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Gaining control across the supply chain

17 March 2019

Eduard Marf looks at the different traceability technologies that are being increasingly adopted within the food and beverage industry. 

With food and beverage businesses under increasing pressure to cut costs and improve efficiencies, while also battling against the threat of contamination, damage, recalls and cyber-attacks track and trace technology is becoming ubiquitous.  

Integrating advanced track and trace technologies allows companies to gain better control over their supply chains – from picking and packing to delivery. 

A number of technologies are now available for tracking food. They include coatings for seeds, DNA alterations in the food and other taggants that uniquely encoded materials or chemistries that are impossible to duplicate. These technologies can be combined with authenticators including smartphones, infrared, Radio-frequency identification (RFID) and barcode readers to create a system that can track and monitor food chains in real-time. 

Integration of  Internet of Things (IoT) technologies is also increasing for industrial and supply chain applications. These smart industrial devices obtain real-time data through the internet and use analytics to provide alerts when conditions warrant it. 

Increasing transparency 
Blockchain technologies are also becoming more common to increase the transparency of products across the supply chain. Blockchain accumulates data that all participants can view as the food is transported from a to b. Transactions are accumulated in an encrypted ‘block’, with new entries added as they occur to form a chain. This means that timestamps and transaction data are recorded and stored securely. 

Each block of data provides information about activities occurring across the supply chain, enabling companies to determine if a product has been tampered with or damaged. 

Blockchain technology has the potential to remake how the industry tracks food worldwide as it facilitates full end-to-end traceability, establishing a trusted and immutable chain of data that can be easily analysed.

Working together
Together, IIoT and blockchain technologies can capture data throughout the supply chain. Applications built on IIoT platforms can support the implementation of specific track and trace use cases. Additionally, companies are able to utilise private track-and-trace repository and blockchain management applications to select what information they want to share – and more importantly, with who. 

This gives greater control and visibility of data, improving security, privacy and accuracy. For example, it makes it possible to share important information such as whether it is organic, high quality or gluten free with vendors.

Using digital technologies like IoT, cloud applications, analytics and blockchain will allow the food industry to increase market response time and profitability by expanding production visibility, flexibility and scalability. 

Eduard Marf is marketing director, EMEA, at Siemens PLM Software.

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