We are hearing a lot about “traceability” these days where there is risk to human health or life. It is not a new concept. The barcode industry was talking about “track, trace, count” in the late 1970’s and rightly so. Barcode technology is uniquely able to provide traceability using technology that is affordable for even the smaller businesses.
There are some key issues involved in providing “cradle to grave” traceability. Multiple parts may be installed in one device. Some problems may be more due to the tools used than the parts – they may be out of calibration, for example. Fresh food will be commingled and re-boxed as it moves through the supply chain making it more difficult and cumbersome to maintain lot tracking.
Traceability is typically a component of a broader software solution. If a traceability module has been added, for example, to an ERP system, and not designed as an integral part of the software, data entry will be time-consuming and the system may be unable to handle some of the complexities of tracking multiple lots at a time.
Here are some questions to ask before investing in a Traceability System:
- How is real-time data entry for Lots managed as they physically move through our process and how do you maintain data accuracy?
- How do you manage commingling and re-boxing functions?
- If Lots are commingled, can you identify the cartons that contain each lot?
- Is there a way to identify the tool or machine that is involved in the manufacturing or installation process for a specific Lot?
- Will your system require me to change my current process or procedures?
Here are the answers you hope to hear:
- Data entry for Lots happens “on the fly” as they move through the process using barcode or another type of fast, accurate data entry.
- Commingling and Re-boxing are an integral part of the Traceability system. The Lot Traceability reporting will provide complete information from each step that affects any specific Lot.
- All containers are “serialized”, and the contents are tracked. If there are multiple Lots in a single container, they are specifically identified and can be tracked backwards and forwards.
- Machinery can be recorded as an “attribute” of production and tracked to specific Lots.
- The software Is flexible and configurable. We may make recommendations as to process changes, but those would be process improvements, not changes to accommodate the software design.
There are many choices. Make sure you focus on ease of use, accuracy, complete traceability and flexibility within your current product flow.