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Antares Vision Group Will Be at GS1 Connect 2022 in San Diego Next Month!

We’re getting excited for GS1 Connect, June 7-9 at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina! Not only are we a Premier Sponsor — we’ll be speaking about supply chain traceability and smart hospital systems.

We’ll also be at Booth 115 with our award-winning Traceability System, demonstrating solutions for the food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics industries.

So take 20 seconds (really) to sign up to meet us. We have a limited number of discount codes for 10 percent off your registration fee. And while you’re at Booth 115, take our short survey and you could win a $500 DoorDash gift card.

More about GS1 Connect and our speakers

The theme of this year’s conference is “Adapt.” The focus is on how businesses have used GS1 Standards to overcome challenges to thrive in uncertain times. There will be 40+ live sessions (including ours!), 50+ exhibitors (including us!), trading partner roundtables, and other events centered on user stories and leadership insights for supply chain optimization.

As GS1 says, the event is a place to “network with the greatest supply chain minds and learn how to leverage GS1 Standards to optimize your business.” Indeed.

In “Supply Chain Traceability: Can Your Business Survive Without It?” Herb Wong, our vice president of product and strategy, 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. He’ll be speaking on Thursday, June 9, at 1:45 p.m.

In on-demand session 509, “Smarter and Safer Hospitals: When Innovative Technologies Meet Patient Safety, our 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, Italy, will discuss how traceability and GS1 Standards enable end-to-end visibility of medications from arrival at the hospital to dispensation and optimized resources to focus on patient safety.

Final thoughts

We’ve always valued GS1 Standards, and we’ve always ensured our customers can adhere to them and take full advantage of them to maximize efficiency and create value across their operations everywhere they do business.

And who took the time to note the 50th anniversary of the venerable Global Trade Item Number (GTIN)? We did, with a blog post devoted to GS1 barcodes.

As we said in that article, “Where would we be without standards?” We’d love to see you at GS1 Connect and talk about those standards and how they fuel traceability. We hope you’ll take those few seconds to sign up to meet us at Booth 115, get 10 percent off your registration, and enter to win a nice prize when you take our survey.

In the meantime, drop us a line if you have any questions or want to know more about our traceability solutions for pharma, food and beverage, cosmetics, and other industries. We never pass on an opportunity to talk about what makes us your best partner for end-to-end supply chain solutions, from L1 all the way to L5!

See you in San Diego June 7-9!

Understanding the Africa Supply Chain, Part 1

Supply chains are about people. Yes, technology — like the digital solutions we provide — and regulations are important, but people are the true drivers, the alpha and omega. People design supply chains and make them run (efficiently and legally, we all hope). As consumers, people are the final destination of every supply chain; if you don’t understand their needs, wants, and habits, and if your products cannot reach them reliably, you’re out of business. The Africa supply chain is no exception.

In Part 1 of our series about the Africa supply chain, we’re looking at facts and figures about the almost 1.4 billion people on the continent. By understanding the people — where they live, their economies and how they work, and ambitious initiatives that will affect their daily lives — we provide the context for a broader discussion and understanding of the Africa supply chain. Let’s get started.

Africa by the numbers

Geography and population

Africa is big. It’s about 11.7 million square miles (30.3 million square km) total, and about 5,000 miles (8,000 km) from north to south and 4,600 miles (7,400 km) from east to west. Only Asia is bigger: 17.2 million square miles (almost 44.6 million square km).

There are 54 countries in Africa. As we said above, the population is approximately 1.4 billion — that’s about 17 percent of the world population. For comparison, there are roughly 4.6 billion people in Asia, 748 million in Europe, 654 million in Latin America and the Caribbean, 370 million in North America, and 42.5 million in Oceana. Africa is also the youngest continent in the world: The median age is 19.7 years. According to the World Bank, half of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa will be under 25 by 2050.

Africa has the highest growth rate in the world, and its population has increased every year since 2000, when it was approximately 811 million. By 2100, the population will approach parity with Asia. Nigeria is the most populous country, with 206 million people, followed by Ethiopia, which has 115 million. Egypt ranks third — 102 million people — and is the most populous country in in North Africa. (Be sure to read our overview of the Egypt pharmaceutical supply chain to learn about what’s happening there.)

