Going the Extra Mile
Blog

March 22, 2019

Going the Extra Mile

Extending traceability the last mile of the supply chain

By Joe Sheeran

In today’s customer-centered reality, goods make several stops on their way to their final destination. But what is their final destination, exactly? Is a good’s journey over when it reaches the distributor or retailer? Or does it continue beyond purchase, as it makes its way into the consumer’s world? The last mile of the supply chain refers to just that: the last leg of the journey, from purchase to the customer’s destination.

Led by giants like Amazon, the modern logistics landscape has dedicated enormous time and effort to meeting rising customer expectations for rapid delivery times, often termed last mile logistics. This name is deceiving, however. The last mile is often the long journey from the distributor to the consumer, far lengthier than a single mile. For years supply chain and logistics professionals have grappled with how to simplify, streamline, and expedite last mile shipping. But what about traceability in the last mile?

Unfortunately, when it comes to traceability, the last mile is too often a black hole—the threshold at which a producer loses visibility over its product for good. But abandoning traceability at this juncture means that a producer has failed to meet the end user where he or she is and to provide the transparency he or she desires. Furthermore, it means that a producer has failed to capitalize on a powerful opportunity to know more about the product lifecycle.

So, how can producers win the last leg of the race? Following are four keys to mastering the last mile of the supply chain for total traceability:

1. Involve the End Consumer

Traceability relies on the participation of stakeholders throughout the supply chain that scan products as they move through the manufacturing and distribution process. With each scan comes the recording of rich data insights, which together form a cohesive product genealogy. The last mile is no different. Instead of relying on the participation of a factory worker, distributor, or retail representative, however, last mile traceability engages the end consumer, calling him or her to scan products after purchase, accessing and adding to a product’s corresponding data record. This visibility continues as goods switch hands in the marketplace, as each new consumer can do the same.

2. Think Beyond Traditional ‘End of Life’

Traditionally, end of life (EOL) references a point, pre-determined by the vendor, at which a product reaches the end of its useful life. And yet, products continue to move about the marketplace beyond EOL—often switching hands through resale for long after their vendor has discontinued proactive support for the product. However, true last mile traceability means that a producer follows a product as long as consumers finds it useful—stretching beyond the limitations of traditional EOL. Understanding the full product lifecycle, as dictated by the consumer, has the ability to provide producers powerful insights into consumer utility, preferences, and needs. This not only reshapes how they think about old products, but also shapes the ideation of new products and how they are optimized to serve and satisfy consumers.

3. Leverage Blockchain to Record Independent Data

When products reach the hands of the end consumer, they stop moving about in batches and begin moving independently through the marketplace. For producers, that means that a single batch-level data point can become thousands of item-level data points, each with their own unique time of purchase, time of repurchase, location, and owner. Extending traceability through the last mile means that producers must be able to simultaneously record all of this data without compromising accuracy. Through Blockchain, producers can ensure a single source of truth for every item, recording an infinite array of new data points simultaneously—all without compromising the consolidated data record.

4. Aggregate Data for Richer Insights

Finally, it is critical to note that the last mile insights are even more powerful in context. The key to unleashing the full power of the last mile, therefore, lies in the ability to aggregate last mile data across products, batches, and consumer cohorts to derive deep insights and make more informed, data-driven decisions. Last mile data can be powerfully leveraged in combination with data from across the supply chain to tell each product’s story with no blind spots to the producer.

Extending Traceability from End to End

At Ashton Potter, we aggregate data across every stage of the supply chain, storing highly-detailed insights in our Blockchain-enabled database in perpetuity—empowering companies, resellers, and customers alike to access insights long after a product is first sold. Through the combination of our technology and printing services, we offer comprehensive product genealogies for the most complex global supply chains.

Ready to get started? Contact Ashton Potter to learn how we bring transparency to the last mile of the supply chain and beyond.

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