Three questions to Fabrice Lebret, head of presales at DDS Logistics, on whole supply chain traceability
Visibility and traceability throughout the supply chain: why do they matter so much nowadays?
E-commerce has created new expectations for B2B flow traceability : the logic is no longer only transport cost control or optimization. We’ve moved on to improving visibility into internal or external flows. And for industrial businesses and distributors, implementing a tracing system, inbound or outbound, has many benefits : quality of customer service, fast identification of incidents throughout production and supply chains, compliance with increasingly strict and numerous regulatory constraints…
In what way is implementing supply and production traceability beneficial?
This part of the chain brings together a host of stakeholders: suppliers, inspection companies, agents, government bodies…
So traceability is essential, but also more complex. Over the recent years, several examples have demonstrated the necessity of adequate batch traceability. If a problem occurs, it makes it possible to immediately identify all the flows related to a specific product from a lot number found in a distribution network. Without it, all the items shipped within a specific period of time must be recalled in application of a precautionary principle that is often broad in scope and costly.
Traceability also brings greater visibility into plants, allowing products to be traced back to their origin (sites, audits). Today, finished products are sourced from factories worldwide, which means that suppliers, factories and production sites must be traceable. This may also include tier 2 suppliers, when control over the supplies of the integrator is sought. Traceability affords such responsiveness and more, for instance the possibility to cancel an order, stop a production cycle, have products re-inspected or modify an engineering process… It thus strengthens consumer protection from one end of the chain to the other.
Can logistic traceability also be a point of difference?
Traceability does play a significant role in inbound and outbound transport phases. Tracing a flow of products has many advantages: smoother reception at warehouses, instant assessment of float inventory, consignee information, improved planning, easier inventory placement and removal…
What is at stake more and more is to be able to combine production traceability with transport traceability to go back the whole chain on the basis of a defect reported by a stakeholder in the process.
The need for traceability also urges businesses to move forward technologically. Connected devices, RFID, geofencing, mobiles apps, collaborative portals… all these technologies make tracing possible from production at the supplier’s site to the checkout.
Today we’re seeing that in any new supply chain information system project, a section is devoted to connectivity, EDI, visibility, traceability. This aspect has become essential and we’re even seeing logistic traceability projects initiated by marketing or customer service departments.
And full visibility over a supply chain, even if it’s scattered or complex, is achieved by relying on systems. Traceability is one, although some restrictions persist: its cost of entry, although this is less of an obstacle with SaaS offerings, the need to have a partner production/transport ecosystem that can support these aspects, but also consumer protection-related matters (an RFID label on a garment doesn’t simply deactivate itself) or lack of maturity of some promising developments in logistics, connected devices in particular.