As traceability becomes an increasingly important aspect of the supply chain, some organizations are making an attempt to outline new best practices. The United Nations Global Compact and BSR, a global network of companies committed to sustainability, are two of the organizations attempting to do so. They recently published "A Guide To Traceability: A practical approach to advance sustainability in global supply chains" to highlight recent concerns and changes to tracing supplies in the global market.
The guide provides readers a history of traceability in the supply chain, as well as information about recent innovations and regulations that are spurring continued improvement. The guide mostly focuses on the back end of traceability - helping organizations keep an eye on the source of certain materials. This is of particular importance in industries related to paper, minerals, diamonds and food. The issues range from the safety of the consumer to the working conditions of laborers in mines and factories.
Concerns Regarding Food Supply
The guide explains that food scandals, such as mad cow disease and bird flu have played a large role in the changing role of traceability over the past 20 years. In addition, consumer concern over food provenance and chemicals used by agribusiness have made the issue one that is tied to brand reputation as much as it is to government compliance. Consumers have taken such a large interest in traceability that there are even certifications, such as the Rainforest Alliance Certified green frog seal, that some customers know and look for when purchasing products.
Of course, government regulations and oversight are large factors as well. Companies, especially those in the food supply chain, have stricter guidelines than ever before governing the scope and speed at which a recall must be carried out. Without the best practices and new technology in place, fines, fees and loss of business can force an enterprise into bankruptcy.
License Plating in the Food Supply Chain
While the guide from BSR and the U.N. provides valuable information on traceability in the supply side, there are solutions that can improve the tracking of products and finished materials after they have shipped. Pallet labeling, also called license plating, allows manufacturers and distributors to group inventory together on a common container. The license plate - a label with a barcode - can hold all sorts of information about the items on the palate, including lot, part and serial numbers. Other information contained in the data from the label includes date of manufacture, expiration date, quantity and much more.
Along with automated data collection, pallet labeling can assist companies in capturing critical tracking information to improve the efficiency of a food recall. The data is essential for inventory control as well, which can ensure that stock is properly rotated, shipped before the expiration date and easy to locate in the warehouse.
Improving traceability is no longer an option. As consumer sentiment and government regulation continue to change, companies will not only be taking advantage of solutions that can increase productivity, but ones that have become necessary to protect a company in the global supply chain. To learn about pallet labeling, read RFgen's white paper, "Got a License Plate for that Pallet?"