Product digitization can perform an almost limitless number of tasks throughout your supply chain, from helping spot counterfeit goods to providing specific recycling instructions.
While many organizations have embraced automation in their manufacturing processes and tasks such as real-time order tracking, digitizing their products and packaging has lagged behind. If you’re looking to improve your organization’s efficiency and return on investment for all of those automation tools, employing digital twins for your products is a crucial next step.
The last in our three-article series goes beyond defining product digitization and digital twins and shows how your organization can get started on this path – ahead of your competition.
Automation tasks handled by digital twins
Digitizing your products enables a far more granular level of automation, which has some big advantages over system-wide automation tools.
One example is sorting plastic at a recycling facility. Today, humans or robots manually sort plastic waste to – mostly – correctly recycle it. However, digital twins containing the proper information about packaging components can enable automatic identification of materials to dictate sortation with greater accuracy and efficiency.
Another powerful use of digital twins is automating your customer engagement. When a consumer scans the QR code on your product, you can trigger rules-based events such as starting a drip email campaign. Adding logic based on geolocation makes this feature even more useful. If the customer scans the product in the store, it can give them contextually relevant information like product specs or promotional messaging. If they scan it at home or after hours, it can provide installation, usage, or even reordering instructions.
Digital watermarks crack down on counterfeiters
One of the most important uses for product digitization is spotting suspected counterfeit goods. Product diversion and the gray market is a huge issue for supply chains. You have to be sure your products make it to their intended retail markets, and your customers want assurance that the products they purchase actually came from the brands they trust.
In some scenarios, this is a life-or-death situation. Counterfeit pharmaceuticals, vaccines and baby formula can all have devastating consequences. Even in non-life-threatening situations, consumers want to know the brand-name product they’ve spent hard-earned money on is the real deal – not a cheap knockoff that may break down tomorrow or be unserviceable.
For many years, anti-counterfeit measures involved physical markers, like holograms or special ink on packaging. The trouble with those forms of security is they’re not covert or connected to a software backbone, so they can’t learn or evolve over time. Digital twins can learn and act, whether triggering automations and generating alerts. Imagine being notified if a product is scanned in a region that’s not an authorized distribution area.
Digital watermarks are also covert, so they’re not easily identifiable by a counterfeiter. A bad actor may not even know the digital watermark is there, let alone be able to reproduce it, making it much harder to fake a product and much easier to vouch for its authenticity.
Why you should start digitizing your products now
The automation capabilities built into digital twins may seem like nice-to-haves, but there may be big costs if you wait too long to digitize your products.
First, consumers and your manufacturing and distribution partners are starting to expect a higher level of automation, including things like predictive reordering based on buying history.
Another reason to not delay product digitization is that you’ve likely already made a huge investment in automation just to keep up with modern supply chain requirements. Maybe you already have a digital twin of your manufacturing floor, or you purchased the latest supply chain management software platform. But the thing those pieces revolve around – your products – can’t participate in the digital world those tools create, so you’re not getting the most out of your investments.
“I don’t think a lot of organizations think about how digitized products are the key to unlocking the true value of your digital transformation investments,” says Ken Sickles, Chief Product Officer at Digimarc. “The digital twin gathers all of your disparate sources of product information and becomes a window into the world of your product that you never had before.”
With all of the benefits it offers – and the potential costs of waiting – getting started with product digitization is an important next step for your organization. Choose a challenge you can solve, start small and build from there for the best chance of success.
Did you miss our first two articles on defining product digitization and the power of digital twins for products? Follow the links to learn more.
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Digimarc is a global leader in product digitization, delivering business value across industries through unique identities and cloud-based solutions. A trusted partner in deterring counterfeiting of global currency for more than 20 years, Digimarc uncovers a product's journey to provide intelligence and promote a prosperous, safer and more sustainable world. With Digimarc, you can finally see everything. And when you see everything, you can achieve anything. For more information, visit us at digimarc.com.