The continent is home to between 1,500 and 2,000 languages, about one-third of the world’s languages. At least 75 of those have more than 1 million speakers.

Urbanization

Africa has led the world in urbanization this decade. As of 2021, 609 million people lived in urban areas; this could reach 722 million by 2026. According to the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 22 cities in Africa are expected to grow at an average annual rate of more than 5 percent in the first half of the 2020s, and 58 are expected to grow at 4-5 percent. The two fastest-growing cities in the world are Gwagwalada, Nigeria, and Kabinda, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Cities in Angola, Tanzania, and Mozambique are topping current growth statistics, and by 2035, Africa’s fastest-growing cities are forecasted to be Bujumbura, Burundi, and Zinder, Nigeria.

Proliferation of mobile technology

According to the GSMA, an association representing mobile network operators around the world, 495 million people — 46 percent of the population — were subscribed to mobile services in Sub-Saharan Africa at the end of 2020. This was an increase of almost 20 million over 2019. By 2025, adoption of 4G will double to 28 percent (the global average is 57 percent), and 5G will reach 3 percent of total mobile connections.

GSMA reports that 40 percent of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa is under the age of 15. Overall, Africa’s very young population will drive mobile use. Importantly, we can also assume that this demographic will use their mobile devices for everything from banking and shopping to entertainment, creating opportunities for companies to connect to consumers and involve them in the Africa supply chain.

Economy

Pre-pandemic, United Nations statistical data showed that Africa’s economy grew by about 3.4 percent in 2019, “creating one of the longest stretches of uninterrupted positive economic expansion in [the continent’s] history.” This helped fuel a growth of the middle class year over year.

In 2020, Africa experienced a 3.4 percent contraction in gross domestic product (GDP).

According to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) Industrial Development Report 2022: The Future of Industrialization in a Post-Pandemic World, the pandemic has caused considerable output loss in Africa, as it has in most of world. Here are projected output losses by 2021 for the “economy groups” in Africa:

    • North Africa (four economies): 7.3 percent
    • Less-developed countries (14 economies): 6.8 percent
    • Sub-Saharan Africa (12 economies): 6.4 percent

For perspective, estimated output losses were 7.5 percent in West Asia (5 economies), 4.1 percent in Northern and Western Europe (4 economies), 2.7 percent in North America and Pacific (4 economies), 10.3 percent in less-developed countries in Asia, and 1.4 percent in China.

According to a quick online survey of Africa-based websites, the top job sectors on the continent are agriculture, which accounts for 15 percent of GDP; infrastructure; mining; service; banking and finance; information and communications technology; entrepreneurship; entertainment; and tourism. See here and here for more information.

In 2020, 453 million people were employed in Africa, with the majority in Eastern Africa. The two most populous countries, Nigeria and Ethiopia, had the highest working populations, about 56.6 million and 51.3 million, respectively.

According to the World Bank, regional growth in Africa projections look like this:

    • Sub-Saharan Africa: Growth for 2022 and 2023 will remain just below 4 percent.
    • East and Southern Africa: Growth of 3.4 percent in 2022; excluding Angola and South Africa, 4.3 percent growth is expected in 2022.
    • West and Central Africa: Growth of 5.3 percent in 2022; the West African Economic and Monetary Union (Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte D’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo) is projected to grow at 6.1 percent in 2022. Nigeria is expected to grow by 2.9 percent (African Development Bank Group).

Agenda 2063 and the Africa Supply Chain

Agenda 2063 “is Africa’s blueprint and master plan for transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of the future.” It is being implemented through five 10-year plans, the first of which is scheduled to end next year. Many of its Flagship Projects relate to modernizing and expanding infrastructure; therefore, they are directly related to the Africa supply chain. For example:

African High-Speed Train Network: The network will connect all countries’ capitals and commercial centers, including connecting the 16 landlocked countries to major seaports and neighboring countries.

Single African Air-Transport Market (SAATM): The goal is “the full liberalization of intra-African air transport services in terms of market access [and] traffic rights for scheduled and freight air services by eligible airlines, thereby improving air services connectivity and air carrier efficiencies.”

