Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Dichotomy of Supply Chain Traceability

There are undoubtedly endless ways you can slice the concept of supply chain traceability into competing sides - feasible vs not achievable, valuable vs ineffective, strategic vs a pain-in-my-a**.  My experience has made me (or better yet, allowed me to) view traceability from 2 vantage points:

  • Those who must do it
  • Those who want to do it
Those who must do it vs those who want to do it.  I've written on this topic in the past - the fact pharma, by and large, is being regulated into traceability places a dark shadow over both its perceived value and the potential for implementing the absolute best solutions.  

I've had the unique experience in past roles to see both sides of this equation- sometimes in a matter of minutes.  I've held meetings with pharma companies looking ultimately for compliance and, quite frankly, wishing 'serialization' would just magically go away.

I then turned around and had meetings with non-pharma companies who couldn't implement traceability fast enough.  They recognized product security, process efficiency, and marketing benefits that ultimately elevated traceability to be a strategic driver for the company.

The drastic range in views always interested me -and honestly I can't say I know exactly why such opposite views exist, and thus I always return to the one obvious differentiator - regulation and compliance in pharma (i.e. being told what to do). 

Nonetheless, both sides can stand to learn from the other.  Pharma has championed the adoption of global standards- a critical component since traceability is really all about the sharing of data
Outside of pharma, however, I would often educate companies on this group known as 'G-S-1'.

On the other hand, outside of pharma companies are approaching traceability not as a supply chain capability but as their supply chain. Period.  And isn't that how it should be?  And to be clear these are companies that have just as complex packaging processes and global supply chains as pharma - in some cases you could argue even more complex when it involves tracking of upstream raw materials or components, as is often the case.  More folks in pharma need to be aware that traceability exists outside their industry and plenty of lessons can be learned.

The call to action for Pharma is to broaden the vision for traceability.  Embrace the fact that serialization and traceability are two independent concepts in which one isn't required in order to have the other.  Most pharma's use the terms 'Serialization' and 'EPedigree' to name their global programs but is that really inclusive enough?  I certainly can have traceability without serialization and without E-Pedigree.  Here's a litmus test - where does non-serialized item traceability fit into your global 'serialization' program?  A perfect starting point for an upcoming post.

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