What really matters and how it can be implemented.
Interview with Bruno Schulze, Consultant, SQL Projekt AG
With the Supply Chain Act and the Digital Product Passport, politicians are creating regulations to promote sustainable practices in the European economy. In the future, customers should be able to access transparent information on the purchased product at any time. The product passport is to be made available to consumers digitally. Suppliers have to disclose data and share it with stakeholders. Our colleague Bruno Schulze reports below on how this can look in practice.
What prerequisites must be set up in the company in order to implement a Digital Product Passport? What would be advantageous?
Bruno Schulze: The most important thing here is a clear objective or strategy. What do you want to generate a competitive advantage with? Programming “into the blue” is not sustainable given the complexity of companies nowadays. The objective, no matter what you call it, includes the business processes and their data streams. You should know them and be able to link them to the value chain. How do you generate profit? For effective development, a documented IT infrastructure is important, as well as a direct contact person for system administration.
If these points are not given, they should be worked out in a workshop.
How can all data from different systems, including systems from suppliers, be made accessible? Which technical implementation is needed?
Bruno Schulze: The best way is via a website with certain access requirements. If you already have a webshop, use it. The possibilities for providing data in a frontend are very extensive. I cannot give a clear recommendation for this.
However, I can strongly recommend the use of an integration platform. The core of the application, regardless of the end application, is that TRANSCONNECT® compiles the information automatically in the background and makes the data processes visible. Thus, it can be traced at any time which data has been transferred where. The individual information of the subsystems (ERP/file system/web service/…) is accessed by means of various adapters. The simplest possibility in TRANSCONNECT® is, for example, the database adapter, with which classic SQL commands are executed. At the same time, it is also possible to connect to SAP, access a corresponding DMS or communicate with a machine using the OPC adapters. We are primarily concerned with the management of data streams.
Is the Digital Twin the only way to aggregate and map the data?
Bruno Schulze: The digital twin is a big concept. Depending on the representation (webshop/website/dashboard..) and the depth of integration, one can then speak of a digital twin or not. The digital twin is a collective term. Here we have to think from the other side. What is my product? What is my objective? And what technology best supports my requirement? That can be a digital twin – but it doesn’t have to be.
How do I get the data from the virtual image visualised in a portal?
Bruno Schulze: My team and I solved this for one of our customers in production in a simple frontend. There are many providers who are specialists in this field. In our case, we implemented the portal with a simple HTML framework.
How can the customer access the data in the future? Via QR code?
Bruno Schulze: Via a website or perhaps embedded in the webshop. The order number and postcode are requested as authentication. The QR code is only there to find the website and to pre-fill the field ‘order number’.
Are standard systems advantageous over individual solutions or in-house developments?
Bruno Schulze: Standard systems make integration more watertight and long-term. But they are also more complex to connect. But do they exist in reality? My experience shows that in a dynamic market environment, the corresponding IT systems are also constantly changing. The art is to find standardised formats that are easy to maintain and adapt. In order to later add other systems and their data, all interfaces can be maintained via a central point and data can be exchanged automatically.
To what extent does the transparency of the data in the product passport have a negative impact on the competitiveness of companies?
Bruno Schulze: If everyone can access it, it is more of a data security issue. Here, specific dimensions and especially prices are risky if the competitor can see that and possibly undercut the product price.
In general, the transparency of product data is more of a selling point.
Bruno Schulze, Consultant TRANSCONNECT®
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