Continental Commodities Strategy: The goal is to move Africa away from being a raw materials supplier to “developing [its] commodities as a driver for achieving the structural, social, and economic transformation of the continent.” Integrating into regional and global value chains is a key part of the strategy.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA): The goal is to accelerate intra-African trade and boost Africa’s “trading position in the global market by strengthening [its] common voice and policy space in global trade negotiations.” Thirty-six countries had ratified the AfCFTA agreement as of February 5, 2021.

Final thoughts

To understand your supply chain, you have to understand people. We hope this overview of Africa was informative, showing where people live, how they work, the continent-wide trends, and what’s being done to ensure the Africa supply chain better serves every person in all 54 countries.

Everything we’ve talked about today influences the Africa supply chain; however, urbanization could be the most telling and important. As cities continue to grow — remember, urban populations are projected to reach 722 million by 2026 — people will demand more access to goods and services, and the supply chain will have to respond nimbly and efficiently. The proliferation of mobile devices and networks, especially among young people, is another important driver.

rfxcel understands supply chains. The technology, the regulations, and how they affect people. Move on to Part II of our Africa supply chain series, where we discuss recent developments and regulations in specific countries. And be sure to contact us if you have any questions or want a short demonstration of our solutions. We’d love to hear from you.

Last but not least, take a look at our other news from the Africa and Middle East region:

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:

Uzbekistan Traceability Update: Pharma Serialization Begins Feb. 1, 2022

Note: On February 7, 2022 — just 10 days after we posted this article — Uzbekistan’s State Tax Committee announced that it was “extending the timeframe for the phased introduction of mandatory digital markings” for pharmaceutical products. The February 1 deadline is longer in effect for this product category. Read the details here.

 

On February 1, 2022, Uzbekistan traceability requirements for medicines and medical devices will go into effect. It’s the latest compliance deadline in the country’s push for serialization and digital marking regulations that will affect an array of industries. Here’s a breakdown of the law and the latest Uzbekistan traceability updates.

The Uzbekistan Traceability System: ASL BELGISI

The Uzbekistan traceability system is called ASL BELGISI. It’s managed by CRPT Turon, the equivalent of Russia’s Center for Research in Perspective Technologies (CRPT), which manages Russia’s National Track and Trace Digital System (Chestny ZNAK).

On November 20, 2020, the Uzbekistan government published Decree PKM-737, “Establishment of Obligatory Digital Labeling.” It mandates serialization for tobacco products; alcohol, including wine and wine products; beer and brewing products; appliances; medicines and medical devices; and water and soft drinks.

Furthermore, it requires supply chain participants to register with a national catalog of labeled goods; when an application is approved, the participant receives an account and is granted access to the system.

According to the CRPT Turon website, the “main task” of ASL BELGISI “is to guarantee consumers the authenticity and declared quality of the purchased products.” Like Chestny ZNAK, consumers can download a mobile app to scan products, report suspect products, and provide feedback about the system.

Marking requirements

Uzbekistan traceability requirements mirror those mandated in Chestny ZNAK. All domestically produced and imported goods must be marked with DataMatrix codes that are traced across the supply chain through a four-step process:

    1. CPRT Turon assigns a unique DataMatrix code to each product and the manufacturer or importer places it on the packaging.
    2. The product’s movements are traced throughout the supply chain, from the factory or point of importation to the consumer, via scanning of the DataMatrix code.
    3. Retailers scan the codes when products are stocked and sold.
    4. Consumers can use the ASL BELGISI app to check a product’s legitimacy (i.e., confirm that it’s not a counterfeit) and access product information.

To get DataMatrix codes, participants must be registered with ASL BELGISI, describe the goods in a national catalog of labeled goods, then formally order the codes and apply them to the products. The codes must be applied to packaging or a product label according to the ISO/IEC 16022-2008 “Automatic identification and data capture techniques – Data Matrix bar code symbology” specification. At present, each DataMatrix code costs 68 som (excluding VAT), which is quite literally a fraction of a U.S. dollar: $0.0063.

Like its Russian counterpart, ASL BELGISI uses “verification keys” and “verification codes.” These are also commonly known as crypto codes. CRPT Turon generates these codes.

