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What Is Product Serialization

Posted on 21st February '19 in MAP Enforcement - Comments

What Is Product Serialization and Why It Matters to Your Brand

If you have a brand and are selling products, then controlling your supply chain to maximize revenues and ensure top-tier quality should be a chief concern. Think about it. If you can't track your products, you run the risk of falling victim to counterfeiters (who might sell inferior knock-offs of your wares, damaging your brand's image) or unscrupulous resellers who may violate your MAP policy and sell your products for less than what you've mandated.

Using product serialization can help you allay such concerns, however, and the practice comes with some additional benefits that you might find intriguing. Today, we're going to cover the basics of product serialization, and explain how it can aid your brand in the long run.

Explaining Product Serialization and Its Benefits
The idea of tracking products, by batches, in particular, has been around in industries like food & beverage manufacturing and pharmaceuticals for a while now. Individual product serialization, however, takes this process a step further, allowing brands (regardless of industry) to specifically track single products through unique labeling.

This provides you, a brand, with item-level traceability of your wares, and with that, you gain access to a new level of control over your supply chain. With the ability to track products individually, you can trace them from the point of manufacture down to your resellers, allowing you to ascertain which goods are legitimate/authentic, and which ones are potentially counterfeit (as products without unique serial numbers are more likely to be dupes).

Serialization also holds a few ancillary benefits for your brand. Knowing where all your products are lets you track them down more easily if you need to perform a recall, grants you the oversight you'll need to perform accurate demand forecasts, and help you in identifying other potential issues that may develop within your supply chain. Combined, this all goes a long way toward solidifying consumer confidence in your brand's quality and enhancing loyalty to your products.

How Product Serialization Aids Your MAP Monitoring
Product serialization is also a great boon if you have concerns about effectively enforcing your MAP policy. Using unique serial numbers allows you to trace products to specific resellers that may be hiding behind 3rd party accounts (think eBay or Amazon), and aid you in tracing potential violations of your MAP policy right to their source. Successful enforcement of your MAP policy is easier when you can nip bad actors in the proverbial bud, and product serialization helps you in focusing on those hard-to-track problem resellers first.

By targeting your MAP policy enforcement on problematic resellers before you focus on your supportive resellers (the ones who are easy to identify/contact and largely play by the rules) you can ensure that your policy does what you designed it for, and make sure your enforcement efforts don't end up unintentionally harming your most supportive resellers.

How Product Serialization Is Done
So, now that you grasp the basics of serialization and why it's critical for your brand, you might be wondering how manufacturers might go about implementing this sort of system into their supply chain. It's a bit more involved than just slapping a label on a product box; in addition to uniquely labeling items, manufacturers must have a way to track their wares as they change hands.

When it comes to applying unique tags to items prior to distribution, many manufacturers will use either barcodes or some sort of RFID technology that makes the tags "readable" by handheld scanners or automated machines. Combining these with a data management system allows brands to follow the chain of custody on their products as they pass from manufacturer to reseller.

Every time an item is scanned, that information is recorded into the supply management database (either manually or through an automatic process), and brands gain visibility on their products' physical locations as they head "downstream" in the supply chain. In addition to knowing the current physical location of their items, brands know how it got there (the chain of custody), which, again, can provide them with insight on potential counterfeiting situations.

Admittedly, implementing a product serialization system can be a hefty task, especially if your brand isn't used to doing any kind of tracking at all. In addition to altering your production processes to include serialized labeling, and you'll also need a way to manage all of that data and coordinate with your supply chain partners.

Thankfully, though, there are companies that specialize in product serialization and can help your brand "get with the program," so to speak. Instead of spending time and money trying to figure everything out for yourself, these experts can help you navigate the various information technology and infrastructure challenges that dot the path to successful product serialization.

When it comes to properly enforcing your MAP policy and cutting down on counterfeits of your goods, product serialization can help in a big way, and does so in a manner that keeps your brand's image reputation sterling. While it might take some time to implement, the benefits are clear, and there are options out there that can help you cut through some of the intricacies of product serialization. To learn more about the importance of MAP policies and clearing some of the hurdles that come with enforcing them well, be sure to check out the rest of the Trade Vitality blog, or explore our site to see how we can help make monitoring your MAP a cinch.

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