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Cracking Digital for An End-to-End Traceability Journey

We are all consumers, which is why we are more and more concerned about the food we eat and its safety. We have also become more responsible consumers, buying more green and sustainable products. Further, this fact has been accelerated during the global pandemic we are still facing worldwide.

Trends such as global and complex supply chains, stringent regulations, booming e-commerce, and mobile apps for end-consumers are pushing the food industry to provide more complete, traceable, and transparent product information along the whole value chain. It becomes more and more mandatory for brands to invest in food and beverage traceability to provide the right information to consumers and to ensure food safety by fully controlling their supply chain, end-to-end.

But which digital technologies and solutions enable food and beverage stakeholders to build a credible, integrated, transparent, and trustworthy value chain from sourcing to end-consumers, while addressing supply chain efficiency and food safety and sustainability requirements?

End-to-end traceability journey at Danone

We talked to Yasmine Achab, Transparency and Traceability Global Program Director at Danone Specialized Nutrition Division,  “Consumers are asking for more and more transparency.  And as a mom, I would like to know where my baby milk is coming from, whcin ingredients were used and first and foremost, I want to make sure that it is a safe product.” Danone’s mission is to serve life and bring health through food to as many people as possible, especially for their Specialized Nutrition Business where safety and quality are crucial, as there is no margin of error when it comes to a baby’s health.

Danone engaged in this journey years ago to bring more trust to consumers and in particular, to give parents the “peace of mind” you really need when you first start out.

The end-to-end traceability journey started four years ago at Danone Specialized Nutrition in startup mode with a small team, gathering knowledge from different sources with the idea of finding a way to secure the Infant Formula packaging beyond the company’s quality standards and basic safety guidelines.

The solution in place today consists of providing a unique digital identity to every single product by laser marking two QR Codes – one on the outer side of the pack that can be scanned several times, and another one inside the pack available only after purchase that is scannable only once. Those two codes are linked together, thus providing the additional layer of security to consumers. This is now opening an endless world of opportunities regarding end-to-end traceability and enabling Danone Specialized Nutrition to better connect with their consumers by providing them information on the product journey, nutritional advice, answers to their questions, guidance, and more.

To start an end-to-end traceability journey, you need a certain level of maturity inside your company. The prerequisite for starting is to master your traceability at batch level through digital solutions. Mastering the traceability at different levels of granularity (batch, pallet, cartons, item) requires a very good management of processes and data through different systems used within a company, for example, Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES).

As part of this journey, Danone Specialized Nutrition has implemented a serialization and aggregation solution, engaging not only their own network but also their external stakeholders (such as distributors) to ensure complete end-to-end traceability.

“As the supply chain is scattered, it is a real challenge to control the data, and that’s why not many industries actually do detailed traceability. We need to decide how to manage and exchange data with all those hundreds and hundreds of partners,” mentioned Yasmine.

That’s why Danone Specialized Nutrition is ultimately using blockchain technology as a platform to exchange data with their entire network of suppliers and partners, and to ensure data cannot be tampered with.

Starting an end-to-end traceability journey is a use case for the digital transformation of a company. It starts at plant level, leveraging different digital solutions and technologies and selecting the right granularity of traceability data applied to a company’s needs and/or strategy.

The challenge is to orchestrate all the different layers of the converging OT and IT solutions, enabling the plant to connect with the entire ecosystem, upstream and downstream.

Another important thing is that you need to remain focused on your business goal, before you screen the market, define, or look for technologies […] and then you use technology to serve your business objective and not the other way around,” added Yasmine.

It is also about building strong relationships with your partners and suppliers to learn and build the competencies internally. Agility is also key to starting your journey, beginning small and then scaling up, adjusting your direction when needed. The process also involves an internal transformation within the different teams involved: Information Systems, Plants, Supply Chain, Quality, Marketing, and others. Finally, if this is not on the central agenda of the company, then it might just remain an idea in incubation that will never come to reality. You need the right sponsorship within the company to make decisions, to push things to happen, and to scale up investments.

We just started our journey. We’re gearing up with various markets across the globe. We definitely are consolidating our learning and experience, and we would like to bring many improvements in the years to come, such as investing more on topics like transparency, upstream traceability, and also sustainability,” concluded Yasmine.

Pushed by new regulations and standards emerging – with the example of the Sustainable Supply Chain Initiative from the Consumer Goods Forum – and by a global awareness on sustainability –supported by the United Nation Sustainable Development Goals – product Information is quickly evolving to integrate more information on nutrition (i.e. the Nutriscore in Europe), animal welfare (i.e. “La Note Globale” in France or new animal welfare labels), carbon footprint information (CO2 or climate score emerging), as it becomes an imperative for brands to engage in an end-to-end traceability integrated approach.

Sustainability is imperative for brands to engage in an end-to-end traceability integraged approcach.

To start your end-to-end traceability journey, these are the four main takeaways:

  1. Your end-to-end traceability journey should be part of your company strategy. That implies leadership, agility, speed to move forward, and the involvement of the entire ecosystem of a company, including its suppliers, customers, and partners

  2. It is key to dedicate a global cross-functionalities team that will be able to address the entire Value Chain, sometimes moving ahead from traditional silos within a company. As a result, it must be a centrally led approach.

  3. However, not only is it a collaborative approach –in this journey, you need to welcome open, scalable, and flexible solutions and partner integration when you select the solution – but you also must ensure that the partners are responsible for the overall solution implementation.

  4. Finally, start small; don’t select a technology, but target the right “use case” in terms of market and/or product, scale fast, and learn from it to adjust quickly before taking any next steps.

EcoStruxure™ Traceability Advisor enables a complete vision of your supply chain by capturing and analyzing data from different sources and stakeholders.

Join me during our Innovation Summit World Tour to learn more on the topic of “Cracking Digital for End-to-End Traceability”. Find a date and location that is right for you.  Register now!


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