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Knowledge boost in traceability necessary to strengthen Swedish competitiveness

June 16 2023

Swedish companies must be able to meet the increased demands for traceability that are expected. But as it stands today, many are poorly equipped. This is shown by a survey made within the Trust4Value project.

In the coming years, the requirements for the traceability of products and materials are expected to be significantly tightened, for example through digital product passports. To meet the requirements, companies must be able to show what products and materials contain, where they come from, and what the working conditions have been like throughout the chain.

But for companies and organizations to be able to do this, targeted information and a general increase in knowledge are required. This became clear in a survey conducted within the Vinnova-funded project Trust4Value, which includes research institutes, standardization bodies, and several leading companies in the field of traceability.

In the survey, 25 companies responded to a questionnaire, and another ten companies were interviewed in more depth about the state of knowledge on traceability.

– We received quite a few responses to the questionnaire, which we interpret as a general lack of awareness. Even in our interviews with organizations, which can be considered relatively interesting, the answers in several cases showed a general need for increased knowledge on the subject, says Karin Vestlund Ekerby, project manager at SIS, the Swedish Institute for Standards, who led the survey on the state of knowledge. 

Lack of upstream information

Companies and organizations know that traceability requirements will increase but often do not know where to start to meet them. Of the 25 respondents to the survey, 20 said they lacked upstream information.

– Perhaps they also do not always see the benefits of sharing information, that traceability becomes support in the circular economy, resource efficiency and to show that workers throughout the chain have fair conditions, says Karin Vestlund Ekerby.

What do Swedish companies need to be better equipped?

– Companies need the opportunity to collaborate on this. It is not easy to solve on your own. The authorities also need to design their requirements so that existing systems work and can be built on, says Karin Vestlund Ekeby.

Common language

At an overall level, it is a problem that there is no common language to create a good dialog and understanding between actors in the same industry, between industries, and between countries.

– This makes communication and transfer of data, and ultimately resource-efficient and circular management of resources, significantly more difficult, says Vestlund Ekerby.

The mapping shows that organizations want to know what to report and in what format and that there is a need for a basic training effort that can be given widely to everyone. The further work in Trust4Value will therefore primarily focus on efforts that can raise the knowledge of Swedish companies and organizations in general.

Companies not enough prepared

Sophie Charpentier at Chalmers Industriteknik is the project manager for Trust4Value. She sees several risks that Swedish companies and organizations are not sufficiently prepared for the upcoming traceability requirements.

– If they wait too long, they will have to do a lot in a short time when the new rules come into force. Right now it’s a bit of a Catch-22 on how to prepare, we know there will be rules but we don’t know exactly which ones, she says.

For example, the overall legislation that will regulate product traceability is expected to be in place at the earliest in 2024, while the first product passports are expected to be introduced in 2026-2027. However, there are some general measures to recommend now.

– For example, companies that have not digitized, need to start as a first step. Participating in activities around traceability, such as contacting our project or the larger initiative Trace4Value, of which we are a part, is a good way to get external monitoring and follow the work, says Sophie Charpentier.

In the fall of 2023, Trust4Value will offer several training initiatives, open to everyone. There, companies and organizations will receive both concrete advice on digitization, how product and supplier data can be structured, and what other preparations can be made today.

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About Trust4Value

The purpose of the project is to gather strength in the field of traceability by increasing organizations’ knowledge and understanding of how data generated in the traceability chain can be used to meet the requirements of existing and future legislation, and how these affect their operations as well as the upstream and downstream.

The project is led by Chalmers Industriteknik, which carries out the work together with GS1 Sweden, RISE, the Swedish Institute for Standards (SIS), TCO development, QCM, and Axfoundation. Trust4Value runs until the end of 2023.

Read more about the project