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Antares Vision Group Selected to Speak on Supply Chain Traceability and Smart Hospital Systems at GS1 Connect 2022

AV Group members will present “Supply Chain Traceability: Can Your Business Survive Without It” and “Smarter and Safer Hospitals: When Innovative Technologies Meet Patient Safety”

Travagliato (Brescia), June 1, 2022 Antares Vision Group (AV Group), a technological partner of excellence in digitalization and integrated data management, the global leader in track and trace hardware and software solutions, and one of the main players in inspection systems for quality control and integrated data management, has been chosen to provide thought leadership presentations at the GS1 Connect Conference, June7-9 in San Diego.

In “Supply Chain Traceability: Can Your Business Survive Without It?” Herb Wong, vice president of strategy and innovation at rfxcel, which is part of AV Group, will discuss why traceability is foundational to business success in a rapidly evolving landscape of digitalization, ever-changing consumer expectations and power dynamics, tougher regulations, and supply chain uncertainty. The session will be held Thursday, June 9, at 1:45 p.m.

In on-demand session 509, “Smarter and Safer Hospitals: When Innovative Technologies Meet Patient Safety,” Antares Vision Digital Healthcare Department director Adriano Fusco, and Dr. Alberto Sanna, director of the Research Center for Advanced Technologies for Health and Well-Being of the IRCCS San Raffaele Hospital in Milan, will discuss how traceability and GS1 standards enabled end-to-end visibility of medications – from their arrival at the hospital to dispensing – through the use of optimized resources that focus on patient safety.

AV Group Chairman and Co-CEO Emidio Zorzella said he was excited that GS1 Connect attendees would have the opportunity to hear Mr. Wong, Mr. Fusco, and Dr. Sanna talk about the Group’s technology. “The ultimate goals of traceability and GS1 standards are to protect people and optimize business processes,” he said. “These are also AV Group’s goals. I think people will have a strong reaction when they see how our technology is improving people’s lives, making businesses more efficient and effective and, we hope, making the world a better place.”

GS1 Connect is an annual event hosted by GS1 US. It brings together trading partners to network and learn about the value of using standards-based business processes and best practices for optimum efficiencies in managing the supply and demand sides of their value chains. The theme of this year’s conference is “Adapt,” focusing on how businesses have used GS1 Standards to overcome challenges to thrive in uncertain times. It will feature more than 40 live sessions, more than 50 exhibitors, trading partner roundtables, and other events centered on user stories and leadership insights for supply chain optimization.

For more information, contact AV Group Public Relations Specialist Davide Antonioli at davide.antonioli@antaresvision.com or +39 339-812-4446.

 

ABOUT ANTARES VISION GROUP

Antares Vision Group is an outstanding technology partner in digitalization and innovation for enterprises and institutions, guaranteeing the safety of products and people, business competitiveness, and environmental protection.

AV Group provides a unique and comprehensive ecosystem of technologies — including software and hardware — to guarantee product quality (inspection systems and equipment) and end-to-end traceability (from raw materials to production, from distribution to the consumer), through integrated data management, applying artificial intelligence and blockchain too.

AV Group is active in the life sciences (pharmaceuticals, biomedical devices, and hospitals), beverage, food, and cosmetics industries, and is expanding into other sectors. The world leader in track and trace systems for pharmaceutical products, it provides major global manufacturers, including more than 50 percent of the Top 20 multinationals, and numerous government authorities with solutions to monitor their supply chains and validate product authenticity.

Listed since April 2019 on the Italian Stock Exchange in the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) segment and from May 2021 in the STAR segment of the Mercato Telematico Azionario (MTA) (electronic equity market), AV Group operates in 60 countries, employs approximately 1,000 people, and has a consolidated network of more than 40 international partners. antaresvisiongroup.com

rfxcel, part of AV Group, has deep expertise in providing leading-edge software solutions to help companies build and manage digital supply chains, lower costs, protect products and brand reputations, and engage consumers. rfxcel.com

Egypt Pharmaceutical Supply Chain: News and Regulations

If you follow our blog (and we know you do), you’ve probably detected a theme over the last few days: global pharma compliance. We’ve written about Russia Chestny ZNAK, United Arab Emirates Tatmeen, Uzbekistan ASL BELGISI, and our rfxcel DSCSA Compliance Library. Today, we’re looking at the Egypt pharmaceutical supply chain. Let’s get started.

