Where Print Meets Technology
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February 15, 2019

Where Print Meets Technology

Product Security at the Intersection of the Physical and Digital Worlds

By Joe Sheeran

What came first, the label or the data? Historically, of course, there were labels far before there were corresponding data for these labels, or even the ability to tie a specific label to a specific digital record. In fact, the first QR code, a machine readable-code used to store data-rich insights, wasn’t adhered to a product until 1994 when a Toyota subsidiary developed the code to assist in tracking vehicles and parts throughout the supply chain.

Labels are not only integral to the manufacturing process, but also to the end consumers who increasingly desire transparency into the products they purchase: as many as 56% of surveyed consumers state they trust brands that provide additional product information more than those that don’t. At the same time, for the producing organizations, regulatory agencies are also cracking down on producers, distributors, and retailers, with even more stringent rules and regulations for supply chain transparency than ever before.

Today, the physical label has become but one part of a two-fold solution. Along with tamper-proof labels, today’s products are accompanied by robust digital traceability that provides tremendous insight into each product’s origin, production, and movement throughout the supply chain.

For producers, manufacturers, and retailers, the label and its digital record are far more than a customer expectation or regulatory requirement. Together, they introduce powerful new possibilities, including:

Building Scalable, Scannable Product Genealogies

The global supply chain is massive, and it only continues to grow. In 2017, Amazon alone shipped 5 billion items to its Prime members. Needless to say, tracking such a large quantity of items with any level of accuracy or detail cannot be handled by pen and paper, or even by spreadsheets—a method on which far too many manufacturers rely.

Rather, it requires an advanced traceability technology to track high-velocity product data at all times, then store this information in an incorruptible, centralized record. But traceability is only half of the equation. When it comes down to recording insights longitudinally, as a product moves throughout the supply chain, the secure label is an integral part of the solution.

Through the secure, serialized label, each product is assigned a unique identity at the point of production. It carries this identity with it throughout its entire lifecycle. Labels can be scanned at any stage of production, manufacturing, distribution, retailing, or reselling, providing stakeholders immediate access to individualized insights about any product’s genealogy. Together, traceability and tamper-proof labeling empower brands to powerfully substantiate claims about raw materials, origin, production, and age of products in a scalable way.

Automating Compliance Records & Tax Management

There is no shortage of regulations and tax liabilities to which manufacturers must adhere in order to remain compliant. Failing to do so can be costly. In 2015 alone, U.S. federal agencies issued 4,217 product recalls—detrimentally impacting brand image, production processes, extensive related costs and revenue for a myriad of businesses across sectors.

Through the marriage of print and technology, manufacturers are better able to uphold compliance at all levels. A hybrid print and digital solution validates the quality of regulated manufacturing processes and provides a wealth of insights in the case of a federal or private audit. Furthermore, it dramatically simplifies the management of complex federal, state, and local tax obligations—particularly in highly regulated industries like alcoholic beverages or cannabis.

Together, traceability and tamper-proof labeling effectively transform compliance from an unwieldy, manual practice into an automated part of everyday operational processes. Furthermore, it ensures that products are never ‘in the dark’—enabling comprehensive compliance and tax obligation management throughout the product lifecycle.

Addressing Counterfeits, Diversions & Compromises

Imports of counterfeits and pirated goods are worth nearly $500 billion annually. With counterfeiting tactics advancing in sophistication with each passing year, businesses must take extra precautions to thwart supply chain compromises.

The combination of physical and digital security solutions makes counterfeiting a near impossibility. High-security labels affixed directly to items during production makes differentiating falsified goods from genuine goods as simple as a single scan. However, this doesn’t account for items that are diverted directly off of factory lines that already include labels. The unfortunate reality is, not all counterfeiting efforts stem from outside the factory, but often occur within the factory’s walls. By pairing high-security labels for raw materials, works in process, and finished goods with advanced track and trace technology, producers can identify points of diversion and isolate operators involved, closing off comprises before they become long-lasting patterns.

A Match Made in Product Security Heaven

When it comes to upholding product integrity in today’s high-velocity, connected world, neither secure labels nor digital records alone will suffice. Rather, it is only at the intersection of the physical and digital worlds that today’s most advanced supply chain threats meet their match.

At Ashton Potter, we’re leveraging nearly a century of high-security printing with advanced SaaS technology to empower customers of all sizes and sectors to ensure the security of every product in their supply chain, at every point in its lifecycle. As a proven partner with engagements that span the globe, we take ownership of the entire supply chain security process, from the physical label to the digital record to the data management system, eliminating the need for middle men that bog down processes. Plus, with our ability to track billions of records in real time and seamlessly integrate into existing ERP systems, we make global traceability and transparency an achievable goal.

Ready to pair high-security printing and advanced traceability technology in your supply chain? Let’s get started.

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