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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)
Grapegrowers

Grapegrowers 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.

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.