Traceability in the Supply Chain, Things to Always Keep In Mind

Today’s business owners understand that traceability in the supply chain is crucial. This is especially true of industries governed by regulations imposing quality control standards.

Often, this requires a great deal of paperwork, where no stage of the supply chain can be ignored. The entire process needs to be visible and meet requirements for certifications like  ISO9001, AS9100, and AS9103.

That said, problems arise when documentation processes vary from one organization to another.

So, in this article, we’ll discuss some of the basics surrounding the importance of traceability in the supply chain. We’ll also outline a few things to keep in mind as you consider the updates this requires for your business.

Let’s dive in!

Why Traceability in the Supply Chain Matters

Transparency in the supply chain is vital. It enables businesses to:

  • Safeguard quality and products
  • Protect consumers
  • Streamline the location of inventory
  • Ensure fast and efficient delivery
  • Reduce the risk of counterfeit and falsified goods
  • Speed up product recalls

To establish this transparency, the supply chain needs to be traceable and enable product tracking throughout the entire product life cycle.

Traditionally, traceability was driven by industry regulations. Today’s supply chain sector benefits from traceability beyond compliance – namely, accessibility and reduced costs.

Here’s what you should keep in mind to ensure traceability at every step:

Verification and Best Practices

The growing demand for product consistency and safety is another reason traceability in the supply chain is increasingly important.

For instance, customers may require ISO certification with ongoing requirements. This is where quality standards come into its own and is the key to providing better visibility over an organization’s global processes. Namely, because this makes it easier for businesses to ensure their procedures meet standards for:

  • Consistency and reductions in variation
  • Organization and system performance
  • Compatibility

…to name a few!

Challenges to Traceability

Despite the benefits listed above, there are a few obstacles organizations often face when establishing best practices around traceability:

  • Information silos: Supply chain touchpoints tend to only pertain to the products and processes they encounter. As a result, information silos form – especially where paperwork is concerned. Typically, this makes it much harder to trace documentation and the product’s origin and life cycle.
  • Extended networks:  Supply chains handle data across multi-tiered, vast networks. This exposes them to fraud, counterfeits, variability, and compliance violations.
  • Internal commitment: A traceable supply chain demands internal commitment. Unfortunately, the long-term effort required is often discarded in favor of short-term ROI.

Mapping the Supply Chain

Supply chain mapping is one of the first steps towards creating a standardized and visible supply chain. For the uninitiated, this is the process of creating a complete picture of the supply chain – including all the actors and steps within it.

Mapping is a great tool to enable a more thorough risk assessment. It allows for the identification of suppliers and actions within the supply chain. Then, each actor on the map can be checked for:

  • Compliance
  • Sustainability
  • Quality control

A supply-chain map should also verify approved products and processes.

Business owners understand that traceability in the supply chain is crucial. This is especially true of industries governed by regulations imposing quality control standards. Often, this requires a great deal of paperwork, where no stage of the supply chain can be ignored. The entire process needs to be visible and meet requirements for certifications.

Digitizing the Supply Chain

Despite the digital world we live in, many supply chains are still dominated by paperwork. This can bog down the whole process. Required documents can go missing, or an incorrect document might be passed along.

A further risk for businesses relying on paperwork is when distributors and brokers act independently and without shared documentation, increasing the threat of obtaining counterfeit items.

Instead, it’s possible that digitizing the supply chain can cut such issues. A study by Microsoft supports this argument, revealing that digital certification solutions like SmartCert offer better scalability and efficiency to global supply chains.

For anyone unfamiliar with SmartCert, it’s a simple digital solution that allows you to capture, store and share all your vital documents and certifications.

Then, just scan a QR code, for instant access to the documentation visible to companies in your supply chain. This technology also enables organizations to add new certifications anytime, so even if a product is already in transit or sitting on a warehouse shelf, its documentation continues to be up to date.

The Solution

To reduce the risk of missing paperwork and counterfeit parts, there needs to be an unbroken chain of custody, where digital documentation is easily shared between companies. This makes it much easier to authenticate the origins and history of a part.

One solution is to automate this process in your ERP and QMS systems. This will reduce disruption mitigation time. It can also optimize your internal processes and teams.

Products like SmartCert allow you to standardize the processes by which you send and receive documentation and can instantly link cert packages to customer orders.  The custom QR code representing the cert package can be placed on labels, packing slips or other customer documentation associated with the product and shipment.

Now, the shipment’s packaging carries all relevant information with it along the whole journey. It means that any user can review and contribute certifications at any stage of the shipment process.

Rethink Certification Delivery

Digital solutions are vital for ensuring the efficient flow of certifications within the supply chain. Paperwork bogs down organizations and creates information silos.

These problems increase the risk of missing paperwork, production delays, and counterfeit products reaching customers. Therefore, to protect the credibility of your brand and improve profits and sustainability along the way, supply chain traceability is imperative.

Begin this process by mapping out each tier of the journey. Then, integrate a software like SmartCert to automate certification flows within your QMS and ERP.

So, what are you waiting for? You can request a free demo of SmartCert or contact us today to learn more about how we can help you streamline and stabilize your cert transfer process and increase your supply chain’s visibility.