Developing a Global Standard to Facilitate Traceability of Long-Lasting Insecticide-Treated Nets

Related Global Health Areas
June 4, 2021
Lead Paragraph/Summary

Download the Technical Brief as PDF

Long-lasting insecticide-treated nets (LLINs) are exchanged among multiple entities (trade partners) as the LLINs travel through the supply chain from manufacturers to end users. Being able to track and trace LLINs is crucial for supply chain security, enabling the ability to verify that the chain-of-ownership of the item is intact, and to realize efficiencies through increased granularity, timeliness, and accuracy of data for decision making. However, the process of aggregating and using data to enable efficiency across trade partners can bring challenges, including:

  • Different and proprietary item identifiers assigned at various points of the supply chain
  • Inconsistent labelling of products across suppliers
  • Inability to automatically capture identification data
  • Incomplete or inaccurate product master data that define key attributes of the net, such as dimensions, insecticide type, and manufacturer

These challenges create a high-maintenance, error-prone environment that increases complexity, inaccuracy, and cost—and can be prohibitive to tracking where a net is going and tracing backwards to know where it has come from. Trade partners can uniformly identify nets with the same level of precision and consistent identifiers by adopting a common business language—a global standard—that can be used by all trading partners, from manufacturer to dispenser, to identify, capture, and share information about the LLIN and its movement in the supply chain. Using such standards enables interoperability across supply chain information systems, enhancing the quantity and quality of data available to support operational processes.

LLIN GS Image - Distribution

Proposed Solutions and Activities

To address the issues identified above, GHSC-PSM supported the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) in establishing the TraceNet working group in 2019. This group was co-convened by PMI and the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund). Working group members included representatives from manufacturers, procurement agents, donors, implementing partners, and select donor-funded country programs. The working group met bi-weekly to discuss the benefits, opportunities, and challenges of implementing standardized LLIN identifiers, data carriers (barcodes), and data-sharing mechanisms for the products.

GHSC-PSM, through a consultative process with TraceNet working group members, drafted and published a set of recommendations based on existing global standards to define a set of guidelines for LLIN identification, labelling, and master data information exchange. The working group determined that GS1 standards—standards that establish a common language across business entities to identify, capture and share supply chain data—were best suited to accomplish these goals. In January 2020, the project and other TraceNet working group members published Recommended Identification, Capture, and Master Data Sharing Specifications for Long-Lasting Insecticidal Nets. The document included timelines by which LLIN suppliers for Global Fund and PMI procurement agents, IDA Foundation and GHSC-PSM, respectively, were expected to adhere to these requirements.

Using these new recommended requirements, GHSC-PSM:

  • Established contractual requirements for supplier LLIN identification based on global standards (rather than proprietary, national, or regional standards) that mirror the identification implemented by Global Fund’s procurement agent, IDA Foundation.
  • Created the requirement that a GTIN, the GS1 standard for a globally unique trade item identifier that can be used across the supply chain network, be assigned to nets, bags, and bales.
  • Created the requirement that a GLN, the GS1 standard for a globally unique location identifier, be assigned to manufacturers’ business entity locations.
  • Implemented standards-based barcodes on labels affixed to all individual LLINs, the polybags that GHSC-PSM procures, and bales.
  • Issued robust product master data exchange requirements.

The TraceNet working group decided that requirements would be implemented in phases. Phase 1 required LLIN suppliers to assign GTINs to their products and GLNs to their business entities. Phase 2 required LLIN suppliers to label their individual nets and polybags with the GTIN, production date, and batch/lot number encoded in a DataMatrix and included as human readable interpretation. Phase 2 also required LLIN suppliers to share master data through the GDSN for their products. In phase 3, suppliers will apply these requirements to LLIN bales and apply serial numbers to individual LLINs. These requirements were incorporated into GHSC-PSM supplier contracts in March–April 2020 (see Exhibit 1).

LLIN GS Dual Image

LLIN GS Exhibit 1 Part 1

LLIN GS Exhibit 1 Part 2

When the TraceNet working group was established, the project had already implemented requirements for standards-based identification, labelling, and master data exchange for other products, including pharmaceuticals. However, the same requirements were not always applicable to LLINs. For example, a standard requirement for pharmaceuticals is to print the expiration date and encode it in the barcode, but the working group agreed that this was not appropriate for LLINs. LLINs are durable goods that are used over time rather than consumed in one use or in doses like pharmaceuticals, so they do not have a set expiration date. However, the insecticide does lose potency over time and can be closely tied to storage conditions, which is why TraceNet working group members agreed that the production date was a better indicator of viability to print and embed in LLIN barcodes.

