Today’s apparel supply chain is in dire need of an accountability check. As brands today deliver bold promises such as “ethically made” jeans or “sustainably sourced” jackets, more consumers are demanding the proof behind these statements.
But while there are many actors throughout the supply chain, it is ultimately the brand that is still responsible for the authenticity and traceability of the apparel it sells, according to Wayne Buchen, vice president of strategic sales at Applied DNA Sciences, a provider of supply chain security, anti-counterfeiting and anti-theft technologies.
“The brands are the people who took the responsibility to ship that order with a tag that said ‘organic cotton,’” he said.
In a recent fireside chat with Sourcing Journal founder and president Edward Hertzman, Buchen said apparel retailers and brands are often still too reliant on traditional supply chain authentication methods. And the issue is becoming more challenging, he said, as fashion firms are continuing to move production closer to the end consumer.
“They’re moving away from Asia and coming into Central and South America,” Buchen said. “But by doing that, how do they know that the product that they used for their salesman samples—their nominated suppliers that they were going to use in Asia—are going to be exactly duplicated in Central and South America?”
Applied DNA’s CertainT® platform was designed to tackle this question with three technology pillars in mind—tag, test and track—enabling brands to tag both raw materials and end products with a unique molecular identifier. As the material or product travels throughout the global supply chain, the identifier can then be tested for its presence by anyone who has a SigNify® in-field mobile authentication device.
All the data points associated with tagging and testing, which can include information regarding chain of custody, geolocation, date or time stamp and lot or serial number, are tracked by uploading to a secure cloud database.
“We can verify the finishes and final product that you have already nominated and moved to another region of your supply chain,” Buchen said.
The company has even put the platform to the test recently authenticating personal protective equipment (PPE) products using ITW Pillar Technologies’ textile treatment technologies. Together the two companies aim to combat the growing issue of counterfeit PPE entering the healthcare supply chain with the technology.
Even given the advantages of an authentication platform like Applied DNA’s, Buchen said the technology also presents challenges for supply chain executives who are juggling a variety of concerns.
“These technologies—our technologies, other technologies—hold you accountable,” Buchen said. “It holds accountability to your supply chain, it holds accountability to your suppliers, it holds accountability to your raw materials. It makes you stay disciplined in what you want to do. Sometimes it creates some inflexibility in what you want to do…The fact is, it’s difficult for you to sit there as an executive and say, ‘I have a little bit less flexibility here because now I’m moving these materials around to test them every time I move them.’”
Click the image above to watch the video and learn why Buchen says traditional supply chain authentication is no longer enough in verifying raw materials, and where modern solutions play a role in fortifying real brand trust.