January 2019 | Commentary | Supply Chain Security

Fighting Counterfeit Products

Tags: Pharmaceutical Logistics, Food Logistics, Logistics, Supply Chain

MaryAnn Holder, Chief Marketing Officer, One Network Enterprises, 972-385-8630

As pharmaceutical and food supply chains become more global, the risk of fraud, substitution, and counterfeiting increases. Consumers are demanding more transparency and safety adherence as these issues arise.

Consumers are also increasingly concerned about the source of their products and the conditions under which they are manufactured.

In the pharma supply chain, patients are especially vulnerable to counterfeit and substandard drugs, which can cause illness or death. Recent food contaminations have prompted consumers to pay closer attention to where their food is sourced.

In today's supply chains, end-to-end serialization and authentication don't necessarily present an all-or-nothing proposition. Authentication, in particular, can take many forms, but here are two techniques:

  • Digital imaging validates food products and ingredients. Invisible markers placed directly on product packaging can be scanned to detect authentication markers to ensure no substitutions enter the supply chain.
  • Serialization involves marking components, e.g. by barcode, so they can be individually identified and tracked, and allows supply chain collaboration.

When used together, these two technologies help secure products by standardizing information flow and safeguarding authenticity.

From Linear to Digital Data

To gain visibility, many manufacturers are applying new technology approaches to turn linear supply chains into intelligent and nimble digital supply networks. Similar in concept to social networks like Facebook, these business networks are creating breakthrough results, because all parties on a single platform can easily share data.

Pharmaceuticals may pass through many countries and borders throughout the manufacturing process, creating endless opportunities for tampering or insertion of counterfeits. In response to these growing concerns, many countries have implemented laws to regulate medical product safety and distribution.

Similarly, in the food industry, consumers demand more information about the provenance of their food and how it was produced so they can check its journey from farm to fork.

Acting promptly in the event of a recall is critical to both consumer safety and company brand management. Network platforms help in this situation because they enable data to be shared among all participants (on a blockchain if necessary) for visibility across the supply chain.

Problems can be quickly identified and isolated from the supply chain, and partners and regulatory agencies can be alerted immediately, meaning a quicker response and less potential fallout. Blockchain also allows those partners to coordinate logistics more efficiently, and to improve service, while reducing waste and costs.

When it comes to consumer safety, traceability is key. Food and pharma manufacturers can no longer afford to neglect the importance of traceability or applying new technology approaches.