Be.trace: traceability and backward traceability, two sides of the same coin

Independently from the sector a company operates in, the products it makes, its size or its reference markets, traceability is a necessary element and not just an added extra. It is a useful tool for helping to improve company competitiveness, increase product value, and return an additional element of trust to clients.
The origin of traceability, like that of the regulations on quality, is probably rooted in the aerospace sector where costly manual methods were doubtlessly used, but today the thorough digitalisation of any type of process has led to an exponential growth of its use in different industrial sectors.
The term traceability defines all those procedures and technical and management solutions that a manufacturing company uses to record the history of a product. A great deal of information has to be recorded: the origin and lot of the raw materials from which the product is made, the production phases, the checks carried out during production, the internal and external logistics aspects for delivery to the end client.
All this is needed to satisfy the other side of the coin, backward traceability, namely the reconstruction of the history of a product in reverse – feasible thanks to the traceability procedures — above all if problems with the product arise after it has been placed on the market.
The challenge is to make traceability a guarantee so clients understand the continual effort that companies are putting into making products that are ever more sustainable, therefore reducing the environmental impact and helping the circular economy. The mapping of each process that is required by the procedures, in fact, makes it possible to thoroughly analyse what the “actions” with the greatest environmental impact are, and which ones need to be concentrated on to reduce the consumption of resources.
In the tannery sector, and more in general in the leather sector, the request to implement traceability systems originally came from the automobile sector, but today it is mostly the big fashion companies that are asking for complete supply chain traceability.

Those who work in the tanning process are well aware that the complexity and number of the phases that skins go through make it much more difficult to use a single system that follows the “history” of the individual piece along the whole supply chain.
This particular complexity means that traceability systems for tanneries must be designed, not improvised. To simplify, imagine a tree diagram where the starting points (roots), the information to be obtained using the system (leaves), the check points, the possible ramifications and the possible groupings (branches) have to be defined.
All this then needs to be applied to the process, defining the technology that is most suited to the
individual phase where traceability is to be applied.
The first question identifies the approach: “Does my company need ethical traceability or manufacturing traceability?”
Ethical traceability defines what makes it possible to tie individual skins to the origin of the animals they came from. Normally this type of recognition is required by certifying organisations and is the simplest form of traceability. With manufacturing traceability, instead, the approach is more systematic.
It is an approach that watches how the system grows over time, starting from even limited investments, but which permeates the work process deeply, making it possible to search for the causes of
possible problems, and improve continually so as to reduce waste.
To face this increasing need, and as such the request for traceability, GER has developed BE.TRACE.
What is BE.TRACE?
A modular system whose parts, better defined as modules, use different recognition technologies that change according to the phase they are applied to.
There are specific modules for the wet process, in other words modules for recognising the “Crust” state and that can just as easily be used during the finishing phase and subsequent dispatch to the client.
In substance, BE.TRACE can be adapted to the different needs of clients in terms of “marking” methodology and recognition methodology. Above all, it can quickly convert tracing from one technology to another, maintaining continuity of the “product history”.
The possibilities of conversion make BE.TRACE extremely flexible, so even partial traceability solutions that were previously implemented in some phases by the client can be integrated.
The system can be easily connected to the management programs where the individual passages are recorded, and at the same time can be integrated into the I.Data software to see how the
work phases have influenced not only the individual hides but also the full lot they belong to.
Ultimately, BE.TRACE gives a single answer to the request for traceability, satisfying the basic requisites of ethical traceability, but easily making it possible, over time, to move to manufacturing traceability, which makes companies increasingly more perfect and competitive.