The Role and Importance of the “6-Ts” to Supply Chain Quality

It is highly unlikely, based on the complexity of global sourcing, that there can be in place a single response to address the food safety risks. To guard against price fluctuations traded in for inspections to ensure quality, suppliers are being engaged in maintaining quality based on the six Ts. These elements include traceability, transparency, testability, and time.


The process of being able to trace food ingredients to their source is the main reason for traceability (International Standards Organization, 2010). However, based on the fact that the food supply chain may involve many processes and channels, some of which may involve subcontracting. In such a case, tracking every ingredient to its source may be a daunting task. However, traceability is necessary to enforce regulations and protect the consumer from the consumption of contaminated foods.

Traceability enables recalls to be effected by the supplier in case the food product is suspect. One way in which traceability is achieved is through the provision of economic incentives to companies that have robust traceability systems in place. Research shows that many companies are picking up this approach, though slowly, because of the high capital investment for such systems. However, traceability remains the key issue as far as quality management is concerned, and all those involved within the food supply chain attempt to institutionalize this element as far as their food products are concerned.


This involves maintaining openness as regards the source of food or its ingredients. A challenge arises in the case where suppliers are dealt with by the companies in a cash-based approach, leaving very little or no paperwork at all to provide a trace. This makes this element less likely, except for well-established suppliers. Factors such as smuggling will generally taint or obscure the trail and affect transparency in a food supply chain.


Unlike other hard goods, food does not have a reliable testability construct. Food involves a myriad of other things, and therefore, testing all these things may be impractical. Deviations in the production process can affect the food’s shelf life and quality. However, these deviations may not be detected at the source. Passing phase testing within the food supply chain does not guarantee a quality food product. Additional training, as well as using trusted suppliers who readily comply with certain standards in the quality management process, would be one way of sustaining testability in the quality management in the food supply chain.


Transit time is considered critical as far as the freshness of any food is concerned. Delays result in additions of preservatives that can eventually affect the quality. Freezing has been proven to be ineffective as this results in increased spoilage and reduced shelf life. The time span between the discovery of food contamination and reporting. The shorter it is, the better. Time to recover from supply disruption. This largely depends on the time span between the discovery of contamination and reporting and therefore, the shorter it is, the better. One way of addressing this aspect is setting up time-based strategies to improve response and reporting.

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