Notable news about the Egypt pharmaceutical supply chain

Last August, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli told a gathering of government officials that the country would prioritize the “localization” of the pharma industry. He said President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had tasked the government with developing an executive plan to this end.

It seems to be working: the Egypt pharmaceutical supply chain is enjoying strong growth. Last month, Egyptian Drug Authority (EDA) Director Dr. Tamer Essam said the country’s pharma exports had risen to 35 percent, an all-time high. “There is no medicine in the world or vaccine that is not manufactured in Egypt,” he said. In February 2021, the EDA announced it was launching an export subsidy initiative and had begun reviewing and updating all export procedures to ensure they complied with global regulatory requirements.

In April 2021, the head of the General Division of Drug Traders at the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce (FEDCOC), Ali Auf, said Egypt produced about 85 percent of its pharmaceutical needs domestically (and imported only 15 percent).

Auf made these statements two days after President Sisi inaugurated Gypto Pharma City, which embodies Egypt’s drive for pharmaceutical self-sufficiency. Situated on roughly 44.5 acres in Khanka, about 20 miles from Cairo, it’s one of the largest “medicine cities” in the region. It has facilities for production, administration, industrial services, and networks.

Egypt envisions Gypto Pharma City as a regional hub for the international pharmaceutical and vaccine industries, calling it “one of the most important national projects … with the aim of possessing the modern technological and industrial capacity in this vital field.”

The Egyptian Pharmaceutical Track & Trace System

The goal of the Egyptian Pharmaceutical Track & Trace System (EPTTS) is end-to-end traceability and product authentication across the Egypt pharmaceutical supply chain to reduce counterfeits, increase efficiency, and protect consumers. Appropriately, this dovetails into what the government has said about Gypto Pharma City — that it will “help citizens obtain high-quality and safe pharmacological treatment, end monopolistic practices, and control the prices of medicines.”

At first, the Ministry of Health and Population managed EPTTS; however, Law No. 151 of August 2019 essentially transferred those duties to the newly formed EDA. (It also created another organization, the Egyptian Authority for Unified Drug Procurement, a “centralized procurement and supply interface.”) The EDA was initially affiliated to the prime minister, but Presidential Decree 18/2020 of January 2020 gave it more autonomy.

The EDA “inherited” three organizations from the Ministry of Health and Population:

    • The Central Administration of Pharmaceutical Affairs (CAPA) registers pharma products, issues licenses for the establishment of pharma entities, and licenses the import and export of pharma products. It’s also responsible for regulating prices and evaluating clinical trials and studies of drugs.
    • The National Organization for Drug Control and Research (NODCAR) works to ensure the quality, safety, and effectiveness of pharma products, cosmetics, and insecticides. NODCAR must certify every pharmaceutical product before it can be registered, marketed, advertised, distributed, imported, or exported.
    • The National Organization for Research and Control of Biologicals (NORCB) monitors, inspects, and releases all biological products for human or animal use, such as vaccines.

Like most countries, the Egypt pharmaceutical supply chain follows GS1 labeling standards, characterized by Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs), Serialized Global Trade Item Numbers (SGTINs), 2D DataMatrix codes, GS1-128 barcodes, serial shipping container codes (SSCCs), and Global Location Numbers (GLNs). It is also using GS1’s Electronic Product Code Information Services (EPCIS) standard.

Secondary packaging must be marked with a 2D DataMatrix code with the GTIN, expiry date, batch number, and a randomized serial number. EPTTS’ original plan was to require these data points to be presented in a specific sequence, but this was nixed. Cases and pallets must have a GS1-128 barcode or a DataMatrix code with the SSCC.

EPTTS requires aggregation, including maintaining the parent-child relationship, but has yet to provide details. We’re also waiting for specifics about some aspects of serialization, including if serial numbers can be reused.

