Traceability is imperative due to market conditions, regulatory requirements, and competitive pressures. The risks of operating without traceability are high, including market share erosion, competitive disadvantage, unchecked liability, brand damage, and lost profits.
Whether you have tried to deploy a traceability system and have failed (or have only moderately succeeded), or you are just starting out, it is important to understand the key components of every great traceability system. If your current or future system does not include all 10 of these, you should probably reconsider your strategy.
Deploying traceability doesn’t have to be a monumental task. Get started by reviewing the 10 requirements of every great traceability solution…
#1 – Gaining Control of Lots
For the purposes of traceability, lot identification should be tied to significant events or attributes in the production environment. In its simplest form, the lot could be the production date. A significant event could be a shift change, or a change in the supply lot. A significant attribute could be a production line or harvest bed. Industries have different standards for lot control, so investigate proper lot sizes for your industry, as well as customer requirements.
#2 – Serialization
In many cases, a serialized identifier (lot of one) is not only preferable, but required. The serialization could be at the pallet level, case level, container level, or at the item/piece level.
#3 – Marking & Labeling
Formulating lot numbers and serial numbers to be used in product identification is core, but ineffective if such identifiers are not associated to product by some type of marking, labeling, or other “readable” identification.
#4 – Constituent Lot Tracking & Validation
The next priority in building traceability of products is to link the identity of component / constituent lot numbers to the production lot or serial number.
#5 – Genealogy
Genealogy is gained by linking constituent serial numbers to subsequent assemblies, up through the make process and in some cases, through the supply chain.
#6 – Container Identification, Labeling, and Validation
Trading partners as well as consumers benefit from the proper identification of product at the container level. Getting this wrong during production or packing is a source of liability, customer returns, and added cost.
#7 – Lot Acceptance Testing and Quarantine
The next priority to address would be containment of unapproved or suspect materials. As each lot of product is produced, it will be inspected based on quality procedures. This could range from a basic physical inspection through destructive testing and analysis, to ensure that lot of product meets quality requirements. Traceability systems can be used to both record inspection results and tie them to the product lot, as well as quarantine lots until they pass inspection.
#8 – Process Tracking & Validation
Once lot control, identification, genealogy, and lot containment has been tackled, a strong foundation will be in place to follow product all the way through the process. Traceability systems can connect to a variety of devices to automate this data acquisition. In addition to constituent lot information, process specific information can be associated to the product as well.
#9 – Pedigree
Providing proof of what was produced, how, by whom, with precise content can be a valuable tool for your customers, analysts, and legal team. Correlating that information for process improvement, defect investigation, early warning, and population control is an added benefit of using traceability.
#10 – Process Feedback & Enforcement
As a result of identifying product together with tracking movements and usage, traceability systems can provide accurate and detailed production information to upstream systems. Traceability can be leveraged to coordinate schedules, optimize order fulfillment, enable JIT/JIS production and delivery, even improve product and process design. Immediate WIP management and process signaling can drive complex build-to-order and modular call-off fulfillment. WIP visibility matched with order processing can increase efficiency and inventory turns.
*Content excerpted from VIA’s White Paper – The Traceability Imperative: A Basis for Priority in Addressing Hidden Business Risks.
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