by Danny Mertens
The growing importance of track & trace in the packaging industry
Today many brand owners of luxury goods, such as the computer and automotive industries, are using track & trace technology to protect documents and products. It enables them to trace the genuine products throughout the supply chain – from design to distribution and point of sale – making it easy to check whether or not the right product is at the correct place at the right time.
How does track & trace work?
In order to track a product, it is given a unique code (think of a number 2D barcode, QR-code or beyond ) that can be scanned throughout the supply chain. The pharmaceutical industry has had to adopt this technology forced by Legislation. Usually, the printed code also functions as anti-counterfeiting tool so that should criminal organizations copy the product or package, the brand owner can immediately react. This is today broadly used from India to Belgium. A perfect example are the Belgian tax stamps for smoking goods which by the way are produced on a Xeikon press.
Xeikon’s track & trace technology
The high resolution of the Xeikon presses , True 1200 dpi able to address pixels with a size of 21µ , enables the integration of a high-security variable printed code onto documents or packaging. Generating these unique codes can be done with Xeikon’s digital front end. As for the database infrastructure and communication with the consumer, we are working with specialist in this field and who are a member of our Aura Partners Network.
ATT’s Seal Vector
Xeikon Aura partner ATT, for example, has developed the illustrated Seal Vector®, a highly secured copy-sensitive digital data container that can embed a great quantity of encrypted information on a very small surface.
With its 20-micron-pixels matrix, Seal Vector® is designed to be copy-sensitive: pushing the machine used to copy the code beyond the boundaries of its print resolution, the digital matrix gets altered. When tackled by counterfeiters, the code deteriorates, which will unmistakably be noted via field inspection by smartphone, or with a PC using a flat-bed scanner or a digital camera. The Seal Vector® code is generated based on production data, displayed on screen when read, thus ensuring secure traceability.
Agfa’s Arziro Authenticate
To go some levels deeper into trace-ability, our Aura-partner Agfa has developed a new product: Arziro Authenticate. The system includes the complete track & trace functionality and generates the printable codes. Codes can be scanned with standard mobile devices and thus it extends the potential use of this solution to the broad end-consumer market.
The future of track & trace
As stated above, today track & trace is most widespread in certain luxury industries (wines, perfumes, computer parts, etc.) However, as the technology becomes increasingly affordable and the problem of counterfeiting keeps on growing, many other industries are bound to follow.
Take the pharmaceutical industry, for example, where track & trace has become very important over the last years, to the point where certain countries are issuing regulations obliging manufacturers to equip their products with track & trace tools.
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