For data and compliance reporting, supply chain actors are required to submit data to a GS1 Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN) database. They must upload photos — as many as six of them — that clearly show the product packaging and other details, including the GTIN, brand name, storage instructions, country of origin, product name, and any warning statement. To date, however, the government hasn’t published specifications for communicating with the EPTTS database.

A pilot to test EPTTS was held from December 1, 2019, to January 12, 2020. Participants have shared feedback, but there hasn’t been much movement since. GS1 Egypt and the EDA are apparently still working on the implementation guidelines, which are now in their third iteration.

Final thoughts

The Egypt pharmaceutical supply chain regulations are a work in progress, and we’ll continue to follow developments and share updates when there’s concrete news.

But as we said in our overview of UAE Tatmeen, the global push for pharmaceutical traceability and serialization is continuing at a furious pace. If you’re a manufacturer, a distributor, a third-party logistics provider, a dispenser — any actor in the supply chain — waiting for Egypt or any other country to formalize their regulations is not a wise strategy. You have to have a solution now, preferably one that will work in every country.

That’s what our Traceability System does. Our supply chain experts can demonstrate in a few minutes how it automates compliance and optimizes just about every other aspect of your operations. Contact us today to see it in action. And continue following our blog. We’ll be writing more about global pharma regulations in the coming weeks (and months and years).  For example:

Why We Should Worry About Counterfeit Cosmetics

Counterfeit cosmetics have boomed during the pandemic. Not that they’ve ever not been in fashion among the criminal set. But recent research shows a renaissance, a proliferation of often dangerous fakes readily available to more people and through newer channels.

We just published a white paper about the global cosmetics market. It has a section about counterfeit cosmetics, and now we want to keep the conversation going with more information about this global problem. Here we go.

The statistics reveal “a worrying threat”

In “Global Trade in Fakes: A Worrying Threat” (June 2021), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reported that the global value of counterfeits and pirated goods amounted to as much as $464 billion in 2019, or 2.5 percent of world trade.

Worldwide, there were “consistently” more than 130,000 customs seizures of counterfeit and pirated goods annually in 2017, 2018, and 2019. “Overall,” the report continues, “the unified database on customs seizures of IP-infringing goods includes almost half [a] million observations.”

In 2017 and 2018, counterfeit cosmetics and perfumery products accounted for about 4 percent of all customs seizures. That rose to just under 10 percent in 2019 — a considerable jump in a very short time. Furthermore, cosmetics and perfumery products were among the Top 5 products “targeted by counterfeiters” every year from 2011 to 2019. (The others were articles of leather, clothing, footwear, and watches.)

What toll do counterfeit cosmetics take on the industry’s fiscal health? One report shows that annual sales losses from counterfeiting in cosmetics and personal care products sector amounted to 4.7 billion euros, or about $5.3 billion.

Our brand protection series talks more about counterfeits. It’s a real problem that every industry, some more than others, must contend with.

Counterfeit cosmetics in a huge global market

According to a Fortune Business Insights report published in September, the cosmetics market was worth $277.67 billion in 2020. Despite an overall decline in sales during the pandemic, the market is projected to grow to $415.29 billion by 2028.

The market has responded to consumer demand for a wider variety of products, and online shopping has added an ease of access. Online shopping will drive the market and, according to industry watchers, could account for nearly 30 percent of global beauty sales by 2026.

However, the dramatic shift from in-person to online purchasing during the pandemic has emboldened criminals to churn out more and more counterfeit cosmetic products. As OECD put in its “Global Trade in Fakes” report, “Under confinement, consumers turn to online markets to [fulfill] their needs, driving significant growth in the online supply of a wide range of counterfeits.”

Research from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security supports this finding. Its “Combating Trafficking in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods” report (January 2020) noted that “Selling counterfeit and pirated goods through e-commerce platforms and related online third-party marketplaces is a highly profitable venture.”

The threat to businesses and consumers

Counterfeit cosmetic products are a real threat to manufacturers and consumers. The bogus goods mimic the original, undercutting company sales. They bypass quality control processes and regulatory oversight, which means they can contain harmful “ingredients.”

