By Louis Roy, Founder and President of OPTEL, September 2021

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As a means of capturing, associating and leveraging data, traceability has existed and evolved over several decades – initially in the form of paper trails and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems – but I predict the next decade will see a game-changing revolution.

This revolution would be fueled by performance improvement, intensified consumer demand, exponential growth in technological capabilities and the collective will of governments and businesses alike.

In the early days, traceability meant keeping paper invoices from suppliers and later associating them to a batch of products. ERP systems digitized that process but with limited capacity to store data. Today, with mobile applications, the Internet of things and more sophisticated traceability technologies, we have the opportunity to go so far beyond what was possible in the past.

We can now capture environmental, social and geolocational data about virtually any product in real time, conduct digital surveys, monitor product temperatures and transformation, build verifiable pedigrees for virtually any product or process, measure a product’s carbon footprint … We can now even guarantee the authenticity and safety of vaccines, thanks to traceability.

The possibilities are literally endless.

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We truly are entering a revolutionary era of digital traceability, in which the tools and technologies exist to reassure the public of the authenticity and safety of the products they consume, allow manufacturers to easily comply with global regulations, and optimize business processes from one end of the supply chain to the other.

This ability has innumerable advantages for everyone, not the least of which is the tremendous cost savings associated with replacing obsolete paper-based or digital systems in favor of a single traceability system capable of collecting, storing and analyzing contextual data that would have been impossible to even imagine just 10 years ago.

Digital traceability along the supply chain will drive huge process improvement in areas such as inventory management, supply and demand forecasting, supply chain risk assessment, reverse logistics, management of returns and recalls, waste and end-of-life.

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Governments around the world are adopting legislation aimed at making digital supply chain transparency part of the new normal, and more and more companies are investing in the traceability platforms required to make it happen.

Why will the next decade be a revolutionary time for traceability? Because the world is at a social and existential crossroads, the correct path to take for the good of people and the planet has never been more clear, and with the continued evolution of artificial intelligence, we have all the tools at our fingertips to create a better world together within the next 10 years.

In fact, thanks to early adopters of traceability technologies, such as the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies and producers of food, beverages and consumer packaged goods, the revolution has already begun.

These leaders have recognized that traceability is the key to gathering and sharing the dynamic, granular data required to ensure the sustainability of products, business processes and, by the extension, the planet.

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The innovators have gotten the ball rolling, but we must not lose momentum – nor will we, provided we continue along the correct path, which I predict we will.

Within the next 10 years, the late adopters will have come on board, ushering in a new era of traceability and transparency that will lead to more efficient supply chains, better asset management, more sustainable consumption behaviors, more confident consumers and less waste.

This is where the world is headed, and once we get there, the world will most assuredly be well on its way to being a better place.


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