  • Level 2: Packaging
  • Level 3: Site
  • Level 4: Enterprise
  • Level 5: Network

The list above progresses from the smallest or most localized level, the L1 device level, to the most expansive and all-encompassing level, the L5 network level. Generally, L1, L2, and L3 are grouped together because they’re happening where products are created and packaged; L4 and L5 are paired together in the realm where those products enter the greater supply chain to make their way to their final destinations.

When talking about L1-L5, let’s work backwards from largest to smallest. This way, we can “zoom in on” the details and put everything in a more vivid context.

Level 5: Network

L5 is where rfxcel has its roots and where we built our reputation for supply chain excellence. The network level is where all serialization and regulatory data is managed, including with your trading partners, regulatory authorities and their repositories, and customers. It ensures you’re communicating with partners and complying with regulations.

Level 4: Enterprise

rfxcel’s roots also run deep in L4, which manages and verifies all your serialization and regulatory data/compliance reporting before sending it to L5. It also generates your serial numbers and manages all your business processes. When you design your solutions for L1, L2, and L3, you must decide how they will integrate with your L4 solution.

Level 3: Site

This is where we enter your actual manufacturing facilities and processes. L3 manages the line systems (i.e., L2) at your site to ensure that they are working optimally. L3 is optional; if present, it serves as the “middle man” between L4 and L2, requesting serial numbers from the former and allocating them to the latter.  L3 will also verify the L2 data before it is submitted to L4.

Level 2: Packaging

L2 systems control the L1 hardware and manage the serial numbers which are printed and applied on packages by L1 devices. L2 systems will communicate with the L4 (or L3,f present) to send/receive serial numbers as needed.

Level 1: Device

L1 comprises devices on a packaging line that enable serial numbers to be affixed to packaging and products, such as barcode printers, label printers, and labelers. It also includes cameras and scanners used for quality control, such as visual inspections of products and labeling.

rfxcel is an L4 and L5 solution provider that integrates with L2 and L3

As we said above, we’ve built a reputation for excellence for L4 and L5, the enterprise and network levels. This is our business: Creating innovative software solutions that optimize key supply chain requirements and functions — from the nuts and bolts of serialization and regulatory compliance to environmental monitoring and data analytics — and bring true end-to-end track and trace capabilities to any supply chain.

Our solutions ensure you’re communicating with all your trading partners, all regulatory bodies and their repositories, and your customers. We’ll help keep your lines running smoothly. We’ll yield rich, actionable data that you can use to improve your operations, connect with your customers, and build consumer trust and brand reputation.

We create one uniform, harmonized supply chain that takes care of everything from unit-level serialization and global compliance network needs to closing the last mile all the way to the person buying your product.

Final thoughts

All levels are important. They rely on one another to make things work. When you’re planning a serialization solution, you have to think very carefully about how they’ll interact and communicate.

rfxcel makes sure your data is accurate, travels quickly between and among levels, and meets the requirements of your partners and government authorities — no matter what systems you have in place now or will get in the future. Interconnectivity and interoperability are the cornerstones of all our implementations.

If you have questions about L1-L5, are looking to build a solution, or are considering switching solution providers, contact us today to talk with one of our supply chain experts and see what our award-winning rfxcel Traceability System 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.

Russia Chestny ZNAK Track and Trace: A Refresher Course

Russia is in the midst of creating the world’s most ambitious — and strict — supply chain track and trace system. Its National Track and Trace Digital System, known as Chestny ZNAK (and sometimes translated as Honest SIGN or Honest BADGE), is on track to be fully operational in 2024. Chestny ZNAK track and trace requirements are tough, and they’ll cover virtually every type of product you can imagine.

No matter what role you play in the supply chain, you have to understand how the system works and what the regulations mandate. Let’s examine Chestny ZNAK track and trace, from its origins to what it requires.

The origins of Chestny ZNAK track and trace

On December 29, 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed Law No. 425-FZ, officially inaugurating the Chestny ZNAK track and trace system. Its goal is to streamline quality control, protect against counterfeits, and monitor supply and demand and expenditure. The regulations cover 12 product categories: medicines, furs, footwear, bottled drinking water, tires, tobacco, dairy, wheelchairs, bicycles, light industry, perfumes, and photo cameras and flashbulbs.

Chestny ZNAK is run by the Center for Research in Perspective Technologies (CRPT), a public-private partnership akin to the European Medicines Verification Organization. Its principal partner, with a 51 percent stake, is business giant USM, which was founded in 2012 and has interests in many of Russia’s key sectors, including metals/mining, telecom, technology, and internet.

According to USM, Chestny ZNAK is the country’s first public-private partnership in the IT sector and the first of its kind at the federal level. Private investments totaling more than 200 billion rubles ($2.5 billion) are expected over the next 15 years.

What are the requirements?

