Tracing success: How technology drives value in supply chain - Hindustan Times
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Tracing success: How technology drives value in supply chain

ByHindustan Times
Feb 26, 2024 02:36 PM IST

This article is authored by Alison Ward, CEO, CottonConnect (sustainable agriculture network).

Global supply chains have reached unprecedented levels of complexity. Companies now face a growing imperative to attain comprehensive visibility across their supply networks. Simultaneously, there's mounting pressure from both consumers and regulators for enhanced transparency—a demand that's entirely justified. Consumers seek products that guarantee safety, ethical sourcing, and sustainability. Consequently, businesses bear the duty and obligation to furnish such assurances, substantiated by precise, verifiable claims.

Technology
Technology

Traceability plays a pivotal role in achieving this level of transparency, fostering trust between companies and customers. In the realm of food, for instance, traceability empowers a company to track the journey of a food product and its constituents through every phase of the supply chain. This capability enables companies to disclose the origins of food to consumers while facilitating prompt and accurate recalls in the event of safety concerns.

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Likewise, the fashion industry stands to gain from heightened traceability measures. Given the intricate global web of supply chains, retailers offer products crafted from textiles that have undergone numerous processing stages and exchanges. With the absence of robust traceability systems, pinpointing the original source of a garment or fabric becomes challenging.

Consider cotton as an example: following its harvest, it proceeds through stages of ginning, spinning, dyeing, and ultimately garment production, often occurring in disparate locations. Given that nearly half of all textiles rely on cotton, this process results in a sprawling and intricate global network encompassing producers, suppliers, and intermediaries.

As a consequence, only a third of the top 100 clothing companies actively monitor their supply chains, as indicated by research conducted by the United Nations Economic Commission. A significant majority (69%) cite the fragmentation and complexity inherent in the global business landscape as a major impediment, a challenge likely mirrored across various other sectors.

Supply chain visibility presents numerous challenges, yet viable solutions exist. While cultivating effective, trusted relationships throughout the supply chain serves as a fundamental starting point, technological advancements offer a growing array of tools to bolster and refine traceability efforts.

On the digital front, fashion brands and retailers must have access to digital data to enable real-time monitoring and tracking. This grants companies heightened visibility into their supply chains, a deeper comprehension of goods movement—from raw materials to finished products—and the capacity to better support their suppliers.

Moreover, when digital tracing alone falls short, the emergence of physical traceability tools furnishes businesses with a secure means of identifying and authenticating all materials and products. This enables them to communicate their origins confidently and credibly.

As consumer awareness grows and regulatory pressures mount, more suppliers are gravitating towards sustainable practises. Therefore, fashion brands should initiate transparent dialogues with their suppliers, outlining how all stakeholders stand to gain from textile traceability initiatives. Without robust relationships, traceability tools may lack the necessary potency, as achieving full visibility requires active participation from all entities within the value chain.

The concept of integrating transparent relationships with digital and physical traceability tools harbours broad potential. This approach could be tailored to support traceability across various other commodities, such as different textiles, precious minerals, and even food products. Indeed, the fundamental premise of assigning a unique identifier to each raw material for both physical and digital tracing could be extrapolated to encompass a wide array of goods.

This article is authored by Alison Ward, CEO, CottonConnect (sustainable agriculture network).

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