For example, in 2018 authorities in the United Kingdom recovered counterfeit cosmetics that were found to contain mercury and high levels of hydroquinone, a skin-whitening agent. UK Police have also warned consumers about fake products containing “rat droppings, human urine, and arsenic.” Police in Los Angeles found counterfeits with bacteria and animal waste.

With the surge in online orders, shipping has become important to the counterfeit industry. The OECD reported that between 2017 and 2019, 64 percent of global seizures were postal shipments and 13 percent involved express couriers. In the same period, 77 percent of all counterfeits seized by authorities were discovered during the shipping period.

Final thoughts

Counterfeit cosmetics — counterfeit anything — threaten consumer safety and brand reputations.

Your supply chain is your first line of defense. With the right solution for end-to-end traceability, like our rfxcel Traceability System, you can leverage data and lock down your supply chain guard to against counterfeits and help mitigate other risks.

You’ll also be able to meet consumer demand for transparency. You can tell them with certainty that your products are what you say they are. You’ll ensure product safety and protect your brand.

If you have questions, we can help. Take a look at our solutions for brand protection and download our white paper about the global cosmetics market. And contact us today to arrange a short demo of our Traceability System. In about 15 minutes, our supply chain experts can show how our solutions will turn your supply chain into your most valuable strategic asset.

Top Supply Chain Trends of 2021

The supply chain has been grabbing headlines since the pandemic began, but this year was especially newsworthy. From flotilla-like bottlenecks at major U.S. ports to warnings about counterfeit toys in Santa’s sleigh, it’s been a challenging time for supply chain stakeholders and consumers alike. So, as the year winds down, we thought we’d take a look at some of the top supply chain trends of 2021.

The Year’s Supply Chain Trends

Before we start, please note that this isn’t a ranked list or a “countdown” to the No. 1 supply chain trend of the year. It’s just a collection of trends that have occurred in different industries and that have made industry news as we’ve worked our way through the year. That said, without further ado, here are the top supply chain trends of 2021.

Automation

Automation includes robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, process mining, drones, and driverless delivery systems. This trend dates back to the first half of 2019, when companies in North America spent $869 million on more than 16,000 robots. This year, the World Robotics 2021 Industrial Robots report said there were 3 million industrial robots operating in factories globally, a record number and an increase of 10 percent. The report also said sales of new robots grew 0.5 percent, with 384,000 units shipped globally in 2020.

Blockchain

Blockchain has been a buzzword for years, and worldwide spending on the technology has been predicted to reach more than $11 billion by 2022. In regard to supply chain management, blockchain has great potential for traceability because it allows the provenance of any product to be easily demonstrated with and supported by immutable, tamper-proof data. It’s a big topic, so download our “Blockchain-Based Supply Chain Traceability” white paper to learn more.

Sustainability

There’s been a barrage of research about supply chain sustainability, particularly consumers’ expectations for transparency and environmentally friendly products and packaging. In one recent survey, 83 percent of respondents said it was “important or extremely important” for companies to design environmentally conscious products. Another found that 81 percent of shoppers say transparency is important or extremely important to them. In short, more companies are choosing to make their supply greener and more transparent.

Consumer engagement/customer experience

Consumer engagement and customer experience have always had a place in marketing and branding, but they’ve risen to a priority position over the last several years. (See a tidy summary of why here.) But what does your supply chain have to do with any of this?

The short answer: Your supply chain is a gold mine of information that can be leveraged for robust, innovative engagement/experience strategies. The basic building block is serialization. Read our two-part series to learn more. And definitely read our article about how supply chain traceability is building a “consumer kingdom.”

“The Trifecta”: Traceability, Visibility, Transparency

It should come as no surprise that we’re including these three “must-haves” on our list of the top supply chain trends in 2021. We’ve always maintained that visibility, transparency, and traceability are the key to a successful supply chain; however, the last two years have shown us that this trifecta is more important than ever and is the best way to optimize, safeguard, and leverage your supply chain for business value.