Generally, the DataMatrix codes for products in every regulated industry must include four data points:

    • A 14-digit product code (i.e., Global Trade Item Number, or GTIN)
    • A 13-character randomized serial number generated by CRPT Turon or a supply chain participant
    • A four-character verification key generated by CRPT Turon
    • A 44-character verification code generated by CRPT Turon

For aggregation, a Serial Shipping Container Code (SSCC) number must be provided in a one-dimensional barcode following the ISO 15394:2009 “Packaging – Barcode and two-dimensional symbols for shipping, transport and receiving labels” specification.

Regulated industries and key dates/requirements

Uzbekistan traceability regulations currently apply to five product categories: tobacco; alcohol, including wine and wine products; beer and brewing products; appliances; medicines and medical devices; and water and soft drinks. Below, we list the latest information about each category.

Filter cigarettes
    • January 1, 2021: only labeled products may be produced and imported
    • July 1, 2021: manufacturers may ship only labeled products to wholesalers
    • October 1, 2021: distributors may ship only labeled products to retailers
    • January 1, 2022: sale of unmarked cigarettes is prohibited
    • October 1, 2022: mandatory labeling for all types of tobacco products
Alcohol
    • January 1, 2021: only labeled products, including wine and wine products, may be produced and imported
    • December 1, 2021: alcoholic beverages packaged in metal containers, including aluminum containers, must be labeled
    • December 1, 2021: aggregation required for alcoholic beverages, including wine and wine products
    • November 1, 2022: aggregation required for alcoholic beverages packaged in metal containers, including aluminum containers
Beer and brewing products

Mandatory labeling began on April 1, 2021.

Appliances

A pilot for appliances began on July 1, 2021. Mandatory labeling is being introduced in phases. Vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, TVs, and monitors were required to be labeled beginning December 1, 2021.

Medicines and medical devices
    • June 1, 2021: 6-month pilot for medicines and medical devices begins
    • January 28, 2022: CRPT Turon announces that the pilot is officially closed
    • February 1, 2022: only labeled products may be produced and imported

CRPT Turon reported that, during the pilot, all participants successfully registered with ASL BELGISI and registered agreed-upon product in the national catalog of labeled goods. They also successfully installed marking equipment on production lines, trained employees to use the equipment, and released batches of properly labeled, serialized products.

More about the requirements for medicines and medical devices

In addition to a DataMatrix code that includes a 14-digit product code (i.e., GTIN), a 13-character randomized serial number, a 4-character verification key, and a 44-character verification code, packaging must have a human-readable GTIN, lot number, expiration date, manufacturing date, and serial number.

Digital marking must be applied directly to packaging on the production line in a “specially designated place” and not be larger than 10×10 millimeters. The codes must be affixed in a way that prevents them from being separated from packaging during the entire shelf life of the product. Codes may not be printed on external packaging material, including transparent film/wraps, and my not be obscured by other information.

Water and soft drinks

This product category includes bottled water, soft drinks, and fruit and vegetable juices.

    • June 1, 2021: pilot for water and soft drinks begins
    • March 1, 2022: only labeled products may be produced and imported

Final thoughts

In June 2021, CRPT Turon announced that it had issued more than 350 million codes, including more than 200 million for tobacco products, almost 130 million for alcohol products, and approximately 20 million for beer products.

As of today (January 28, 2022), it reports that it has issued nearly 583 million codes for tobacco products, more than 300 million for alcohol products, almost 143 million for beer products.

These figures illustrate a simple fact: Strict serialization and traceability regulations are here to stay in Uzbekistan. Russia has led the way with Chestny ZNAK, which arguably has the world’s toughest supply chain requirements, and we should watch the regulatory landscape in the other Newly Independent States (NIS) — Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Ukraine.

As we said above, ASL BELGISI, the Uzbekistan traceability system, mirrors Russia’s Chestny ZNAK. rfxcel is an undisputed leader in Chestny ZNAK compliance. Consider these facts:

  • We’re an official CRPT partner for medications, bottled drinking water, tobacco, footwear, tires, light industry, perfumes, dairy, bicycles, and wheelchairs.
  • We’ve demonstrated to the CRPT that our solutions for traceability and compliance meet its stringent requirements.
  • We’re accredited as an IT company by Russia’s Ministry of Digital Development, Communications, and Mass Media.
  • We’re one of the few providers with active implementations in Russia (e.g., major global consumer goods and pharmaceutical companies).
  • We have an ever-growing Moscow-based team that knows the regulations and brings expertise in key areas of supply chain management and technology.
  • We’ve led the way in thought leadership with white papers and industry updates and information. (See the list below for a sample.)

