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Technology

Using Tech To Create Safe and Ethical Retail Supply Chains (forbes.com) 51

As manufacturing gets more distributed, it gets more anonymous in some ways: the parts for one computer might have been made in several countries, and even the assembly might have been split between more than one place; place of origin is complicated, and typically opaque for the purchaser of consumer goods. However, modern logistics and tracking mean that it doesn't have to be a mystery, and stages of a device's production can in theory be traced, which means that buyers and intermediaries can decide to buy essentially identical products and components based on factors like whether coffee is shade grown, or whether production line workers are treated in line with the buyer's own ethical demands. A slice from an article at Forbes about this kind of logistics-based practical ethics: An anonymous reader writes: Certain companies are taking this a step further, by using technology to assist workers in their day-to-day activities – for example, BMW is creating bespoke thermoplastic polyurethane thumb protectors for their factory workers. Others are working on ways of incentivizing behavior on top of these systems. Levi's is piloting a program where they offer cheaper short-term credit to companies that meet their safety levels. While it's true that this would result in an initial upfront cost, the whole reason CSR programs were created to begin with was to obtain legitimacy and the appearance of good corporate citizenship. If consumers wanted fair supply chains to be a priority, they could let their shopping habits speak louder than their words. Technologically speaking, we are not far off from a point where price tags could also include a QR code that has a geotagged history of all the places the item has been.
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Using Tech To Create Safe and Ethical Retail Supply Chains

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    So, I'm sure this thread like the one a bit below will be filled with people screaming for Forbes links to be excluded from Slashdot due to Forbes' assault on adblocking. My only problem with that is that I can see the article, and I'm using Ghostery and a custom /etc/hosts file so that I see no ads. I'm adblocking, and I'm reading Forbes, yet people on /. are complaining that it's not possible to do so.

    What am I missing?

    • These people aren't using anti-adblock killer.

    • So, I'm sure this thread like the one a bit below will be filled with people screaming for Forbes links to be excluded from Slashdot due to Forbes' assault on adblocking. My only problem with that is that I can see the article, and I'm using Ghostery and a custom /etc/hosts file so that I see no ads. I'm adblocking, and I'm reading Forbes, yet people on /. are complaining that it's not possible to do so.

      What am I missing?

      systemd?

      [*ducks*]

    • So, just to be clear, it sometimes lets people who are using an Adblocker in. Which is hillarious, because I frequently find it won't let me in... after I've disabled my adblocker (or am using a browser that doesn't have one at all.)

      I'm not entirely unsympathetic with Forbes' stand, but they need better programmers. Their blocking system is laughably incompetent.

    • by KGIII ( 973947 )

      You are missing that some of us do not just block ads but also block scripts of unknown origin and containing unknown code. Allowing untrusted code to run on your computer is sometimes going to lead to bad things happening. No, not always but often enough to where some of us have accepted that some of the web doesn't work for us.

      Well, some of us have accepted it - others piss and moan. I just accept that Forbes doesn't work for me, notice the URL, and do not click on it. I'm okay with that. I read the comme

  • Out of sight out of mind is the main goal of our supply chains. You don't want to know how sausage is made. The closest I think we'll see is when robots replace the people on a few years
  • Hopefully they can use this tech to reduce microaggressive behavior and to create inclusive, safe non-toxic environments for everyone as well.
    • Political correctness offends me.

      but yes i would like to know that on my wedding day that

      1 the rings were not made using blood diamonds and slave labor
      2 the clothes were not made in a sweatshop
      3 the deco was crafted as eco friendly as possible
      4 LOCAL First buying was used

      • But you wouldn't know anyway. All of the data used here can and will be faked. There is too much money to be made. You will never know where your diamonds come from, or your clothes. The global economy allows for a race to the bottom. This is why so much effort has been made in opening up trade borders. These types of efforts are just "feel good" so that us Westerners buying our $4 Starbucks think that the coffee is shade grown and handpicked by Himalayan virgins who are earning $100 per hour with full heal
        • ...hugboxes... All of the data used here can and will be faked.

