Last week I attended the HDMA traceability conference in Arlington, VA. There were a couple of interesting takeaways from the event. The first thing I noticed was the attendance; it was easily a record turnout with over 300 people attending the event. I also learned that most companies have moved past the first phase of the DSCSA (TI, TH and TS transmission) and are now starting to think to the next steps of serialization and compliance with the 2017 mandates. We took a survey of attendees to see exactly where they are in the process. See the results here.

In listening to the various panel discussions and presentations, as well as talking to a number of the attendees, I noticed a pattern: most companies want to figure out the best way to manage serialized product as it moves through the supply chain.

One of the hot topics is whether to aggregate at the packaging line versus waiting until post 2017 to add that functionality. Consultant Dirk Rodgers wrote an informative blog entry with a good perspective on that topic. I think that will be an ongoing discussion through 2016 and beyond.

The other key theme was the topic of gaining business value by utilizing the serialization information and supporting business data to gain a positive ROI. These discussions centered on three major areas: Improving the returns process including managing saleable returns, improving the recall process and getting a better handle on reverse chargebacks.

Unless you start looking at serialization as a strategic initiative rather than satisfying a mandate, you will be at a disadvantage to your competition. The companies that start serializing at packaging and incorporate the entire distribution chain will have better visibility and management of their valued products in motion throughout the supply chain.

The common thread that connects all of the topics highlighted above is that you need to be able track serial numbers through the broader supply chain – and then integrate that serialized data with the business systems you use every day (ERP, EPCIS, etc.). Only then can you start to realize the ROI that a serialized supply chain can provide.