Once considered a heavy expense that companies tended to avoid and is now considered an investment with invaluable returns, lot traceability has come a long way in the business world. Lot traceability is defined as a group or a lot of goods manufactured in the same run using the same materials. In this process, each lot is given a specific lot number and all goods produced at once under this lot get the same number. Wherein, a lot number refers to a specified quantity of the item and the associated serial number refers to the individual items. Thus, in Lehman language, lot traceability records information associated with a “lot” of product by tracking several units of a stock item using the same lot or batch no. For successful implementation of lot tracking, an organization must be consistent, accurate and well defined in its processes for recording the usage of raw materials and the sales location of finished goods.
Lot traceability brings a lot to the table as far as its usefulness goes. The primary use of lot traceability is real time data wherein one has enhanced visibility over multiple levels of product. From tracking receipt of materials into production to product delivery and inventory transaction records, the product never leaves the manufacturer’s eye till it reaches its customer. The entire supply chain is under scrutiny providing greater inventory control than ever. To speak volumes of this, manufacturers can track which lot-controlled items were used to manufacture which finished products in the manufacturing process. With automating lot traceability, one not only knows the ground level status at all times but it also makes suppliers more accountable as digital visibility reduces chances of human error. This is done when information like a barcode and lot number is entered in the lot tracking software to get access and updates on every single item in the lot. Hence, making it free of duplication, transparent and trustworthy as information is accurate and complete at all times.
Another use of lot traceability is better supplier network and relationships. With raw material tracking, lot traceability helps to assess which supplier yields higher quality. Thus, lot tracking can help to prioritize suppliers and build relationships with preferred suppliers to attain a competitive advantage. This advantage can be in terms of fine tune orders, customization requests and better deals as lot tracking gives one the access to information to support decisions.
To further comprehend the benefits of lot tracking, one shall look no further than the food manufacturing industry and dig deep into the pivotal role lot tracking plays in it. Global product recall and tightening compliance regulation are now the new normal making lot tracking a prerequisite in the food manufacturing industry. With global food initiatives like GSFI, FSA and SQF breathing down their necks, lot traceability is the only way food manufacturers can complete their compliance requirements. It not only ensures all regulations are met but also helps to get in business with global retail brands who seek highest standards of efficiency.
One of the primal uses of lot tracking for food manufacturers via food ERP is Allergen tracking. When ingredients contain allergens, additional scrutiny around items coming in contact with these ingredients is mandatory and makes lot tracking weigh its worth in gold as it’s the only way to track this data.
In addition to allergen tracking, food manufacturers can also get data on fresh produce growers via QR codes thanks to food ERP. A QR code can help access product data across the supply chain. Example a QR code on the side of a batch of meat in the warehouse can be scanned and give the user information on its lot number, date of production etc. This information is particularly vital for food manufacturers who are not permitted to deliver food to their customers within a specified number of days before the expiry date is reached.
Lot tracking also offers better Grievance handling and customer relationship management mechanisms. Product recall happens day in and day out owing to a host of reasons. With lot traceability, ingredients can be tracked from source to end and back to source. When a complaint arises, all you need is to ask the customer for the lot code. Thus, food manufacturers can cross check the date of production, can access the lot number for which the ingredients were used via lot explosion and the customers who received those finished goods via lot coding.
Food manufacturers need to incorporate prevention-and-proof as well as the traditional record-and-response approach to attain food safety. Thus, lot tracking has to be done at multiple levels be it for an item, a lot and even a container. Also, while we have only discussed lot tracking raw materials, a more precise way is to execute lot tracking is via shifts. So, if a recall happens, food manufacturers can track the exact shift when the item was produced.
With customer safety at stake, food manufacturers must practice what they preach i.e. food safety. For in a business where health is involved, it will take n number of years to build a brand and only one incident to break it. To add fuel to the fire, strangling compliance requirements, rising competition and changing consumer taste and preferences have ensured food manufacturers have their backs against the wall. However, amidst chaos there-in lies an opportunity. The opportunity to differentiate. Lot tracking via food ERP is the means to tap this opportunity. For come hell or high water, compliance and efficiency are what continue to separate the best of food manufacturers from the rest.