Tracing products through the supply chain is far more than just a logistical concern. It's time to think bigger. Because in the world of supply chain management, every step along the way can supply valuable business intelligence.
Pandemic disruptions shined a harsh light on supply chain inefficiencies, counterfeiting and diversion. Unfortunately, these issues have not disappeared and are still disrupting the marketplace. The key to moving forward to a more efficient supply chain is to think and plan for the big picture, even when tackling urgent problems.
The journey from packaging to consumer is not a straight path. It involves multiple stages. When you collect data from every input and output, you gain valuable insights that allow quick action on the production line through intelligent forecasting. Collecting even 60 to 70% of available data from the supply chain network and implementing data-driven artificial intelligence systems yields a 95% level of accurate, actionable forecasting.
An excellent place to look for guidance on best practices is in the pharmaceutical sector. Track and trace regulations of the Drug Supply Chain Safety Act (DSCSA) provide a blueprint for many other verticals, including medical products, nutraceuticals, personal care products, luxury goods and more.
Just about any industry can take a cue from what pharmaceuticals have learned by implementing a strategic, end-to-end approach to supply chain intelligence. The underlying principle is the same, regardless of the vertical: ensuring that the product reaches the consumer as intended, maintaining quality and authenticity.
Pharmaceuticals present a complex and highly regulated environment where tracking products from the first unit of packaging to the ultimate point of distribution is crucial. Supply chain technology plays a vital role in identifying the initial packaging unit, tracking it in an aggregated and serialized way, and providing verification at each stage.
Connected, Not Disjointed
Another example is in the medical products industry. Regulations have driven the need for universal device identifiers, leading to tactical tracking throughout the supply chain. The emphasis on strategic, connected stages rather than isolated, tactical solutions is a valuable takeaway for any industry looking to enhance its supply chain intelligence.
Digital transformation is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Each industry has its own needs and priorities. However, there are common threads. To realize the full benefit of end-to-end tracking, investments in front-office transformations like e-commerce and B2B automation should be matched with a robust supply chain intelligence system.
Similarly, initiatives like IoT in logistics or cold chain temperature tracking are valuable but must be integrated into the broader supply chain intelligence framework. These technologies deliver important data inputs that enhance decision-making, leading to more efficient and responsive supply chains.
To implement a successful digital transformation strategy, consider this roadmap:
- Item Identification: Identify the essential individual packaging unit to be a basis for supply chain traceability and intelligence integration.
- Data Collection from Distribution: Determine the level of influence and information to collect from the distribution chain, including upstream signals from retail demand.
- Consumer Experience and Demand Signals: Encourage, incentivize, or simplify the consumer experience to capture accurate demand signals from retail.
- Alignment with Production Schedules: Integrate factory production schedules with the ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system and consolidate various information streams to create a unified view.
- Supply Chain Intelligence Integration: Enhance supply chain intelligence by integrating various elements, including IoT in trucks, cold chain temperature monitoring and logistics management.
- Strategic Thinking for Product Tracing: Strategically track products within the supply chain, assess various approaches and orchestrate a thorough transformation of the business.
The digital transformation of supply chains is more than a business endeavor; it has societal implications as well. Enhancing visibility and reducing risk provides a larger stakeholder gain beyond shareholder profits.
The lessons from the pharmaceutical industry, with its rigorous and demanding practices, offer valuable insights into other sectors. The emphasis on strategic end-to-end thinking, and the integration of various efforts into a cohesive strategy, is a path toward a more intelligent and responsive supply chain.
In a world where supply chain challenges are top of mind, the need for a broader perspective has never been more critical. By embracing the principles of more granular supply chain traceability, industries can navigate the complex landscape with confidence and foresight, ensuring that products reach consumers as intended, maintaining quality, authenticity and efficiency.