Track-and-trace technology improves visibility and sustainability in supply chains
What logistics executive doesn’t want more visibility into their supply chain? Apparently very few of them, because in a McKinsey survey, almost 80% said they needed to improve and invest in digital planning to gain that visibility. There are so many moving parts throughout an organization’s supply chain that it’s no wonder things fall through the cracks. But it’s not inevitable. Track-and-trace technology is a great way to keep that from happening. Tracking sensors can keep organizations up to date on where exactly in the world items are at a given time. They can send alerts when they’re tampered with or a delivery is going to be late. They can keep track of how much stock is on hand so supply chain leaders can consider that along with demand and location of the next shipment to know precisely how long they’ll need to fill orders. Track and trace optimizes routes, reducing that lead time and providing financial and environmental benefits. It should come as no surprise, then, that organizations employing track-and-trace systems outperform their competitors.
Insight into Global Chains
New governmental regulations, particularly the European Union’s Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive, have hastened the adoption of track-and-trace methods among some of the world’s leading companies.
With more than 50,000 suppliers in 150-plus countries, Unilever has a lot to keep track of. They employ no less than three trackers in Premise, Descartes Labs, and Orbital Insight, the Wall Street Journal reported. Adidas uses TrusTrace, which monitors chain of custody from end to end with real-time supply chain traceability and automated sustainability certificate processing. H&M uses TextileGenesis to make its supply chain digital, transparent, and sustainable.
“It is showing us great potential to obtain improved traceability and has become a key initiative in our work in this area,” Pierre Börjesson, head of transparency and traceability at H&M Group, told the WSJ. “The closer we get to our 2030 goal for all our materials to be either recycled or sourced in a more sustainable way, the more traceability we gain.”
The COVID-19 pandemic pushed more companies to digitize their supply chains and employ track-and-trace methods just to locate items and calculate lead times. Now, track and trace is going beyond that, helping organizations makeover their supply chains.
“Track-and-trace makes supply chains transparent, but the ultimate goal is to deliver autonomy and sustainability in the supply chain,” Roambee chief executive Sanjay Sharma told RCR Wireless. “IoT was being used to light up the supply chain, to identify glitches in it. Now the supply chain is all lit-up, all the glitches are known, and all the improvements are being made; instead, the question is how else that IoT data and supply-chain data can be used to optimize a logistics network.”
An important regulatory change coming in the U.S. is the FDA’s Food Traceability Final Rule. Going into enforcement in 2026 as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act, it requires more stringent recordkeeping from entities that handle foods on the FDA’s Food Traceability List. Crucial to public health, the rule will enable the FDA to act more swiftly in announcing warnings and recalls for tainted food. It will also make it easier to pinpoint the source of a contamination, limiting recalls to items known to be compromised rather than the FDA issue blanket recalls that result in shortages.
“The FDA’s final Food Traceability Rule is the first step to achieving end-to-end traceability throughout the supply chain,” Sharon Lindan Mayl wrote in Food Safety News. “While many companies currently have established tracing systems, the systems are not always interoperable, thus hindering the ability to trace foods from farm-to-table. This final rule creates the foundational components that will allow the food system to speak the same traceability language and can be used by the technology sector to develop software for this rapidly growing market.”
As Mayl notes, the FDA can’t require end-to-end traceability, but the rule promotes cooperation between various handlers along the supply chain before perishable food ends up on people’s plate or in their pantries and refrigerators.
The clock is ticking until the Jan. 20, 2026, and food vendors have a great deal of work to do to see more deeply into their supply chains. Track-and-trace technology will help a great deal with compliance, and as a bonus will show them how to operate more sustainably.