Driven by increasing online retail activity, the amount of total counterfeiting globally is poised to reach $1.82 trillion by 2020, according to LocatorX (Atlanta, GA), a technology company that is helping secure supply chains for OEMS and protect against counterfeit goods. This influx of counterfeit goods into the marketplace is costing brands millions of dollars in potential sales while their reputations plummet.
“It’s surprising how many counterfeit products and materials are out there,” said Billy Meadow, CTO and founder of LocatorX in an e-mail response to questions from PlasticsToday. “Manufacturers have no way of truly understanding the scale of this issue, especially within the plastics industry. Currently, there are mechanisms in place to identify lower-grade or toxic materials, but there’s no way to examine them easily and conveniently enough to the point where someone can confidently say, ‘this is real’ or ‘this is fake.’”
Because plastic is so ubiquitous, the industry is well aware of the millions of counterfeit products that are made using off-spec materials or even floor sweepings to produce many types of consumer goods, not to mention automotive parts that are essential to safety. Meadow acknowledged that as more companies rely on offshore manufacturers, it’s more likely their third-shift teams will use low-grade polymers to cut corners. “The effects of such an oversight can cause lasting damage to a brand’s reputation and result in lost trust among consumers,” he added.
Scott Fletcher, President and CEO of LocatorX, explained how its technology can solve the supply chain problem for plastics and packaging manufacturers. “Our solutions help virtually anyone on the planet to determine if an individual item is coming from the manufacturer or not, and it paves the way for greater traceability in the event that someone has cut corners in the molding phase,” Fletcher told PlasticsToday. “It’s simply a matter of securing the packaging of those produced items. If a manufacturer is shipping auto parts, for instance, LocatorX can develop shipping cases or pallets that are equipped with a certified QR Code.”
LocatorX’s location technologies are based on the patented, molecular-sized, solid-state atomic clock technology created by the nanomaterials lab at the University of Oxford. It enables precise indoor and outdoor location tracking with a single technology, using existing cell towers, according to the company’s information. These barcodes contain a “digital birth certificate” for that item, making it easy for anyone along the supply chain with a smartphone to scan it, monitor the lifecycle and easily examine or remove an item that potentially contains low-grade materials.
“We see the certified QR Code becoming very powerful when it comes to protecting companies that rely on plastic parts to be made overseas and shipped to the U.S., or anywhere,” said Fletcher. “Plastics manufacturers can apply this technology to each item’s individual packaging. We’ve also found a way to imprint our certified QR Codes into the plastic material itself using lasers or to place it on an item’s surface using ink-jet printing.”
Currently, the company has 2D-barcode technology available that is fast and easy to print and integrate into an existing process. Each certified QR bar code is unique, so each label can be placed on any product or package, creating a log of information for that specific label or product.
Also available is the ConnectX system, which offers a patented and secure platform for brand owners and retailers to create a new set of ways to connect directly with shoppers. The TrackX system is an encryption and location tracking system for assets within the supply chain and logistics partners.
LocatorX has under development a Global Resource Locator in which each device will seamlessly integrate into any existing or new manufacturing process or supply chain, and provide accurate and reliable location tracking.
“All in all, technologies like ours offer a means of simplifying real-time asset tracking,” said Meadow. “Companies have limited control over whether offshore plastics manufacturers are taking shortcuts with low-grade polymers. But, these solutions enable them to put indicia on their goods and identify a source more easily.”