Visibility means using data to gain insight into how your supply chain is functioning and to take steps to make it run more efficiently. The goal is to see every ingredient/input, every product, every partner, every handoff … everything. Transparency means communicating supply chain knowledge internally and externally so all stakeholders, including consumers, can see how you operate. Traceability means you can follow a product to its point of origin and prove what it is and where it came from.

We have written extensively on these topics. Here’s a suggested reading list:

Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT is a network of physical objects that connects to the internet via sensors and software. It’s the basis of our Integrated Monitoring solution. It enables greater visibility and flexibility across your entire supply chain. For example, IoT-enabled sensors placed in a shipment of vaccines will send a real-time alert if a problem arises, such as a temperature excursion or route diversion. We’ve written about IoT in the food and beverage industry, and rfxcel CEO Glenn Abood wrote a great article about real-time monitoring in the pharma cold chain. We also have a great video about it.

Digitization

If we were ranking the 2021′ supply chain trends, we’d make digitization No. 1. A supply chain that isn’t digitized cannot function efficiently. It cannot give consumers what they demand. It cannot comply with regulations. It cannot compete. It cannot make your business better.

Final Thoughts

As we move toward the New Year, it’s a good time to think about the future of your supply chain. Ask yourself some basic questions:

    • Are you keeping up with the trends we talked about today?
    • Are there gaps and blind spots in your supply chain?
    • Are counterfeits a problem in your industry?
    • Are you doing everything you can to protect your brand?
    • Are you actively reaching out to your customers to bring them closer to your brand?
    • Are there compliance deadlines on the horizon?
    • Are you certain your current supply chain solutions are truly optimal?
    • Are you using your supply chain as a strategic asset?

The next step is to contact us. Our digital supply chain experts can share a short demo of our award-winning Traceability System that will clearly show why it’s the best solution for any business, under any circumstances.

Understanding GS1 Barcodes in the Global Supply Chain

Where would we be without standards? One thing’s certain: Your supply chain would be a lot messier, if not chaotic, if you and your partners didn’t have a “common language” to process and exchange data. Standardized GS1 barcodes are one way we avoid this chaos.

GS1 barcodes keep everybody “on the same page.” They allow companies in virtually every industry to easily record, store, and transfer data. We’ve all seen them, and chances are your organization uses them — maybe even millions or billions of them. But let’s do a quick refresher course as another way to keep us all on the same page.

Why are GS1 barcodes important?

The short answer is, as we said above, standardized GS1 barcodes allow us to maintain order and avoid chaos. Work flows become quicker and more efficient. The GS1 barcodes keep supply chains running by enabling companies to sell, ship, track, reorder, and return products, in most cases by scanning with a handheld device or a camera-based system.

GS1 barcodes also expedite communication, traceability, visibility, and transparency. It’s really all about sharing information quickly in order to know the source of ingredients/components and products, where they’ve been and where they’re going, and when they reach their final destination.

These capabilities not only make supply chains more efficient — they also increase product safety and protect consumers. If there’s a recall, for example, a company can locate its products quickly, make sure shipments are stopped, remove items from stores, and share data with regulators and even consumers.

GS1 barcodes also save money. Administrative costs come down when everybody uses the same standards and has the same expectations. And because GS1 barcodes facilitate digital supply chains, they increase speed and reduce paperwork.

GSI Identification Keys

GS1 standards define a set of unique identification codes, known as identification keys. GS1 says its identification keys “refer unambiguously to a real-world entity,” such as a product, a logistics unit, a physical location, a document, a service relationship, or another entity.

In other words, the ID keys let you quickly and conveniently access information about items in your supply chain and share it with your partners. Only GS1 members can build ID keys, which must include a GS1 company prefix. There are 12 ID keys:

