As a founder and pioneer of collaborative technical compliance solutions, I thought I would share the necessary steps a retailer and its brands can take to build a strong foundation to leverage new technologies.
Emerging new technologies like blockchain, internet of things (IoT), and artificial intelligence (AI) in retail offer to revolutionize the ability to monitor and trace private brand products. These technical capabilities are available today with Oracle and others investing in developing and delivering platforms. But is the industry ready for it? Maybe not.
The key to the success of these technologies is data, specifically for ingredients, sources and manufacturing locations – data that the private brand grocery business has traditionally lacked. Why? Most grocers outsource the management of their private brand products to their manufacturing partners, co-ops or group purchasing organizations. They in turn rely upon the one up, one down principle, with no partner in the supply chain having complete visibility of all ingredients, their sources, or processing locations. This may be acceptable for simple products with only a few ingredients, but managing a complex product like tiramisu or a ready-made meal with dozens of ingredients, all coming from different sources, needs a different approach.
So how can brands prepare?
Create a transparent supply chain map for your private brand products. Collaborate with your suppliers to identify all ingredients and register their supply chains and the journey of each product. This directory will serve as a foundation for new technologies to offer traceability and quality monitoring.
Acquiring this compliance data is not as simple as asking for it. Each player needs to benefit from being involved; they need to see the value of participating. This will require solutions designed for each player. To leverage this growing global capability, retailers will need to adopt an open platform approach allowing data to be securely imported, augmented, and shared.
Today’s consumers demand transparency and the reassurance that the retailer has taken responsibility for their product and their supply chain. In a recent study, 66% of global consumers stated they expect immediate notification of a product recall, and 88% said if a brand immediately informed them of an issue, it would positively impact their trust with the brand.
It is now old practice to put ‘speed to market’ ahead of assessing safety and accuracy. It is now essential that R&D processes incorporate rigid due diligence in the assessment and verification of technical, quality, and compliance standards and claims. This level of pre-launch vigor will reduce error, enable the anticipation of risk, and provide a set of parameters that these new technologies can then test, track and trace against to ensure conformance.
In summary, you can’t test it, if you don’t know what you are testing for, you can’t track it if you don’t know where to look, and you can’t navigate risk if you don’t have a map. To take advantage of these exciting new technologies, retailers must first build a foundation of brand compliance data.