          What happened in your life to make you such a mingy cunt? Why are you so pissed about efforts to keep a supply chain ethical, but obsessed with ethics in game journalism?

          • by tomhath ( 637240 )

            Why are you so pissed about efforts to keep a supply chain ethical

            He isn't pissed; he has his head out of the sand and sees the world we live in as it really is. Unlike some other people...

            • He isn't pissed; he has his head out of the sand and sees the world we live in as it really is. Unlike some other people...

              Oh, you mean he's woke? Why didn't you say so? Because he sounds a lot like a goofball.

      • Is it political correctness or Social correctness? If being nice to someone who is different from you for no other reason than they live differently from you is political correctness then what do you call enforced social correctness?

        If just 1% of the population is gay. That means there are 3.3 million gay people in just the USA alone. That is similar to the number of people in Boston, Massachusetts.

        The same goes for every other group. A tiny fraction still represents thousands of people. Who are you to t

        • i said and meant Political Correctness

          if you demand i not follow my Faith (im Conservative Baptist btw) then you and i are going to have issues.

          yes that means im going to have a Christmas Creche on my front lawn, pray in public and do other things.

          You let me be and i will make sure that i don't serve you Pork |Meat when you come to my potluck.

          a spade is a spade and sometimes you have to face Facts

          btw to my brethren I Cor 13 is a great chapter to read and study

  • Forbes again??? (Score:5, Informative)

    by wbr1 ( 2538558 ) on Saturday January 09, 2016 @02:31PM (#51269081)
    FUCK FORBES! http://www.extremetech.com/int... [extremetech.com]

    This behavior will stop.. this is our internet.

    • by DogDude ( 805747 )
      If the content isn't served from the domain in my address bar, I don't want it.
    • FUCK FORBES! http://www.extremetech.com/int [extremetech.com]...
      This behavior will stop.. this is our internet.

      And in protest, you posted a link to a site that doesn't deliver content unless you permit them to run scripts. Indignance on the internet? YOU FAIL IT! I got the headline, so I know what the story was about, but I'm not going to enable scripts just because extremetech is shit at HTML. They can fuck off and die with Forbes, and all the other dipshits crapping all over the web with their shit scripts.

  • by U2xhc2hkb3QgU3Vja3M ( 4212163 ) on Saturday January 09, 2016 @02:32PM (#51269085)

    Technologically speaking, we are not far off from a point where price tags could also include a QR code that has a geotagged history of all the places the item has been.

    Do we really want that on sex toys?

    • that would show you how old the child laborer was who made your stuff from China/Indonesia/Malaysia. I remember looking up my kid's soccer ball and finding out it was made by someone the same age. That site's long gone, and I can't imagine it died a happy death.
  • by ClickOnThis ( 137803 ) on Saturday January 09, 2016 @02:41PM (#51269123) Journal

    At first glance, it appears to resemble the objective of the Kimberly Process [wikipedia.org] which is to eliminate the trade in so-called conflict diamonds. [wikipedia.org]

  • by morethanapapercert ( 749527 ) on Saturday January 09, 2016 @03:07PM (#51269245)
    If I understand the certification process, this is already being done with aviation and aerospace components and certain critical types of military equipment. If you purchase, for example, a grade 8 bolt and matching castle nut for an aviation application, it comes with a manufacturers document that guarantees it met spec when tested at their plant. The testing equipment the manufacturer uses also has its certificate(s) indicating who made it, when it was last calibrated, what the accuracy can be expected to be and so on. EVERY part on a commercial aircraft is supposed to have this chain of documented specs and testing. All of that testing and record keeping adds to the manufacturing overhead, in turn greatly increasing cost. As a result; there is a thriving black market in stolen, superannuated or outright counterfeit aviation parts. There is enough margin there to make creating counterfeit documentation well worth the effort.

    Another example; more closely related to the point expressed in the article is jasmine rice. Like legitimate champagne or shade-grown fair trade coffee, jasmine rice is much sought after in the marketplace. Like champagne, "real" jasmine rice is supposed to be rice of a specific variety, grown in certain regions. There have been efforts to form grower and marketer groups that can create brands, authorize use of group logos and so on. And yet, adulterated or counterfeit jasmine rice is rampant in Asian marketplaces.