We’ve also developed end-to-end traceability and compliance hubs for governments that want to lock down their supply chains with the best digital technologies and solutions. Read more about those here and here.

Contact us today to learn more about our traceability and compliance solutions. Our digital supply chain experts will share a short demo of our award-winning Traceability System and show you how to remain compliant and agile no matter where you do business.

A sample of our Chestny ZNAK coverage

 

Trends for the Digital Wine Supply Chain

As we said in our post about wine supply chain trends, it’s definitely not a Dry January in our blog. Today’s topic: the digital wine supply chain.

First, though, we’re excited about exhibiting at the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium next week. Head over to our sign-up page. We have some complimentary passes available (on a first-come basis) and we’ll be giving away a few bottles of fine Italian wine at Booth 807! Sign up and visit us at the show!

Now, on to the digital wine supply chain.

What are the benefits of a digital wine supply chain?

If you follow our blog (and we know you do), you know we’ve been talking about the digital supply chain for years. For us, digitization isn’t a fad or a trend; it is the No. 1 most important “thing” you can do for your business.

In broad terms, the benefits of building a digital wine supply chain are visibility, traceability, and transparency; sustainability; optimized efficiency and productivity; and creating value and enabling new business models.

It’s important to note that visibility, traceability, and transparency make all the other benefits possible. This “trifecta” in a digital wine supply chain enables longevity, brand strength, innovation, and compliance.

Digital wine supply chain trends

We’re not ranking these digital wine supply chain trends, just noting some of the most important and prominent technologies that are driving the industry. This is also a very high-level summary, as getting into granular details is far beyond the scope of our blog. If you have any questions or want more information, contact us!

Furthermore, these technologies are important in every supply chain. It doesn’t matter what your business is: a digital supply chain is your most important strategic asset.

Blockchain

If you had to describe blockchain in one word, it would probably be “security.” Specifically, it’s about forwarding (i.e., sharing, utilizing) encrypted data that’s virtually impossible to corrupt, alter, or otherwise modify. For details about what it is and how it works, download our “Blockchain-Based Supply Chain Traceability” white paper.

For the digital wine supply chain, blockchain’s primary appeal — as you might have guessed — concerns visibility, traceability, and transparency. Put simply, it’s a powerful tool to verify everything in your supply chain, from the vineyard to distribution to final sale to the person who will be pouring your wine into a glass. It makes traceability accessible and verifiable for everyone in the chain (e.g., your trading partners).

Blockchain has other applications, such automatically verifying, validating, and enforcing contracts. These “smart contracts” can be implemented throughout the digital wine supply chain, to set up and confirm deliveries and pay suppliers, for example. There’s even been some buzz about non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in the wine industry.

Adoption of blockchain is far, far from universal. People still don’t fully understand what it is, how it works, and the value it can bring. However, the consensus seems to be that it will blossom and proliferate during the 2020s. Nowadays, data is king; blockchain safeguards data, so keep it on your radar.

Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT technology puts you everywhere your supply chain goes. It’s the heart of real-time data collection, monitoring, adjusting, risk mitigation, and brand empowerment.

For the wine industry, this means using sensors to cultivate “smart vineyards” and build a supply chain with end-to-end visibility, traceability, and transparency. (Are you detecting a theme?) For example, IoT-enabled sensors can be buried in soil, embedded in vines, or hung in leaves to monitor environmental conditions, collect data, forecast weather conditions, reduce risks during harvesting, and improve productivity.

IoT also promotes sustainability, including water and soil conservation and lowering/eliminating pesticides; combined with satellite imaging, these capabilities safeguard vineyards and promote sustainability.

IoT has applications in every facet of the wine the supply chain. The upshot is data. Lots and lots of data. Collected and transmitted in real time, the data tells you exactly what’s happening in every part of your operations on land, air, and sea.

E-labels and e-certificates

Electronic labels, or e-labels, make life easier for everyone: You, your employees, your trading partners, regulators, packaging designers, graphic designers, and your customers. They are foundational to the digital wine supply chain. And because they replace multiple paper labels, e-labels are better for the environment and promote sustainability.

