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Serialization Beyond Compliance: The Gateway to Competitive Differentiation

Product-level serialization has historically been associated with compliance mandates in highly regulated industries such as pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and tobacco. Its central principle was to prevent counterfeit products from entering these markets.

However, as organizations in these industries have come to realize, having full traceability within the supply chain offers benefits beyond compliance alone, providing opportunities for greater visibility, data exchange and sharing of information that can present a significant competitive advantage for brands.

Additionally, as more advanced labeling and serialization systems become more widely available at lower prices and integration into existing lines and systems becomes easier, organizations in all industries and of all sizes can now reap the benefits, such as Lee Metters, Group Business Development Director, Domino Printing Scienceexplore.

Beyond compliance

Through the product serialization process, brands can assign a unique identity to each salable product item. This identity is usually contained in a machine-readable 2D code, such as a Data Matrix or a QR code.

Until recently, the high cost and perceived complexity of implementing serialized solutions was a barrier to widespread implementation. Examples of organizations embracing serialization have been largely limited to those with a regulatory compliance obligation – such as pharmaceuticals, medical devices, tobacco – and manufacturers of high-value luxury goods looking to protect their brand and reduce the risk of counterfeits.

Despite the initial cost of implementation, these manufacturers quickly discovered that serialization unlocked significant business benefits beyond brand protection and compliance. As the foundation for sharing data and enabling digital capabilities in physical products, serialization has opened up opportunities for better supply chain management, personalized consumer engagement, and better brand positioning. .

Today, the cost of serialization via 2D codes is no longer an impediment to implementation. The technology is available and accessible in a multitude of markets, including low-cost sectors such as fresh fruit and vegetables and even postage stamp. Additionally, as the benefits of serialization beyond compliance become more apparent, specialist companies such as second thought and Neurotags have emerged to provide out-of-the-box support for serialization to further reduce costs, making the application of the technology even more attractive.

In short, the world is realizing the opportunities associated with serialization using 2D codes. The time has come for data sharing, and those without the technological capabilities may soon find themselves left behind.

Benefits of Serialization

The wealth of data businesses have access to through serialization can be used to enhance consumer protection, prevent counterfeiting, improve supply chain management, reduce waste, facilitate recycling, and optimize customer engagement. consumers for better notoriety and better positioning of the brand. By enabling product tracking down to the individual item, serialization also simplifies returns processing and recall management. In the event of a product recall, alerts can be set, so that consumers scanning recalled product codes are notified of the changed status and instructed where to return the products or how to request a refund.

Indeed, serialization allows each partner in the supply chain to work together to track a product at every stage, from the point of manufacture to its arrival in the hands of the consumer, and vice versa. The unique serial number can be used on all shipping documents to provide points of contact and status updates at both ends of the supply chain.

When it comes to counterfeit protection specifically, serialization gives brands in all industries the tools they need to counter the threat of supply chain fraud and diversion – that is to say when the stock of products is sold in a distribution channel different from that for which it was intended. By tracking at the unit level using unique codes, consumers can quickly validate the authenticity of their purchased product, and brands can identify instances of product discrepancy and trace diverted products back to their last known location within legitimate supply chains. The same technology can help combat product adulteration – where high-value products are contaminated with lower-value ingredients – by allowing product processors to verify the authenticity and provenance of raw materials or ingredients.

Beyond the obvious benefits of traceability, sharing data between partners within a supply chain could also enable future efficiencies in inventory and inventory management, facilitated by knowing exactly where a product is in a supply chain and the exact age of that product.

Broader commitment

Serialized codes also open up substantial opportunities for improved marketing and consumer engagement. As consumers become accustomed to scanning 2D codes, marketing teams will be better equipped with timely information regarding their product sales, allowing them to adjust marketing tactics as needed.

For example, customer feedback on positive product features can be used in future advertising campaigns, while changes to product design, advertising, or loyalty campaigns can be tested, measured, and changed much more. quickly with a serialized track and trace system.

Similarly, inviting customers to register their product purchases on a brand’s website can provide an opportunity for targeted personalization programs, where the consumer obtains information or rewards that are relevant to them. The company has the opportunity to build brand loyalty and increase sales opportunities through cross-selling and up-selling other products in its brand portfolio.

In the fresh food sector, in particular, there is also the possibility of developing the brand sustainability credentials providing consumers with batch-specific advice on product provenance or service suggestions to ensure the product is best enjoyed. The same 2D code can also host recycling tips, potentially using geolocation to provide information on nearby recycling centers, boosting brand reputation.

Gateway to the future

Of course, as relevant and important to operational efficiency and competitive differentiation as these opportunities are today, they arguably only scratch the surface of what could be achieved in the future using code-based serialization. 2D.

Supply chains have become much more efficient in recent years, but they are also more complex and volatile, with products being shipped through channels faster than ever and the global demand for supply chain traceability is increasing. The unique 2D codes are a digital gateway that connects any physical product to its supply chain signature, helping brands collect and share supply chain data, which can be used to identify global trends and support planning to minimize waste.

And, perhaps in its most exciting visionary capacity, product-level serialization can lead to a future where individual products come with their own product pedigree: with images of the product lifecycle from its components to origin or its raw ingredients at each stage of the supply chain to the consumer, or even to its decomposition.

As well as bolstering a brand’s credentials, from a recall or waste management perspective, it will help pinpoint exactly where problems may have arisen or, in fact, where customer complaints may be. unfounded. It also offers brands the unique ability to actively contribute to environmental and sustainability goals by identifying unnecessary processes and eliminating the causes of waste during manufacturing, as well as taking action to reduce packaging waste on the manufacturing side. consumer in the supply chain.


Globally, manufacturers are realizing the opportunities of 2D code-based serialization. Cost is no longer a barrier: more advanced labeling and serialization systems are available at lower prices, and many manufacturers will find that their current coding and marking technologies are already fit for purpose. With only minor improvements, an expert coding and marking supplier can help you identify the most reliable option for your business.

Yet for many organizations, the benefits of this technology in the supply chain are still unrealized. It’s time to act. Businesses must embrace the next exciting step in supply chain management to keep pace with the competition and create game-changing opportunities for differentiation.

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