Nowadays traceability is a key factor when talking about supply chain compliance and security. Looking at the healthcare sector, there are predictions that by the end of 2018 globally approximately 75% of all prescription medication will be under legislation (Pharma IQ, 2016 Serialisation and Traceability Industry Trend Report). In the food industry the concept of 1-up, 1-down traceability is mostly subject to regulations as well. Everybody attempts to meet the requirements, but investments are uncertain if markets change or extend deadlines of regulation implementations. Nevertheless, the topic will not disappear! Furthermore, frontrunners are even positively affected by traceability as they gain supply chain transparency. In addition, in case of action needed they are able to act swiftly and as precise as possible identify and recall products (either on batch or serialized level). While costs of recalls can be diminished, product security can be gained at the same time. Also, marketing departments can take advantage of traceability and display customers the heritage and different stages of the supply chain highlighting good quality and certifications.
In these projects where cross-company information flows need to be established in an efficient way, standards such as GS1 are inevitable and moreover of great benefit. Taking for example EPCIS (Electronic Product Code Information System): With this standard companies are assured that all supply chain partners speak the same IT-language and information is available just-in-time. Furthermore, the required data model needs to be clarified and agreed on. However, by talking to organizations which implemented traceability, it is confirmed that it does not just impact IT but additionally the processes and therefore the job descriptions of each involved person.
An aspect that needs to be valued individually and the key for establishing traceability is of course collaboration. Not least because of the fact that trading partners are even stronger depending on data structure, quality and reliability of each other than ever before.
Considering this holistic view, GS1 Switzerland established a working group of which the results in the form of an implementation guideline on cross-company traceability will be published on the 9th of March 2017 during the GS1 Forum Logistics & Supply Chain.