Value chain versus supply chains
The Fractal Traceability TM protocol is based on defining a fractal unit for each value-chain role, and each participant in that role. Each participant has its own private and confidential space in the hosted service into which the “within organisation” item handling events are recorded. When participants trade (dispatch and receive) with each other, these fractal units link up with all their content and start building the supply-chain pattern within the roles and rules of the specific value-chain.
Considering the food industry with its concerns about food safety it would be prudent to cite examples of value chains such as animals and animal products (dairy and meat), vineyards and grape products, fish and fish products, etc. These are examples of specific value-chains for which the Fractal Traceability TM protocol could be used to construct, configure and deploy a traceability and operations visibility platform to monitor and report on physical item handling events in these respective value chains.
The protocol is generic and focus on monitoring and recording of item handling events as oppose to tracking items per sé. It means that the Fractal Traceability TM protocol can be used to monitor and record item handling events for any product item type in any type of industry. For example, it can be used for gemstones, building materials, pharmaceuticals, rubber products and tyres, textiles, food, vehicles and vehicle parts, to mention but a few.
Theoretically there is no limitation to the number of supply chains a system based on the Fractal Traceability TM protocol can accommodate in a specific value chain. It depends on the specific technologies and architecture used in building the software system and the business model behind it.
Providing provenance certificates per transaction between organisations
Provenance in its widest interpretation includes not only information about origin and chain-of-custody, but also about the characteristics and condition of an item, and attributes of the item handling events. The important point however is that provenance needs to provide authentic, accurate and useful visibility on the identity and history of a product item. The Fractal Traceability TM protocol renders a traceability system forensically hard and enables it to create a provenance certificate for physical product items per transaction between companies, provided that the entire supply chain is subjected to fractal traceability, or at least up to the point where the transaction occurs. The Fractal Traceability TM protocol relies on the dynamic item instance level traceability audit trail that runs through the value chain as the prime source of chain-of-custody information, and as a reference structure to coordinate and synchronise additional information on attributes and other relevant contextual data. Using appropriate security in and around the traceability information management environment, the provenance certificates are issued and made available to the participants’ involved, and authorised third parties, as a trusted and auditable document.
The GS1 traceability standards suite
In practice the Fractal Traceability TM approach won’t be possible without the use of a global traceability standard such as the GS1 suite of standards (https://www.gs1.org/). Given the scale of local, regional and global supply chains with many participating companies, each recording traceability within the context of their own internal stock codes and system protocols, it will be virtually impossible to coordinate between item handling events from different stock code regimes and different system architectures and communication protocols.
GS1 provides a common item marking and identification standard as well a common communication protocol to communicate traceability data between different systems. Traceability systems using the Fractal Traceability TM approach map in-house stock codes against a standard table of registered GS1 Global Trade Item Numbers when communicating between the company in-house system and the cloud based traceability audit trail.