Traceability is the procedure of tracking every part and product throughout the manufacturing process. It starts from the procurement of raw materials and ends with the distribution and sale of finished products. Information on each component is recorded from end to end.
Traceability is a well-established practice in the food industry. However, more and more industries are adopting this procedure. Production efficiency, costs, quality control and dealing with product recalls all benefit from traceability.
How does traceability work?
Manufacturing traceability is much easier to manage today than in the past. Components are usually tagged on arrival at a site. This can be done through barcodes, identification numbers or other ID systems. All the information about the parts and products is linked to the ID system.
The information is fed to a database in real-time. When the component advances through the manufacturing process, it is possible to check exactly where it was at any given time and for how long.
Manufacturing traceability allows to find historical information on a product, including:
- Inspection results
- Manufacturing details
- Time spent at each workstation
Chain traceability and internal traceability
Manufacturing traceability can be divided into two main perspectives: chain traceability and internal traceability.
- Chain traceability refers to the general concept of traceability. It means that the full history of a part or product can be traced forward or backward.
Manufacturers can monitor where their products have been delivered. This is known as tracing forward. Companies and consumers at the end of the supply chain can know from where the products have come. This is called tracing back.
- Internal traceability means to monitor the movement of components within a specific area in a whole supply chain. This can be a a single company or factory. Internal traceability is most commonly associated with large businesses.
What are the benefits of traceability in manufacturing?
Without a traceability system, it becomes difficult to effectively recall a defective product. This can lead to massive costs and significant damage to a company brand and reputation.
By implementing traceability, these problems can be prevented. Manufacturers can access multiple benefits, including:
- Root cause analysis. If a problem arises at any stage of the production process, or is identified following distribution, traceability of the product will show where the problem originated.
- Continuous improvement. Seeing products progress throughout the supply chain facilitates improvement. Traceability promotes a lean manufacturing process. Waste is minimised.
- Value stream mapping. Using product genealogy records, manufacturers are better able to understand what makes their products unique or successful and optimise those aspects.
- Quality and engagement. Part traceability along the entire production line helps to find key points where quality checks should be added.
- Meet compliance mandates. The EU requires traceability in certain industries, such as food production. Other industries also require strict traceability procedures. These include automotive, aerospace and defence.
- Effective global production. Traceability helps to maintain global supply, manufacturing and distribution chains.
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