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‘Who Moved My Cheese Visibility?’ and Other Tales From the Digital Supply Chain Front

Discover how the evolving technologies of the digital supply chain are remolding how businesses ensure product authenticity, quality and visibility.

How to maintain sense in your digital supply chain as sensors and tags proliferate—even in parmesan wheels


When manufacturers and shippers ask for visibility, they better be careful what they wish for. The latest security advancements in the digital supply chain includeedible microchip IDs in wheels of prized Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

That’s right: in an effort to fight counterfeits, Italy’s big cheese executives have decided to insert a chip that’s the size of a grain of sand into the outer casein skin of each 90-pound wheel of authentic cheese. The chip has a micro-transponder with a unique serial number to verify authenticity.

Securing the Digital Supply Chain

As The Wall Street Journal’s story points out, maintaining security and guaranteeing authenticity is a big deal for supply chains. In all, more than 3,500 products have protected-origin status in Europe alone. That represents nearly $90 billion in product value. 

It’s not just chips in your cheese dip either. “QR codes are also proliferating,” according to the report, “including on individual portions of pre-sliced Prosciutto di San Daniele, a raw ham similar to Prosciutto di Parma. A smartphone can be used to show information such as how long the prosciutto has been aged and when it was sliced.”

We can think of so many other applications where tracking provenance or chains of custody are vital concerns: Pharmaceuticals and biotech products, high-value tech goods or gems, even automotive parts. With chips, codes and Internet of Things (IoT) sensors that can monitor temperature, shock, light exposure and more, there’s a world of new data available to shippers and consumers.

Consolidating Your Data and Systems

Therein lies the problem, too. As information proliferates, it’s going to be easier to lose track of that tracking data along the way, with too many systems that don’t recognize or communicate with each other. (Not to mention the “Oops, I ate the digital supply chain tracker” problem.)

As data adds more and more value to your shipments, it’s important to have a plan for normalizing and integrating that information. Here are some things to keep in mind as you build out your visibility:

This seems like heresy, but it’s true. You can drown in the ocean of information that your digital supply chain produces. So, think strategically about what’s important and what’s not. 

For instance, you may need to document each step of your goods’ journey for, say, a pharmaceutical shipment. But recording just the title transfer events may be good enough for a different product. IoT sensor streams are great for expensive machinery, not so much for teddy bears. You’ll have a better ability to analyze critical data flows if you design your visibility to prioritize capturing the most critical facts.

  • Don’t buy into a single supplier’s system.

    We have seen clients dazzled by the data promises of a favored carrier. “Ship with us, and you’ll know everything.” Problem is, it’s rarely the most efficient decision to ship all your goods with a single provider. More often, you’re better off designing transportation that's custom-tailored to your own needs, not a carrier’s fixed network, rates and capacity. If you’re using carrier visibility tools and sensors, make sure you have a plan for your data to escape beyond their dashboards.

  • The cloud is your friend

Data normalization and integration has always been hard. Thankfully, a new generation of digital supply chain management and analytics software can help to bring information together in a neutral environment. We created our own version of a supply chain control tower,  ChronosCloud, after decades trying to make ERPs and TMSes and carrier systems play nicely with each other.

  • Platforms are not more important than people

That’s a catchy way of saying that software never solved the big problems all by itself. We’re huge believers in technology, but we place equal importance on our global team of supply chain managers and engineers. It’s up to you whether you build that capability in-house or team up with an expert, third-party partner. For the modern, multi-party, global, outsourced manufacturing supply chain, though, it’s imperative that your human intelligence matches your artificial intelligence.

Refining Your Network Through Customization 

If you’re ready to find a better way for your better whey (or whatever other products), Morgan is here to help. We custom-tailor solutions for transportation, inventory and more. Our team of solutions architects would love to review your goals and challenges at no obligation. Just  let us know how we can help!

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