For suppliers to meet these requirements on time, the suppliers in the TraceNet working group requested that the project hold implementation webinars to guide them on the requirements. From February to September 2020, GHSC-PSM hosted three webinars that correlated with each deadline (see Exhibit 2) to ensure suppliers had the information they needed to implement the corresponding requirements.

LLIN GS Exhibit 2

These webinars facilitated in-depth discussion on the requirements and how they applied to LLINs, enabling suppliers to be well-equipped for compliance ahead of the phased deadlines. The project recorded the webinars and continues to provide the recordings as a resource for LLIN suppliers.

The new requirements for LLINs also require suppliers to share master data through the GDSN. GHSC-PSM determined the information necessary for the LLIN product category through consultation across teams that use these data for business processes, including input from PMI and the Global Fund. The project then worked with its GDSN data pool provider to determine what existing GDSN attributes best represented the data that LLIN suppliers would need to provide. Where necessary, the data pool provider helped develop LLIN-specific attributes such as “thread denier,” a unit of measure for the linear mass density of fibers in an LLIN.

The project published the GHSC-PSM Data Synchronization Attribute Guide for LLINs in spring 2020, six months ahead of the first phase deadline, to give suppliers time to collect the necessary data for the requirement.

LLIN GS Helpful Terms

Results and Opportunities

As a result of the TraceNet working group’s efforts, LLINs procured by GHSC-PSM now have standards-based, globally unique trade item identifiers, batch/lot numbers, and production dates encoded in barcodes and printed on labels that appear on individual nets and polybags. This system provides a foundation for achieving end-to-end visibility in the LLIN supply chain.

Through the TraceNet working group’s collaborative process with donors, procurement agencies, and suppliers to develop the requirements, GHSC-PSM could see and record supplier compliance with the new requirements:

  • The target for the end of phase 1 was a compliance rate of 50 percent of suppliers. When the June 30, 2020 deadline passed for phase 1, the supplier compliance rate was 100 percent—exceeding the target by 50 percentage points.
  • When the December 30, 2020 deadline passed for phase 2, compliance, 85 percent of suppliers were compliant with the labelling requirements for individual nets and polybags, again exceeding the 50 percent target.

Phase 3, the final phase, requires LLIN manufacturers to include the defined identification data on bales and to add serial numbers to identification data on individual nets by June 30, 2022. GHSC-PSM will continue to monitor compliance with the requirements for all three phases for LLINs in its procurement portfolio.

Including standards-based identification data and data carriers encoded with the data on LLINs procured using Global Fund and PMI funding is an important foundational step for enabling the adoption of common, globally unique trade item identifiers across trade partners and for improving data timeliness and accuracy through scanning. Countries can use these advances to implement processes and adopt technologies that can, for example:

  • Improve LLIN master data—a requirement for scanning—by allowing countries to collect GTINs and associated product attributes assigned by manufactures.
  • Manage bale traceability within countries using shipping container codes (SSCCs) to trace which bales went to which in-country locations and to support investigation in cases of theft or diversion.
  • Improve specificity of point-of-distribution data by allowing distribution teams to capture the serial numbers of nets distributed to houses through scanning into an application or manually recording serial numbers.
  • Enhance research on LLIN durability and effectiveness—such as how long an individual net has been in a specific household—by leveraging the standard identification on the net’s labels and encoded in the data carriers when data from the same household is captured either manually or through scanning over multiple points in time.
Lessons Learned

While developing and implementing the TraceNet working group’s recommendations for LLINs, the project identified a number of key success drivers that other entities implementing standards-based product identification, data carriers, a master data exchange can learn from and adapt for their own implementation.


The combined forces of establishing a dedicated and inclusive working group and ensuring continued engagement from GHSC-PSM proved to be the recipe for success in establishing and implementing the TraceNet recommendations for LLIN products. If an organization is pursuing implementation of standards-based product identifiers, data carriers, and master data exchange, this process and the learnings can serve as a guide. If an organization is interested in adoption for LLIN products specifically, the TraceNet recommendations and subsequent GHSC-PSM requirements can be directly adopted to accomplish this.