DataMatrix codes and QR codes are examples of e-labels. Essentially, they can be “loaded” with information about ingredients, product provenance, traceability data, compliance data — virtually anything. They can also link to social media, websites, apps, rewards programs, and special content such as videos. E-labels are an all-in-one solution for every member of the digital wine supply chain.

Importantly, e-labels are powerful tools to fight fraud and counterfeits, problems that have a huge negative impact on the wine industry. Full traceability data, accessible with a single scan by a supply chain partner or a consumer in a store, proves a that a bottle of wine is genuine. E-labels are critical to our trifecta of traceability, transparency, and visibility.

A good case study is the EU’s “U-label” digital platform, which allows wine and spirts producers to easily create e-labels (in this case QR codes) and give consumers product information in their native language. It’s a collaborative effort of the Comité Européen des Entreprises Vins (CEEV), the association representing the European wine industry, and SpiritsEUROPE, whose mission is to “represent, defend and promote the European spirits sector and help members achieve sustainable business growth.”

For a deep dive on QR codes, DataMatrix codes, and other barcodes, read our “Understanding GS1 Barcodes in the Global Supply Chain” blog post.

Electronic certificates are similar to e-labels. They too are “loaded” with data that prove a product meets certain requirements and certifies key information such as origin, import-export status, tax status, and sanitary/phytosanitary compliance.

In the wine industry, common certificates include certificates of origin, free sale certificates, quality certificates, organic certificates, and environmental certificates/certifications. However, the industry has not established standards for e-certificates and to a large degree still relies on a paper-based system.

With the push for a digital wine supply chain, standard-making bodies for e-certificates should consider what certifications to include (e.g., origin, export, quality, sanitary), relevant categories of information (e.g., producer, brand, batch, Harmonized System code), and how the information will be exchanged (e.g., through central hubs).

Other things to watch in the digital wine supply chain

We’ve run out of space for now, but here are few other things to keep an eye on as the digital wine supply chain evolves.

    • Artificial intelligence to manage and process data, monitor crops, make decisions about watering and fertilizing, predictive maintenance on lines, warehouse management, and distribution
    • Robotics in planting, fertilizing, pruning, harvesting, and warehousing
    • Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and satellite imaging for “digital cartography” to monitor land use, study the effects of climate change, conduct surveys, track diseases, generate thermal and infrared imaging
    • Creating “digital assets” to leverage in brand protection and consumer engagement strategies. Note: Our upcoming articles will discuss this in detail.

Final thoughts

The wine industry has always maintained a balance between tradition and innovation. Winemakers, grapegrowers, and other stakeholders want to preserve the past while embracing current and developing technologies.

The digital wine supply chain brings the industry the best of both worlds: Technology ensures traditions endure. But technology also creates new traditions for traceability, transparency, visibility, and sustainability — the very things that, as we said at the outset, enable longevity, brand strength, innovation, and compliance.

Contact us today to learn more. And be sure to read our other articles about the wine supply chain and why your supply chain is vital for effective consumer engagement and brand protection:

 

Antares Vision Digital Supply Chain

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.

What is the Drug Supply Chain Security Act?

Today’s question: What is the Drug Supply Chain Security Act?

We’ve written extensively about the legislation, which was passed on November 27, 2013. But with the deadline for full compliance quickly approaching, we thought a quick overview was in order. So let’s answer the question, What is the Drug Supply Chain Security Act?

What Is the Drug Supply Chain Security Act?

If you’re a pharmaceutical company — a manufacturer, wholesaler, dispenser, repackager, or third-party logistics provider — you must comply with the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) if you want to do business in the United States.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says the goal of the DSCSA is “to build an electronic, interoperable system to identify and trace certain prescription drugs as they are distributed in the United States.” The Act “will enhance [the] FDA’s ability to help protect consumers from exposure to drugs that may be counterfeit, stolen, contaminated, or otherwise harmful” and “improve detection and removal of potentially dangerous drugs from the drug supply chain to protect U.S. consumers.”

The law has been rolled out in phases since it was passed nearly 10 years ago. Implementation culminates on November, 27, 2023, at which time the U.S. pharmaceutical supply chain will be fully serialized.

Key requirements of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act

The FDA puts DSCSA requirements into the following categories:

1. Product identification/serialization

A unique product identifier (PI), such as a bar code, must be placed on certain prescription drug packages.

