How Danone cracked end-to-end traceability

With complex global supply chains, increasing regulation and consumer pressure, the food industry needs to provide more complete, traceable and transparent product information along their entire value chain. Investment in food and beverage traceability is essential to provide the right information to consumers. It also underwrites food safety by fully controlling the supply chain from end to end.

At the same time, there is growing pressure to consider animal welfare, sustainability and addressing supply chain efficiency. Technology is a large part of the solution, but which automation products offer the required scope?

Danone’s mission is to serve life and bring health through food to as many people as possible, especially baby products. In their Specialized Nutrition Business, safety and quality are crucial, with no margin for error concerning a baby’s health.

Their end-to-end traceability journey started four years ago to bring trust and peace of mind to consumers’ parents. They sought a way to secure the Infant Formula packaging beyond the company’s quality standards and basic safety guidelines.

The solution was to provide a unique digital identity to each product by laser marking two QR Codes. One on the outside of the pack for scanning, another inside available only after purchase and scannable only once. The two codes link together to provide an additional layer of security to consumers.

This opened new opportunities for end-to-end traceability and enabled Danone to better connect with its customers. It provided them with information on their product journey, nutritional advice, answers to their questions, and general guidance.

End-to-end traceability

To start an end-to-end traceability journey, producers need a level of maturity inside their company. The prerequisite for starting is to master traceability at the batch level using digital solutions. Mastering traceability at various levels of granularity (batch, pallet, cartons and item) needs good process management and data from different systems within the company, like a Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES).

As part of their end-to-end traceability journey, Danone implemented a serialisation and aggregation solution. This engaged not only their network but also their external stakeholders (like distributors) to ensure complete end-to-end traceability.

For this, they strengthened the relationships with their key partners and suppliers to learn and build the competencies internally. Their distributed supply chain made this particularly challenging. Parties needed to agree on how to manage and exchange data in a tamper-proof way with potentially hundreds of partners. To address this Danone selected a blockchain technology platform to exchange data with their entire network of suppliers and partners.

Starting an end-to-end traceability journey was a ‘use case’ for the digital transformation of the company. It started at the plant level, leveraging different digital solutions and technologies and selecting the right granularity of traceability data applied to the company’s needs and strategy. The challenge is to orchestrate all the different layers of the converging OT and IT solutions, enabling the plant to connect with the entire ecosystem, upstream and downstream.

Using agile cross-functional teams

Agility is also key to starting such a journey; beginning small and then scaling up, adjusting your direction when needed. Danone’s four main takeaways for starting an end-to-end traceability journey were:

– Your end-to-end traceability journey should be part of your company strategy.

– It may need to dedicate global cross-functionalities teams

– It must encompass the entire value chain

– Finally, start small; do not select a technology, but target the right “use case”

EcoStruxure Traceability Advisor enabled visualising the complete supply chain by capturing and analysing data from various sources and stakeholders. See the full article, on how Schneider Electric helped Danone Specialized Nutrition to crack end-to-end traceability.


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