Leather supply-chain is one of the most important in the Tuscany region. Indeed, there exist a number of different districts, which cover all the processes of the supply chain from the tanneries to the firm. Currently, the leather sector suffers from both the global economic crisis and in particular from the competition with low-cost production. Thus, leather companies cannot compete on prices, but have to propose products with unique characteristics, which have so high value for the consumers as to justify the higher prices. However, these high value characteristics should be evident, for instance through certification of product origin and the process quality, to the consumers who otherwise could be attracted by counterfeited goods and/or imitations. Hence, on the one side, the requirement of certifying the quality of the manufacturing processes, and on the other side the need of fighting the counterfeiting demand suitable technological solutions.
The TRA.S.P 2.0 project started from the results achieved by a previous project (TRA.S.P) where an analysis of the leather supply chain had been performed in detail, highlighting strengths and threats. In particular, TRA.S.P had pointed out that these objectives can be achieved through a traceability of the supply-chain processes, which allows certifying each stage of the production and the authenticity of the final product to the consumer. Anyway, the criticalities of some working phases, especially in the tanneries, and the high number of different activities required to commit a leather accessory such as a bag or a wallet have made the deployment of a traceability system harder than in other sectors, such as textile and footwear.
To this aim, TRA.S.P 2.0 has investigated all the possible enabling technologies suitable for the leather supply-chain so as to develop a prototype of a complete, low-cost and flexible platform to enable traceability in each phase of the leather supply-chain, independently of the granularity of the involved enterprises. Further, cryptographic primitives, developed by the Swiss partners, have been designed and implemented to increase the RFID tag security, and a low cost fault tolerance support suitable for RFID application has been added on the top of these primitives. Finally, the project has proposed a methodology based on the process analysis to rapidly deploy the traceability platform in real leather manufacturing contexts. In the final phase of experimentation, the potentialities of this platform for improving efficiency, reliability and management choices, and for overcoming counterfeiting, have been proved in the two small enterprises of the leather supply chain partners of the project, namely Giò srl and S.A.P.A.F. srl.
TRA.S.P 2.0 has achieved advances both in the ICT and in the manufacturing fields. Indeed, as regards ICT, the project has improved robustness and security of available RFID tags, thanks to the work of the Swiss partners, and has developed a software platform based on the most recent interoperability standards, thanks to all the Tuscan partners. As regards manufacturing, the deployment of the traceability platform in some sample enterprises involved in the leather supply chain has led to a process re-engineering, with the adoption of innovative solutions suggested by the analysis of data collected by using the traceability system.
In particular, the solutions developed in TRA.S.P. 2.0 allow the enterprises involved in the leather supply chain:
- to certificate the quality of the processes to final consumers (end-users);
- to monitor in real-time the manufacturing processes in order to discover possible bottlenecks and inefficiencies;
- to collect data for performing an analysis of the production processes and for improving them by a re-engineering process;
- to monitor the overall supply-chain processes in real time, thus allowing managers to plan correctly the production and possibly to quickly adapt some processes or activities;
- to improve the collaboration between suppliers and providers;
- to create a new relationship with the client based on transparency and reliability.
Concluding, the partnership among RFID technology developers (the two Swiss partners USI-ALARI and Royal Tag Corporate), software developers and system integrators (the three Tuscan partners Liberologico, Sdipi and Temera), and leather supply chain experts and end-users (S.A.P.A.F. srl and Gio’ srl) has allowed developing a very attractive, low-cost and flexible platform to enable traceability in each phase of the leather supply-chain.