2. Product tracing

Stakeholders must provide information about a drug and who handled it each time it’s sold. This includes transaction information (TI), a transaction statement (TS), and a transaction history (TH), collectively known as “T3” information. Read our “Dispensers and DSCSA 2023” white paper for more about T3 information.

3. Product verification

Stakeholders must establish systems and processes to verify PIs for certain prescription drugs packages. The Verification Router Service (VRS) enables a rapid, secure exchange of data to do this. See more about VRS below.

4. Detection and response + notification

Stakeholders must quarantine and promptly investigate suspect or illegitimate drugs. They must also notify the FDA and other interested parties when they find such drugs.

5. Licensing

Wholesalers must report their licensing status and contact information to the FDA. Third-party logistics providers must obtain a state or federal license.

Looking forward

The FDA has delayed the rollout of the DSCSA two times, giving the industry extra time to prepare. However, an FDA official recently said there will be no more delays. November 27, 2023, is a done deal.

In terms of what’s next, take a look at our “DSCSA 2023: The Future of Pharmaceutical Traceability in the United States” blog post. This gets into the granular details of the transformation that’s going to happen in 2023, but here are the basics of what to expect:

Serialization

Serialization relies on product identifiers (the “PIs” we mentioned above), which include serial numbers and expiration dates. For 2023, all transaction information (the “TI” we mentioned above) must include the PI. TI includes the following:

  • The product name
  • The product’s strength and dosage form
  • The product’s National Drug Code
  • The container size and number of containers
  • The lot number
  • The transaction date
  • The shipment date
  • The name and address of the businesses from which and to which ownership is being transferred
Authorized trading partners

Put simply, the DSCSA says that if you’re not an authorized trading partner (ATP), your access to the U.S. pharma supply chain will be severely restricted or denied altogether. All manufacturers, wholesale distributors, repackagers, third-party logistics providers, and dispensers and their trading partners must be ATPs. We did a deep dive on ATPs earlier this year; read our two-part series here.

Verifying drugs

The DSCSA’s saleable returns verification requirement stipulates that wholesalers must verify all returned drugs before they can be reintroduced to the supply chain. This is done by verifying a drug’s PI. A wholesaler must initiate a verification request to the drug’s manufacturer, then the manufacturer must provide a verification response within 24 hours. The Verification Router Service — the VRS — is what enables the rapid, secure exchange of data between these parties. Like everything else in the DSCSA, we’ve written extensively about the VRS. Our “DSCSA Saleable Returns Verification Requirement: Just the Facts” article is a good place to start.

Final thoughts

What is the Drug Supply Chain Security Act? The DSCSA makes pharma stakeholders responsible for securing the U.S. supply chain. It doesn’t matter if you’re a manufacturer, wholesaler, repackager, third-party logistics provider, or a dispenser — the law affects how you conduct business. Your compliance depends on making sure you can meet your responsibilities.

That’s where rfxcel comes in.

A fully serialized pharma supply chain is just two years away. It’s important to use this time to get your systems in place. We have almost 20 years of experience providing the pharmaceutical industry with leading regulatory and compliance software. So if you aren’t sure if you’re going to be ready for DSCSA 2023 and want to see a short demo of our solutions — or just want to know more about your responsibilities — contact us today. Our DSCSA experts will work directly with you to design a solution that meets your specific needs, no matter your role in the supply chain.

In the meantime, you can hear directly from our experts in our “Plan for DSCSA Readiness” webinar and our DSCSA 2023 webinar series. These are great resources to help you better understand the law.

Brand Protection Strategies and Your Supply Chain

Welcome to Part II of our brand protection series. In Part I, we talked about the top supply chain threats that brand protection strategies must address: counterfeits, diversion, theft, and insufficient traceability.

Today, we’re talking about the supply chain solutions that combat these threats — solutions that should be integral to your brand protection strategies.

A holistic supply chain approach to brand protection strategies

Your supply chain is the embodiment of your business. If it’s not healthy, your brand can’t be healthy. You need to be able to continuously scan it, diagnose it, and take immediate action should a threat arise.

Fine-tuned digital supply chain solutions are the answer. Working together from end to end, they create a “central nervous system” that monitors and senses every touch point in real time while collecting and sharing data to inform your next move.

