Product traceability and supply chain transparency
The traceability of products and the associated supply chain transparency are two central components of the global movement of goods. In essence, it is about being able to determine the origin of a product and its different production phases. This traceability makes it possible to track the entire production process, including logistical distribution to the customer.
Anyone who demands supply chain transparency or is supposed to implement it usually has a diffuse picture of a wide variety of interfaces and information carriers before their eyes. Supply chains were previously thought of in particular at the product and component level, to which tags, codes, serial numbers or other information carriers could be applied. Beyond that, it then already became more difficult to determine the origin of a material. However, legal initiatives, such as the Supply Chain Act in Germany, demand more transparency and thus targeted traceability of products. Specifically, this law requires corporate due diligence when considering risks for human rights violations or environmental damage.
Traceability of products – clearly defined by ISO 9001
Product traceability is a comprehensive concept that affects the entire production and value chain of a product. Consequently, it begins with the extraction of raw materials, continues through production, processing, storage and transport, and ends with the consumption and disposal of the goods. In concrete terms, the traceability of products is about being able to determine at any time where, when and by whom a good was extracted, processed, manufactured, stored, transported, consumed and disposed of.
To ensure this traceability of products, the entire production history of a good must be transparent. This includes information on the product itself, but also on all locations, manufacturers and suppliers. In this context, traceability is subject to uniform regulation and the quality management system of the International Organization for Standardization. ISO 9001 thus creates an internationally uniform standard that stipulates that methods of labelling and traceability must be documented and products must be clearly labelled during manufacture. ISO 9001 also provides for batch traceability down to the individual or raw material level. Within the EU, for example, there is also the regulation on traceability specifically for foodstuffs.
What makes product traceability so important?
The traceability of products is not least a measure that emerged with the increasingly digitized processes within manufacturing and the steady increase in counterfeit products on the market. Industry 4.0 makes mature systems for traceability thus inevitable and shows itself to be of importance in different business areas:
By being able to trace every step of your product, you have increased control over the quality of the goods. Especially in the automotive industry or in the field of food production, this clear evidence can become a protection for the company when it comes to damage claims.
Reduction of resource waste
If faults can be detected early on within the production chain or counterfeit components can be unmasked, it is possible to counteract the waste of resources.
With the help of product traceability, a recall can be prevented at an early stage or, in case of doubt, better classified and managed, as each product can be traced back to the raw material. This makes it possible to identify the source of the defect.
For companies, it is always about meeting customer needs in the best possible way. Product traceability also adds value in this regard, helping to identify potential for improvement and ensure high-quality products for customers.
With Tailorlux you give your products a signature – individual, invisible and machine-readable.
The benefits of traceability and supply chain transparency
A product traceability system always involves two significant aspects: the flow of goods and the flow of information that goes with it. In this context, the benefits that result from an efficient traceability solution must be broken down to all stakeholders:
- Companies benefit from traceability by being able to identify all critical points within the production and supply chain at an early stage. Defective goods can be quickly removed from circulation, quality is increased, and productivity improves sustainably.
- Consumers trust the company and its products more as a result of controlled quality, and uncertainty in a globalized e-commerce market is reduced.
- With a traceability system, all regulations are met vis-à-vis the authorities and specific documentation can be presented immediately in case of doubt.
For companies in particular, the traceability of products is particularly important:
- Constant improvement of processes while minimizing waste of resources
- Continuous danger and cause analysis that quickly detects faults and prevents larger scale damage
- To be able to meet all compliance requirements with an efficient system
- Minimizing a catastrophic risk in a globalized market by keeping all supply, manufacturing and production chains in view
- Optimize value streams
The possibilities for the traceability of products
In the context of tracking products along the logistics chain, one usually encounters the terms around track & trace. Accordingly, the traceability of products can always be viewed from different perspectives:
Tracing includes a system of traceability with which the origin of the delivery can be identified. This makes it possible to analyse the individual production stages even after the fact and thus maintain supply chain transparency. Tracing becomes important whenever a delivered product poses a health hazard or safety defect, for example. In this way, it is possible to find the point of failure, eliminate the hazard and, if necessary, recall the product in good time.
With tracking, the goods can be followed so that information about the status of the delivery is always available. Especially in the field of e-commerce, this is an important method for documenting all the steps a product goes through from online purchase to destination.
Internal tracing of products
This involves the traceability of a product along its entire path through the company’s production chain to shipping or delivery. All steps, movements and handling must be made traceable in detail.
External tracing of products
The external tracing of a product goes beyond the boundaries of a company and thus covers all points in the supply chain, including the transport routes at home and abroad. This means that the entire flow of goods can be identified.
The traceability of products with the help of Tailorlux chemical tagging
In addition to the usual consideration of direct suppliers, it is often a question of the origin of a product, that is, a point in time at which the product as such is not yet available and is produced or held in stock as a pellet, fiber or powder. Often, these materials still have to undergo industrial processes that no marking can survive.
This is where Tailorlux inorganic chemical marking offers decisive advantages:
- It is inert and absolutely temperature stable. The robust pigments survive almost any industrial process.
- The marking becomes an inseparable part of the product similar to a product DNA that remains until the end of the product life cycle
Tailorlux’s special expertise lies in reading and authenticating this marking in a matter of seconds. This combines physical proof with digital means of product traceability, opening up new paths to greater supply chain transparency.
As the marking is inseparably linked to the material, this results in significantly higher integrity than subsequently applied identification features. In the context of the so-called supply chain law, the solution from Tailorlux can therefore help to meet the extended due diligence requirements, as the marking starts at the origin and can also be used in subsequent production processes to check whether the material was processed to the agreed extent, for example to rule out the problem of unaudited subcontractors.
This can be explained very well with the example of organic cotton: many brands rely on organic cotton with the idea of promoting an agricultural economy that is in harmony with nature. So the producers of this cotton promise a quality that you yourself can only control up to the ginning stage. This is where the chemical marking in the form of extruded marking fiber comes in and marks each bale inseparable from the product. A sensor in the spinning mill can determine whether 100% of the marked goods were processed there. Further scans at downstream stages of the value chain can prove that the goods were processed exclusively by audited companies in which risks such as human rights violations can be ruled out.
The marking has become part of the product and can now also be detected in jeans or shirts. However, the devices required for this are not for consumer hands but verify the goods in a B2B context and are flanked there by merchandise management systems that also map logistical processes with the usual product identification methods such as QR codes or RFID antennas. In this respect, chemical marking is never a 100% replacement for product identification but can be a useful extension in the context of supply chain transparency in areas where labels and codes do not work.