Visibility at batch, SKU and item instance levels

The ultimate test of a supply chain traceability solution lies in its ability to reconstruct the road travelled by an item and its intermediate product items, or precursors, through a specific supply chain. A supply chain in this context means all role players involved from primary production to a consumer ready product. Such a trace-back procedure needs to be done at batch level but also at item instance level. The reason for both these levels of visibility lies in the fact that in many industries consumer goods are tracked at retail level at product type or category level in terms of SKU number and quantity. At manufacturer level the SKU’s are linked to batches and tracked as a batch further up-stream in the supply-chain. At a certain point in the supply-chain, however, the traceable unit in trace-back mode becomes a dis-aggregation into a number of single units. This point in the supply-chain is normally close to the primary production level. From thereon further up-stream in the supply-chain, each item instance is required to be individually marked, identified, graded, and reported.

Therefore, in order to create and maintain a single traceability audit trail in the hosted environment, all items in the entire value chain are allocated unique item instance level identifier codes, even though manufacturers and retailers only use the item type, or category, component of the identifier code string. The underlying Fractal Traceability TM protocol nevertheless still carries the instance level identities that make up the batch/lot or quantity of SKU’s and is available to manufacturers and retailers to query individual instances of a SKU.

The first global implementation of the Fractal Traceability TM protocol

The first implementation of the Fractal Traceability TM protocol was done by IQ Logistica (Pty) Ltd in the South African Sustainable Cotton Cluster (SCC). This cluster is now being expanded into a South African Sustainable Textiles and Clothing cluster (SASTAC). This platform, referred to as the SCC-system, offers an item instance level traceability capability, a governance module to support compliance to agreed standards, regulations and best practices  and a supply and demand planning capability.

The retailer query on Build Summary trace for Order TS/001, shown under “Example from a real life system” below, was produced by this system. The SCC-system is configured on the basis of the entire cotton industry value-chain, from primary production through to retailer role. It can accommodate any number of supply-chains in the cotton industry value-chain operating globally. Systems of this kind need to be deployed only once as a hosted service globally. Interested supply-chains anywhere in the world can be linked up according to the implementation framework and procedures of the SCC-system. Interested parties may contact the Fractal Traceability TM Company through this website  in order to be introduced to the appropriate people.

Case Study: Example from a real life system

An example of such a trace-back profile is shown below as a screen shot from the first operations visibility platform that uses the Fractal Traceability TM protocol, namely the SCC-system that is being deployed in the cotton industry in South Africa. This system was built for the Sustainable Cotton Cluster and is maintained by IQ Logistica (Pty) Ltd.

The screenshot below represents the ultimate purpose of the traceability component of the SCC-system, namely the ability to account for the movement of product items through a supply-chain from primary production to retailer.  A careful analysis of the data in the screenshot reveals a lot about the ability of the Fractal Traceability TM approach. It shows the trace-back reconstruction, produced by the platform without human intervention, of items in a specific order of a retailer on a manufacturer of cotton-based garments. This query is a standard feature of the SASTAC platform and is generated instantaneously. It can be requested at any stage in the value-chain, not just at retailer stage.

Build Summary trace for Order TS/001:  This screen is produced by the SCC-system, an operations visibility platform, as a query on the origin of a specific order no TS/001 at the retailer level in the value-chain. The data shown is part of a simulation that was done by creating a supply chain consisting of Cotton Farmer A, Cotton Farmer B, Cotton Gin, Spinner, Knitter, Dye-House, CMT and Retailer. Product items were created at farmer level and from thereon the industry procedures were followed by means of data entry to “move” product items through the receive, transform, dispatch value-add cycle on the SCC platform. Since the Knitting/Dying/Manufacturing (CMT) roles are vertically integrated in the specific knitter, the table only shows the name “KNITTER”.