Serialization, real-time monitoring, and end-to-end traceability are the key solutions that help mitigate supply chain threats and provide the intelligence for effective brand protection strategies. Let’s take a look.

Serialization

Serialization is the building block of a secure supply chain and effective brand protection strategies. By assigning a unique serial number to each product, you create what rfxcel calls a “digital asset” with a unique digital identity. Every product can be linked to virtually any information you want, such as its origin, when it was harvested or manufactured, its lot number, and its expiration date.

Serialization also enables you to track every individual unit through your entire supply chain, from production to retail distribution to the final consumer and beyond. It creates a barrier to fight counterfeits and fakes and contributes to end-to-end traceability that eliminates blind spots and locks down your supply chain.

Serialization also fuels brand protection strategies because you can leverage each digital asset for consumer engagement to build confidence and trust. As we said in Part I of our consumer engagement series, your customers are absolutely a part of brand protection, and serialization empowers them in three important ways.

First, it’s the basis of an indelible, demonstrable, shareable product provenance that proves that your product is what you say it is and gives consumers the information they demand.

Second, as we discussed in Part II of our consumer engagement series, your serialized product is a device for one-on-one communication with your customers. For example, with a quick smartphone scan of a 2D Data Matrix code, a person can access rich data about your product and exclusive content through which they’ll establish and build a relationship with your brand.

Third, serialization lets you “crowdsource” brand protection through your consumer engagement activities. For example, if a person scans a product and the scan doesn’t work or they’re taken to a suspect website or other suspicious content, you can incentivize them to contact you and report that something is wrong. This is actionable, granular data that will protect your brand.

Real-time monitoring

A blind spot in your supply chain creates opportunities for trouble. Common blind spots include deviations from prescribed routes and harmful environmental conditions. The solution is real-time monitoring.

rfxcel’s Integrated Monitoring solution paints a vibrant, detailed picture of where your products are and what is happening to them. It provides better data, continuity, visibility, and security to protect your products and consumers. With detailed, unit-level data coming in around the clock, you’ll understand and immediately act upon specific risks.

It works like this: Pallets, cases, or unit-level items are equipped with Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled sensors that send data over communication networks at regular intervals. The sensors provide real-time information about how long an item has been in transit, if the transport vehicle is sticking to its approved route, if the shipment stopped and for how long, and environmental conditions such as temperature, light, humidity, and shock. If something is not as it’s supposed to be, the sensors transmit an alert so you can halt shipments that may have been adulterated and redirect shipments to keep products safe. You’ll protect your customers and safeguard your brand.

Check out our short videos about our Integrated Monitoring solution for the pharmaceutical and food and beverage industries.

End-to-end traceability

End-to-end traceability in a digital supply chain means you can design end-to-end brand protection strategies.

With a suite of solutions acting in concert — like our Traceability System — you’ll create 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.

rfxcel Traceability System

And there are numerous other benefits of end-to-end traceability. If you can see every part of your 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.

Mobile traceability: an on-the-go solution for brand protection strategies

A discussion of brand protection strategies isn’t complete without mentioning mobile traceability. Why? Because if you don’t have access to your supply chain data 24/7, no matter where you are, you’re not shedding light on blind spots and not building a solid perimeter around your brand.

rfxcel’s MobileTraceability solution brings our industry-leading track and trace capabilities to virtually any location, including places that traditionally may not have had absolute visibility in your supply chain, such as remote fields, distribution centers, and warehouses. With unparalleled convenience and speed, it gives you everything you need to keep you supply chain running at optimal efficiency. To learn more, read about what our Mobile Traceability solution can do for the pharmaceutical and food and beverage supply chains.

Final thoughts

A supply chain problem is a brand protection problem. By giving all your products a unique digital identity through serialization, then following and controlling them in real time with integrated monitoring and traceability solutions, you can demonstrate to the world that your brand is strong and reliable. You can build a reputation for integrity and transparency with partners and consumers. You can use data to innovate your brand protection strategies, consumer engagement activities, and every part of your operations.

With rfxcel, you can fortify your brand with data from a digital supply chain. You can combat the threats we’ve discussed no matter where you are and no matter where you supply chain goes. Contact us today to see how our solutions can work for better, stronger brand protection strategies.