The problem is that the biggest value goes to people downstream scanning the serial numbers that you put on. If you could see all that data for free, it would be very valuable. But that data is owned by the person who scanned it, not you. You put the number on and that might be the last time you see it unless you buy back access to the data.
In the U.S., our drugs are repackaged [in the pharmacy]. Drugs are rarely dispensed in the package that the manufacturers put the serial number on, except for some types of products, such as inhalers and birth control pills. So [the manufacturer’s package with the serial number] never reaches the consumer.
Tim Kearns: Companies can reach the end consumer with a pharmaceutical product and these companies can figure out a way to build brand awareness and value back. But when it gets to the pharmacy and the pharmacist takes it out and puts it into amber vials, you lose that packaging and the brand.
Rodgers: This is the only country in the world that does that. In every other country, you get the pack the manufacturer created.
Nobers: Look at consumer buying behaviors. People are ordering online. The common destination for pharmaceuticals used to be a pharmacy, but now it’s a store with a pharmacy in it—and even that is becoming the norm less and less. Trends, societal changes and consumer connections will eventually drive behaviors. “I don’t need to go to the pharmacy to pick up my medicine. I can go online to get exactly what I need delivered to me.”
Izquierdo: Just a comment on regulations and how things are changing. Some big brand owners have been proactive and develop their own standards without waiting for government agencies to come up with regulations because the impact of having a recall, the impact of social media, is so strong. Public perception can hit so hard that companies act before there is regulation. Sometimes companies have guidelines that are stricter than the regulations.
Biondich: That’s marketing—companies are marketing a risk to their advantage.
Izquierdo: Consumers are really the ones pushing for this to happen.
Nobers: Because news gets out so fast. What’s a greater risk—investing in equipment to ensure food safety or finding out the hot dogs you sent out are not supposed to have lactose in it and it’s on the news and the internet and your brand takes a huge hit?
Davis: I got a call one day from a specific plant in the poultry industry. They see what is going on. They know “If that happens here, we are done. Close the doors.” That’s exactly what they told me. “We have to protect ourselves. So here is our plant. You have full access. Tell me how we protect ourselves.” So they now do a decent job of tracking their products.
At another plant, they said, “We know in four days exactly where that came from.” I said, “That’s awesome. How would you like to do that in 30 seconds?” It’s great they have a paper trail, but they don’t have four days.
Nobers: Standard disaster recovery plans are expected. Not within four days, though. Now it’s like 40 seconds, and with the confidence in that integrated system within their supply chain to provide that for their business and customers.
Where are we headed in the future?
Izquierdo: The consumer is leading many of the initiatives. Consumers now have all this information available and have the power of sharing their experiences.
Davis: In the food space, companies don’t know what they don’t know right now, to a certain extent. Plant managers may wake up in a cold sweat thinking about “What happens if…?” By the same token, there are more companies that think “We have enough regulation to deal with. We don’t want to do any of this.”
We don’t yet know what the future holds specifically for the food industry. But I think we’re going to see more impetus from consumers, who expect more.
We don’t yet know what the future holds specifically for the food industry.
But I think we’re going to see more impetus from consumers, who expect more.
— Eric Davis, Videojet’s national sales manager
Rodgers: In the U.S., food traceability is more likely to revolutionize the supply chain quicker than pharma traceability. There will be pharma traceability because it is mandated. But you can make the argument that there are some benefits that brands will get from food traceability that you just won’t see in pharma. It seems odd, you’d think it’s reversed. You’d think there would be better justification for tracing things like drugs because they can kill you. But there are many differences between the food and pharma supply chains.
When I look at pharma, it’s big companies at the beginning of the supply chain and then you see the small companies and mom-and-pop pharmacies. It’s just the opposite, in some ways, for food. You have an individual farm—a tiny operation that can have a huge impact on the brand if they have to do a recall—at the beginning of the chain.
Nobers: That’s a really good example. You have scale versus special operations. Our role—along with manufacturers, industry experts and regulatory bodies—is trying to find those channels and fill those gaps and enable those connections between the product and consumer.
The biggest crossroads for the future is how it will come together. When you talk about speed and information, those two things create a need to be flexible and adaptable, and consumer- and product-orientated. Flexibility and adaptability are the key to surviving and continuing to be a successful operation.
Rodgers: Another difference between food and pharma is... CLICK "NEXT"