Chestny ZNAK track and trace regulations are arguably the strictest in the world. Companies that do not comply face fines and other penalties, including “deprivation of liberty” (prison), and can in essence be banned from doing business in Russia.

The requirements vary by industry, and deadlines and labeling requirements have changed, but the fundamentals have remained constant: serialization, aggregation, unit- and batch-level traceability, crypto codes, and electronic reporting and records management.

Products must be marked with 2D Data Matrix codes with an 85-character alphanumeric sequence that contains at least four groups of information: a Global Trade Item Number (GTIN), a serial number, a verification key, and a verification code (i.e., crypto code). Furthermore, the owner of goods must create a Universal Transfer Document (UTD) at the moment of ownership, then transfer it to the CRPT.

The crypto codes are an important part of Chestny ZNAK track and trace. At first, every code had to have 88 characters, but a federal decree in August 2019 that amended the procedure for applying drug labelling codes cut the requirement to 44 characters. The CRPT issues the codes, which only authorized representatives can request/receive. rfxcel is an approved partner of the CRPT; more on that below.

For the pharma sector, it’s prudent to note that Chestny ZNAK track and trace requires over-the-counter (OTC) drugs to be labeled, scanned, and recorded in the system. This is a significant departure from the EU Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD) and the U.S. Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA).

These are the broad strokes of the Chestny ZNAK track and trace regulations. There are other requirements — such tracking products with Universal Transfer Documents (UTDs), which must be sent to the CRPT when ownership of goods changes — but we won’t get into those here.

How does it work?

Chestny ZNAK track and trace is a five-step process that calls for complete traceability all the way to consumers. Let’s walk through these steps.

First, the CRPT sends the manufacturer, wholesaler, retailer, or importer — referred to as “economic agents” in the regulations — a unique digital code for every product that must be affixed to the packaging. Only a CRPT-authorized representative can request codes. Every product is logged in Chestny ZNAK’s catalogue of marked goods.

In the second “logistics” step, the digital code becomes an immutable “passport” that legitimizes the product at every step of the supply chain. Every transfer of ownership must be recorded.

Next, the product arrives at the location where it will be sold or dispensed. The receiver scans the item, Chestny ZNAK receives a transfer confirmation, and it’s ready for sale.

Fourth, the product is sold or dispensed. The seller is required to have a point-of-sale cash register, a system connected to the internet that typically includes a touchscreen, a scanner to read 2D Data Matrix codes and other codes, a credit card scanner, and a printer. The product is scanned at checkout and the cash register reports to Chestny ZNAK that “the code has left circulation.” If the scanned data doesn’t match what’s in the catalogue of marked goods, the product is counterfeit or otherwise illegitimate and cannot be sold.

In the last step, the consumer takes over and becomes the final supply chain quality control checkpoint. Using the Chestny ZNAK app for smart devices, described as “your main assistant for product quality tracking and counterfeit detection,” a person scans the 2D Data Matrix code on the product and gets instant access to rich information directly from Chestny ZNAK. If a scan reveals a “violation” — meaning the product is counterfeit or not in compliance with marking regulations —  consumers can report it directly to the CRPT. They can also send questions about how the app works and suggestions to improve it

Here, we want to point out that the Chestny ZNAK track and trace app reminds us of our own MobileTraceability app, only for consumer use. Both can show the date, time, and place of production, the expiration date, and details about the product’s journey from the farm or factory to the store. Our MobileTraceability app is a powerful tool for track and trace in any industry. Check out our short video about how it works in the food and beverage supply chain.

Final thoughts

If you follow our blog or read our news, you know rfxcel is the leader in Chestny ZNAK track and trace compliance. That’s a bold statement, but we think we have the facts to back it up:

  • We’re an official integration, software, and tested solution partner with the CRPT. We’ve demonstrated that our solutions, particularly our signature rfxcel Traceability System (rTS) and Compliance Management (rCM), can meet the stringent Chestny ZNAK track and trace requirements and ensure companies stay compliant.
  • rTS works seamlessly with Chestny ZNAK track and trace, including a Russian-language user interface that makes integration and startup much quicker.
  • We’ve prepared for Chestny ZNAK since 2018.
  • We’re one of the few providers with active implementations in Russia.
  • We’ve tripled our workforce in Russia over the last year. Our team in Moscow provides our clients, which include major global consumer goods and pharmaceutical companies, the quickest time to market while fully automating their compliance reporting.

Contact us today learn more about how we can help you with Chestny ZNAK track and trace. No matter how far along you are in your preparations to meet the requirements, you should talk to us — even if you’re already working with another provider. Our powerful software ensures companies in any industry remain compliant with the complex regulations.

 

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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Supply Chain Visibility Can Fight Fraud in the Time of COVID-19

Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) posted an update about actions it’s taking to keep fraudulent COVID-19 treatments off the market. The examples of fraud the Agency gave illustrate why all industries — not just the pharmaceutical industry — need to embrace supply chain visibility. Let’s take a look at what the FDA said and why supply chain visibility is a panacea for the problem.