    The point I'm making here is that, if a given product can demand a premium price compared to alternatives or competitors, disreputable people will find a way to get a taste of that action. Using technology can make the documentation process cheaper to implement and maintain, but ultimately I doubt it can provide as much assurance of product provenance as the public believes. The best that I think could be done would be a collection of RFID tags attached to every product. Each organization, at each stage of the manufacturing process, would add their own RFID tag, encrypted with their own key. A customer who doubted the provenance of the product could, in theory, decrypt the tag using the manufacturers public key and thus be assured the manufacturer is responsible for that tag.

    This would be unwieldy as hell, an added expense, and wouldn't work anyway. You still have the problems of a) Is that the product the tag was originally attached to? b) Can we be sure the manufacturers key hasn't been compromised? c) Can we be sure that the manufacturer isn't lying? d) how far back along the chain are any users or value adders expected to go to ensure the nature of the product? e) how can we arrange things so the end user will actually bother to check these things? (and keep checking them every now and again) Some people read the label, but not everyone. And even among those who read the label, how many read that label every time they purchase it? Doing the due diligence is a huge pain in the ass, you're going to see non-compliance all over the place.

    Slashdotters will easily recognize that this situation has a lot of resemblance to the problem of internet security. It all boils down to a chain of trust and every link in that chain is a potential flaw to be exploited.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If I understand the certification process, this is already being done with aviation and aerospace components and certain critical types of military equipment. If you purchase, for example, a grade 8 bolt and matching castle nut for an aviation application, it comes with a manufacturers document that guarantees it met spec when tested at their plant. The testing equipment the manufacturer uses also has its certificate(s) indicating who made it, when it was last calibrated, what the accuracy can be expected to be and so on. EVERY part on a commercial aircraft is supposed to have this chain of documented specs and testing.
      All of that testing and record keeping adds to the manufacturing overhead, in turn greatly increasing cost. As a result; there is a thriving black market in stolen, superannuated or outright counterfeit aviation parts. There is enough margin there to make creating counterfeit documentation well worth the effort.

      Yep, consider China fake parts 'used in US military equipment' [bbc.com].

    • I wish I had some points; parent is spot on. Probably the only things tech can bring to the table are: 1) driving down the cost of tracking and compliance so that it's not worth the trouble to re-label counterfeits; 2) allow for tracking of things that are not yet trackable; this has the potential to open up new markets, or improve the price / value differentiation in existing ones.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    But can we trust the manufacturing history?

    How do we know Company A created such-and-such a component? Just because they said they did? And who's to say they didn't covertly subcontract it out? And how ethical are they anyways? And where's the proof that are as ethical as they say?

    And even if Company A manufactured the component, how would we know they hired the labor themselves? They could supply the facilities, equipment, materials, etc. but hire Company B to provide the labor. So, the component was manuf

    • You ask too many questions. Just pay your $100,000 for your "Ethically Made" sticker for your product and shut up.
  • However, modern logistics and tracking mean that it doesn't have to be a mystery, and stage of a product's production can in theory be traced

    Sure it can. IF someone is willing to pay the cost of doing the tracking. What? You thought material traceability was free? Someone has to keep track of all this stuff, store the records, make them available, audit them in some cases, etc. Even if you do all that there is basically no way to force your suppliers to comply unless you are a vital part of their business. A company like GM can force suppliers to track stuff if they think it is important enough. A company like mine (small manufacturer) wi

  • among other I retain the Dutch phone company Fairphone, which details its supply of conflict-free metals, selected a (chinese) factory explicitly allowing syndicates etc.

    For they second model this year they additionally evolved towards a modular design where one can replace specifically a broken part (be it the screen, the camera, of course the battery...) with either bare hand or a standard screwdriver. Alas in parallel they moved from a pre-rooted android OS to a non-rooted one. So... I remain with their

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