        1. Global Trade Item Number (GTIN): identifies products and services, such as food and clothing
        2. Global Location Number (GLN): identifies parties and locations, such as companies, warehouses, factories, and stores
        3. Serial Shipping Container Code (SSCC): identifies logistics units, such as parcels and palletized products
        4. Global Returnable Asset Identifier (GRAI): identifies returnable assets
        5. Global Individual Asset Identifier (GIAI): identifies assets, such as equipment used in manufacturing and transportation
        6. Global Service Relation Number (GSRN): identifies relationships between service providers and recipients, such as hospital staff and members of brand “loyalty” or rewards programs
        7. Global Document Type Identifier (GDTI): identifies documents, such as shipping paperwork
        8. Global Identification Number for Consignment (GINC): identifies consignments, such as logistics units being transported in a container on a ship or airplane
        9. Global Shipment Identification Number (GSIN): identifies shipments
        10. Global Coupon Number (GCN): identifies coupons
        11. Component/Part Identifier (CPID): identifies components and parts
        12. Global Model Number (GMN): identifies a product’s model number

The GS1 standards also encompass data capture, including definitions of barcode and radio-frequency identification (RFID) data carriers, that allow ID keys and other data to be affixed directly to an object. Data standards also address the hardware to read and produce barcodes (e.g., scanners and printers), and hardware and software to connect the barcodes and RFID tags to business applications.

The different types of GS1 barcodes

All GS1 barcodes are “containers” that can hold different amounts information, such as serial numbers, batch numbers, GTINs, and expiration dates. As the image below from GS1 shows, there are four types, or “families,” of barcodes: EAN/UPC, two-dimensional (2D), DataBar, and one-dimensional (1D).

GS1 barcodes

EAN/UPC family. GS1 says, rightly, that these “are printed on virtually every consumer product in the world.” They are characterized by a series of vertical lines and a horizontal row of numbers, and come in four types: UPC-A, EAN-13, UPC-E, and EAN-8.

These GS1 barcodes are designed to be used at the point of sale and can be read by omnidirectional scanners. None support attributes — they cannot contain product information such as an expiration date, a batch number, or item weight. UPC-A has 12 numbers and supports GTIN-12; EAN-13 has 13 numbers and supports GTIN-13; UPC-E has 12 numbers (the zeros are “suppressed) and supports GTIN-12; and EAN-8 has 8 numbers and supports GTIN-8.

2D barcodes. Like EAN/UPC barcodes, 2D barcodes are ubiquitous. They are incredibly robust, able to hold dense product information and remain legible at greatly reduced sizes or when they’re etched into a surface, such as a plastic bottle cap. There are two kinds of 2D barcodes:

      1. GS1 DataMatrix codes are omnidirectional and support attributes and all GS1 ID keys. They can hold 3,116 numeric or 2,335 alphanumeric characters.
      2. GS1 QR codes are also omnidirectional and support attributes and all GS1 ID keys. They can hold 7,089 numbers or 4,296 alphanumeric characters.

DataBar family. There are seven members in the DataBar family. Generally, they’re divided into two groups: those designed for use at the point of sale (i.e., can be read by omnidirectional scanners) and those that are not.

The first group has four types: omnidirectional, stacked omnidirectional, expanded, and expanded stacked.

      • Omnidirectional and stacked omnidirectional have 14 numbers. They support GTINs and Global Coupon Numbers (GCNs) but do not support attributes.
      • Expanded and expanded stacked have a maximum capacity of 74 numeric and 41 alphabetic characters. They support GTINs and GCNs, but do support attributes.

There are three types of barcodes in the second group: truncated, limited, and stacked. These have 14 numbers and support GTINs, but do not support attributes. They are not designed for use at the point of sale, so they cannot be read by omnidirectional scanners.

1D barcodes. The two types of 1D barcodes — GS1-128 and ITF-14 — are used in retail distribution, healthcare, and logistics. GS1-128 barcodes can carry any GS1 ID key and up to 48 alphanumeric characters, including serial numbers, expiration dates, and other information that helps track products through a supply chain. More than one GS1-128 barcode can be used on a single item. ITF-14 barcodes can hold only GTINs; GS1 says it is suitable for printing on corrugated materials.

Final thoughts

This year was the 50th anniversary of the GTIN. As GS1 said, “It is no exaggeration to say that the development of the GTIN set the stage for global, digitalized commerce.” Indeed, labeling standards and barcode technologies have evolved and advanced since 1971 to the great benefit of businesses and consumers alike.

