What is traceability and how to implement it in manufacturing?
Product traceability will help optimize your production lines and is a legal requirement for some companies. But what is it and how is it implemented?
Product traceability allows you to track the movements of your inventory from one end to the other, which means you can trace products back to where they were shipped or back through your operational steps.
In this article, we'll look at traceability in manufacturing, why it's important, the benefits, and how you can implement it.
What is traceability in manufacturing?
Traceability is the procedure for tracking (and documenting) all your raw materials, parts, and finished products throughout their manufacturing process.
The term itself is coined from "Trace" and "Ability" and is used to describe the ability to trace products by all manufacturing industries (although some have their own specialized terms).
Having a traceability procedure for manufacturing in place will allow you to find historical information about a product, such as:
• Inspection notes
• Manufacturing details
• Time spent at each work station
There are two perspectives when it comes to product traceability:
This is the traceability of the product back and forth. Which means that manufacturers can trace products from raw material to distributor.
And distributors or consumers can understand where the product came from.
This means traceability of the product with a limited scope, such as the supervision of a specific manufacturing plant.
For example, if you use outsourced manufacturing, the information you receive about your components is internal traceability.
Why is product traceability important in manufacturing?
These are exciting times when your hard work pays off, you see your business grow, and the number of products you make increases.
But it only takes one batch of defective products to enter the market for:
• Self-service customers
• Damage your brand
• It hurts your bottom line
• Undo all your hard work
If you do not have a system to track products, it will be impossible to effectively recover a defective or contaminated item.
That is why it is essential to have systems in place to improve product traceability.
Not just for products that have a short shelf life, but for products that will become obsolete due to technological advances.
You may think that you don't need product traceability as you don't sell perishable goods.
However, product traceability systems will help you improve production efficiency and product quality control, as you will have real-time visibility to understand where your production is causing problems, such as production bottlenecks.
Now you know what product traceability is in manufacturing and what can happen if you don't implement it. But what are the benefits of traceability in manufacturing?
Benefits of traceability in manufacturing.
When you start using product traceability, you can start to take advantage of:
1. Root cause analysis.
Having your product information from start to finish means you can do an in-depth analysis of your manufacturing routes to see the root cause of any problems.
This will allow you to see which areas of your production are underperforming and help you make changes to improve your production time.
For example, if some finished products have defects, you will have an overview of your entire production line so that you can identify where the defects are occurring, such as:
• Products missed a particular process, such as quality control.
• A new team member is making mistakes and needs to be trained.
• A faulty tool or machine needs repair
2. Continual improvement.
Following the benefit of root cause analysis from the use of product traceability, you can also implement continuous improvement in your production flow.
A continuous improvement system is essentially a form of lean manufacturing.
The biggest difference, however, is that with the continuum, you and your team members will take responsibility for identifying inefficiencies on the shop floor, developing plans, and implementing improvements.
Product traceability systems will be a crucial tool to help you collect accurate, real-time data about your manufacturing, so you can conduct regular audits of your operations to make sure your production always runs smoothly.
Continuous improvement in manufacturing is perfect for those looking to:
• Remove residues
• Embrace green manufacturing in your business
3. Mapping the value stream.
Value stream mapping, also known as material and information flow mapping, is a lean management method to help you understand your manufacturing process and how to redesign it to get maximum value from manufacturing.
The Value Stream Map is a product traceability tool that helps you monitor your:
• Operation steps
• The quantities of raw material needed
• The time the product spends at each work station.
Since product traceability in manufacturing monitors how your products move through your shop, it lends itself well to designing your value stream mapping.
Doing this will help you get a detailed picture of your operations and a clearer idea of what could be improved.
4. Quality and commitment.
Including product traceability in your manufacturing means that you and your team members can take responsibility and be more engaged on the shop floor by having processes in place to continually monitor progress.
Product traceability systems allow you to identify if you need additional quality controls throughout your manufacturing process to avoid the possibility of a defective product being shipped to a customer or distributor.
5. It is your obligation.
Finally, many manufacturing industries are highly regulated and product traceability is a legal requirement (especially in places like food production).
That's why if you work in one of these highly regulated areas, finding batch inventory management systems that can track your end-to-end product development and handle lot numbers is important to avoid any of the problems. mentioned earlier in this article.
However, even if you are not a manufacturer with products under intense scrutiny, using product traceability systems allows you to:
• Improve inventory management
• Maximize your return on investments
• Make better business decisions with improved analytics
These were the benefits of using product traceability within its manufacture. But how can product traceability be improved?
How to improve traceability?
If you want to start improving product traceability in manufacturing, you can do so by following these four points:
1. Track and record keeping.
If you ever need to do a product recall, your priority will be to identify all affected products, so you can better inform the public when you post the notice.
Without the proper registrations in place, product placement will be difficult and ultimately increase the cost of recall, not to mention the damage it will cause to your brand.
Product traceability systems allow you to keep records of:
• Lot numbers and production dates
• Product order numbers
• Expiration dates
• Production timestamps
2. Visibility of the supply chain.
Product traceability in manufacturing not only requires knowledge about your own production, but improving product traceability also requires a better understanding of your supply chain.
Without this knowledge, you could put yourself in a position to initiate more withdrawals than you should.
This may be due to a third-party company mishandling your finished products after they left their warehouse or a supplier sending you defective materials or components.
You need to be able to trace your batches both to retailers and back to your suppliers, by having a system that can quickly identify product history by their batch numbers.
3. Proactive supervision.
The longer you leave defective products in circulation, the more difficult it will be to trace them as they move through your supply chain.
One of the goals of improving the traceability of your product is the ability to detect problems early, so that you can nip any potential problems in the bud and prevent them from becoming an even bigger problem.
Being proactive becomes much easier if you use product traceability systems that give you real-time information on the progress of production, so that you can see problems immediately as soon as they appear.
4. Simulated memories.
Finally, how do you get better at something in life?
With practice, practice, and then a little more practice.
Performing periodic simulated recalls will allow you to determine how long it takes for your business to recover defective products.
When planning a mock recall, you should:
• Be realistic and use a scenario that could probably happen in your business.
• Record everything that happens during the drill.
• Review the results and traceability systems of your products.
• Evaluate your company's effectiveness in handling the simulated recall.
Doing this will help you realize where you are underperforming in product traceability and fix it now, rather than having to struggle with a product recall later.
Now you know the benefits of traceability in manufacturing, and how to improve traceability, you need a system that can help put it all together.