Consumer vulnerability, scammers, and unproven and potentially dangerous products

The FDA’s update addressed “the extremely concerning actions by companies and individuals that are exploiting or taking advantage of widespread fear among consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

This statement reveals one reason fraud exists: consumer vulnerability. When people are confronted with a problem, especially one they feel they cannot control (such as a pandemic), some may tend to seek solutions without pausing to think them through. Peddlers of fake and substandard products are always ready to exploit this situation.

Which brings us to the scammers, many of whom use the internet to sell their bogus goods. Today, the FDA says, unscrupulous actors are claiming their products “mitigate, prevent, treat, diagnose, or cure COVID-19.” With the pandemic dominating headlines and weighing heavily on people’s minds, these quacks are only more than happy to offer unproven and potentially dangerous products.

What is the FDA doing, exactly?

The Agency has launched Operation Quack Hack to find and stop scammers. It’s located scores of phony products online, including fraudulent drugs, COVID-19 testing kits, and personal protective equipment. The FDA has issued 42 warning letters to companies making false COVID-19 claims and has sent hundreds of abuse complaints to domain name registrars and internet marketplaces, most of which have voluntarily removed the offending product pages.

One of the warning letters went to an organization selling fraudulent chlorine dioxide products as a COVID-19 treatment. When it refused to cease and desist sales of its so-called Miracle Mineral Solution, or “MMS,” a federal court issued a preliminary injunction requiring it to immediately stop distributing the product. The FDA characterizes chlorine dioxide as the equivalent of industrial bleach and since 2010 has been warning consumers about MMS and other products with names such as Master Mineral Solution, Chlorine Dioxide Protocol, and Water Purification Solution (WPS).

The FDA also intercepted and investigated a case of mislabeled COVID-19 “treatment kits” that someone was trying to import into the United States. Also, an FDA investigation led to a U.S. Department of Justice criminal complaint against a British man “who sought to profit from [the] pandemic and jeopardize public health.”

How supply chain visibility can fight fraud

Visibility means using data to gain insight into how a supply chain is functioning and to take steps to make it run more efficiently. The goal is to see everything.

A company must have systems that can gather and report data from one end of the supply chain to the other. Data should be as “rich” as possible; today, that means a digital supply chain with real-time access to unit-level data about everything from ingredients to temperature.

Here’s a rundown of how supply chain visibility can fight fraud. We’re using the pharma industry in our example, but the tenets apply to any product in any industry.

    • You know the origin of your ingredients. Supply chain visibility allows a manufacturer to verify that all the ingredients of a drug are legitimate. It can track every ingredient up until the time they’re combined to make the drug.
    • You can follow the drug’s every move: Part 1. After the drug has been manufactured, bottled, and packed into cases, you can see everywhere those cases go after they leave the plant — warehouses, stores, pharmacies, hospitals, etc. — and you can track their movements in real time. With supply chain visibility, you can anticipate traffic bottlenecks and reroute the delivery vehicle, keeping the shipment on time. You’ll also know if the delivery vehicle has been diverted from its prescribed route, which could indicate theft.
    • You know if the drug has been harmed or compromised. Supply chain visibility means you’ll be alerted if there’s a problem with the shipment. For example, if there’s been a change in temperature, light, or humidity that can affect the drug’s efficacy, or if the cases have been dropped or jolted in a way that might have damaged the bottles, packets, or vials inside. And we’ve already mentioned route diversion and theft.
    • You can follow the drug’s every move: Part 2. When the cases are separated (e.g., taken off a pallet), you can follow each one; when a case is opened, supply chain visibility lets you follow the individual bottles or packets all the way to check-out at the cash register or stocking at a pharmacy or hospital.

Final thoughts

Supply chain visibility creates an “airtight” supply chain that leaves virtually no room for unproven, potentially dangerous, fake, or otherwise fraudulent products to sneak in. And if such a product does appear, supply chain visibility means you can remove it faster. After all, when you can see everything, it’s easier to spot imposters and get rid of them.

rfxcel can provide supply chain visibility in any industry. Our signature rfxcel Traceability System (rTS) is a full-stack visibility and track and trace platform that comprises solutions that empower end-to-end supply chain visibility, including:

    • rfxcel Integrated Monitoring (rIM) is an award-winning solution that uses Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled devices to provide real-time data about 12+ environmental conditions (e.g., location, temperature, shock) of products anywhere in the world.
    • rfxcel MobileTraceability brings the power of an rTS digital supply chain to your smartphone, tablet, or other mobile device.

As FDA Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs Dr. Judy McMeekin said, “It is imperative that we continue our efforts to find and prevent the sale and distribution of products that may be harmful to the public health.” Supply chain visibility is the way to do this. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.