We have been talking about the advantages of end-to-end traceability in a digital supply chain for a long time. When your products, labeled with powerful identifiers such as 2D DataMatrix codes, move through a digital supply chain powered by our award-winning Traceability System, you can leverage rich, unit-level data for much more than compliance and operational efficiency: You can create genuine, tangible business value. For example:

That’s really just the beginning of what a digital supply chain can do. To learn more, contact us today to see a short demo of our solutions. Our supply chain experts will show you how our Traceability System transforms your supply into your most valuable strategic asset.

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.

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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Saudi Pharma Compliance: New Aggregation Deadline & More

Things have been relatively quiet with Saudi pharma compliance. The country’s Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) established the Drug Track and Trace System (RSD) to track all human registered drugs that are manufactured in Saudi Arabia or imported. Regulations that took effect in January 2019 have changed how the Saudi drug supply chain operates.

The RDS is a standardized identification system that tracks drugs from the manufacturer to the patient. It adopts GS1 standards and applies to all pharmaceutical products on the Saudi market, including over-the-counter (OTC) medicines. According to GS1, the SFDA is working on similar requirements for medical devices and cosmetics.

The SFDA’s goal is to create a safer and more efficient pharmaceutical supply chain. To succeed in the Saudi market, companies that produce, distribute, and dispense pharmaceuticals must fully understand and comply with the regulations. Let’s take a look at what’s been happening.

New Aggregation Deadline

Aggregation has been a sticking point in the Saudi pharma compliance requirements, with many delays for enactment. Here’s a quick timeline:

  • July 2019: The SFDA published guidelines for barcodes that included details for packaging hierarchies. This included barcoding, serialization, and pallet-level aggregation.
  • August 2019: The SFDA published a reminder about an upcoming October aggregation deadline.
  • December 2019: The SFDA moved the aggregation deadline to March 31, 2020.
  • April 2020: The SFDA moved the aggregation deadline to June 30, 2020.
  • June 28, 2020: The SFDA once again moved the aggregation deadline, this time till August 20, 2020.

So, as of today, companies have a little more than a month to comply with the aggregation requirements. This means they’ll have to prepare their packaging lines, coordinate with their trading partners, and have systems that can capture and report data to the RSD.

Overview of Saudi Pharma Compliance

Here’s quick rundown of what’s required for Saudi pharma compliance.

Data Matrix barcodes

Saudi regulations stipulate that all drugs must be marked with a GS1 Data Matrix barcode that contains, at minimum, a 14-digit Global Trade Identification Number (GTIN-14), a serial number, the expiry date, and the batch/lot number. This information must also be printed on labels. All transactions for drug packages must be reported to the RSD, and all manufacturers licensed by the SFDA must acquire a Global Location Number (GLN).

Saudi Drug Code

Every registered drug in the Saudi market is assigned a Saudi Drug Code (SDC) that contains four variables: a fixed prefix, the year, a letter to identify the type of drug, and a serial number (e.g., SFDA12D001). The SDC will eventually replace the current code.

Global Location Numbers

From March 2018, companies had to register the locations of their factories and warehouses using their Global Location Numbers (GLNs).

RSD Stakeholder Management and Operation Portals

Companies use the Stakeholder Management Portal for initial registration in the RSD. The Stakeholder Operation Portal is where companies and their stakeholders report movements of drugs inside the supply chain. This ensures that information about all shipments are reported to Saudi  authorities.

According to the SFDA website, after a company has integrated its system with the RSD, all drug movements will be recorded automatically; companies/stakeholders won’t have to log in to the Stakeholder Operation Portal manually or register transactions manually.

Final thoughts

Saudi pharma compliance is complex. Manufacturers, warehouses, and pharmacies have a lot to think about. Though the date for implementing aggregation requirements has changed a few times, you should assume the August 20 deadline will hold firm.

The time to start preparing is now. rfxcel can help you be ready for all Saudi pharma compliance requirements. Our signature rfxcel Traceability Platform (rTS) can help you keep track of all the products in your supply chain and ensure you’re complying with all SFDA requirements — or regulations in any country.

Contact us for more information. Our supply chain experts are ready to help!

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.

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!