Schneider Electric is developing a new “End to End Traceability” tool to monitor products across the entire supply chain, both upstream and downstream of manufacturing plants.
To do so, Schneider Electric is combining its knowledge of the Food and Beverage segment with the expertise of Microsoft, its partner, in blockchain technologies.
Traceability: a major challenge for food and beverage manufacturers
Faced with increasingly complex supply chains, stricter regulation and more demanding consumers, food and beverage manufacturers are making a priority of product traceability.
The stakes are high, involving brand reputation, regulatory compliance, competitive advantage and costs. An Allianz Global Corporate and Specialty report published in late 2017 estimates that insurance claims for a product recall reach an average of $9.5 million, with the Food and Beverage industry being the second most impacted, just after the car industry.
Food and Beverage product traceability can be complicated to set up, given the number of stakeholders involved across the supply chain (producers, suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, and transporters).
Achieving traceability across the entire supply chain
At its recent Innovation Summit, hosting more than 5,000 experts, customers and partners from all over the world at Paris Expo Porte de Versailles, Schneider Electric presented during its Schneider World Premiere the latest innovations in its EcoStruxure IoT-enabled, plug and play, open, interoperable, architecture and platform.
EcoStruxure delivers enhanced value around safety, reliability, efficiency, sustainability, and connectivity. EcoStruxure leverages advancements in IoT, mobility, sensing, cloud, analytics and cybersecurity to deliver Innovation at every level, from Connected Products, Edge Control to Apps, Analytics and Services. EcoStruxure has been deployed in 480,000+ installations, with the support of 20,000+ system integrators, connecting over 1.5 million assets.
On this occasion, Schneider Electric unveiled a proof of concept for its new “End to End Traceability” application, as part of EcoStruxure for Industry. Benjamin Jude, Food and Beverage Segment Solution Architect at Schneider Electric, said “this End to End traceability facilitates much faster product recalls.”
Building on its expertise in the Food and Beverage segment, with 21 of the Global Top 25 major Food and Beverage companies among its customers, Schneider Electric has worked with a major fresh produce retail group, a distributor and a transporter to develop a prototype for the downstream part of “End to End Traceability.”
Benjamin Jude added, “With this prototype, these companies can build an electronic passport for each product to fully automate the contracts between them. For example, leveraging IoT, they can maintain an unbroken cold chain.” In addition to ensuring full product traceability, “End to End Traceability” will also offer time savings by warning the distributor in real time of any delays in delivery or production.
Combining Schneider Electric’s industrial know-how with Microsoft’s blockchain expertise
“End to End Traceability” incorporates cutting-edge Schneider Electric technologies, including shock/humidity Telemecanique Sensors and a “click-to-cloud” system for reporting secure information from connected objects and sensors. To manage efficiently the information from these different sources, Schneider Electric has drawn on its partner Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform and knowledge of blockchain technology.
Thomas Conté, cloud engineer and blockchain specialist at Microsoft, noted: “Blockchain is a digital technology that allows all members of an ecosystem to automatically share a common and unique truth on all their interactions. That truth is fully transparent to all of them, and all of them contribute to generating and storing that truth. It generates trust between those members.”
Microsoft partnered with Schneider Electric to select the most suitable blockchain technology and to build very quickly the PoC using Azure Blockchain as a service. Thomas Conté continued: “The smart contracts leverage the truth shared by all stakeholders to automatically execute tasks like payments or products recalls, and improve collaboration between all of them”.
They will automatically execute the service terms and conditions agreed by the different stakeholders (delivery times, temperature/humidity/shock levels, etc.). Each telemetric reading is archived securely in the blockchain and shared between all members to ensure traceability.
Lastly, the blockchain protocol used (Ethereum) and the targeted governance (consortium blockchain) ensure to develop a project with very low energy-consumption.
Schneider Electric, Microsoft, and their partners intend to pursue this proof of concept over the next few months before the solution is launched on the market.