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What is Serialization?

Updated: Apr 19, 2019

In 1974 the world’s first product carrying a Universal Product Code (UPC)—most commonly known as a barcode—was scanned in an American supermarket. Today, billions of goods around the world are imprinted with barcodes, from juice cartons sold in supermarkets and convenience stores to items in shopping malls and hospitals.

Indeed, product serialization—which involves assigning goods with a unique identification marker such as UPCs, QR codes, serial numbers and 2D hologram stickers—is becoming more standardised.

And they’re more crucial than ever. Serializing products not only informs consumers of the price of a carton of milk or a new luxury handbag, but also helps combat the rising spread of fake goods by tracking the movement of products in the global supply chain. In 2017 the global counterfeiting market, ranging from fake clothing to watches was worth a staggering USD1.2 trillion. In 2020, that figure is expected to reach USD1.82 trillion, according to a report by Business Wire.

Serialization not only increases product supply chain visibility and minimises revenue loss for businesses—it can help save lives. In the pharmaceutical industry, the flow of counterfeit tuberculosis vaccines and anti-malaria drugs are responsible for the deaths of over 700,000 people a year, according to London-based think tank International Policy Network. Although sold at a cheaper price, counterfeit medication contains unknown ingredients that could be toxic and react with patients in a fatal manner.




Forbes approximated that the counterfeit drug market alone reached a total worth of USD200 billion in 2011. In order to tackle the issue, more than 40 countries have adopted track and trace laws that will result in the serialization of more than 75% of the world’s prescription drugs early this year.

One product that offers end-to-end traceability solutions is Identem™, with its tagline “Tag It. Trace It. Authenticate It.”™ Through its smart label serialization mechanism, cloud-based platform and mobile application, Identem monitors supply chain movements, allowing businesses to ensure that assets reach their appropriate destinations and are fully accounted for. Consumers benefit, too, as they can authenticate the origins of their products.

Not only is Identem™ suitable for pharmaceutical companies—it’s also ideal for businesses and organisations in the automotive, beauty, luxury, food and beverage industries, as well as government regulatory bodies to combat counterfeiting, enhance supply chain visibility and gain consumer insights.

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