Why traceability in manufacturing is important? 

Posted by Glynn Williams on 11 Jan


There are many reasons that it may become necessary for manufacturers to trace the origins of products. Traceability is highly important within the supply chain of any manufacturer, as it provides the ability to quickly recall products, track production and match replacement parts.

Food manufacturing is just one example of an industry where traceability is highly beneficial and required. Common reasons for a recall of food products are because of contamination either by foreign objects such as metal or plastics from machinery involved in its manufacturing, processing or packaging and remnants of cleaning fluids or by food-borne bacteria such as E.Coli or salmonella. Other reasons might involve industrial sabotage, incorrect use-by or sell-by dates, incorrect or incomplete allergen listings or inadequate packaging processes that allow the food to spoil. 

An industrial red dye, Sudan 1 was the source of one of the largest food recalls in UK history in 2005. It tested to the limit how efficiently UK food manufacturers were able to trace and identify the ingredients and additives in their products and supply chain. The Food Standards Agency recalled 418 products which included readymade meals and sauces, pizzas, seafood, mince and sausages. The presence of the carcinogenic dye, initially discovered in Italy and normally used in petrol and floor polish, was traced back to batches of chilli powder. At the time, this discovery shone a light upon the increasing need for full traceability of products and ingredients.

Food and Drinks ERP SolutionMore recently, the 'horse meat scandal' shook consumers as it emerged that as much as 100% of the "beef" they had been consuming in sausages, burgers and ready meals was in fact horse meat. There was an understandable outrage during which all eyes turned to the supermarkets and food manufacturers to identify exactly where their meat was sourced and to what - if any degree - their products were affected. As many were able to identify quite quickly which of their products contained meat from the sources identified within the scandal, the speed of the product recalls being announced could be seen as a mitigated success in traceability. A success albeit heavily tainted with the nature of the initial scandal.

It is not just food that is subject to product recalls. In the last year, there was widespread concern over Samsung phones starting fires whilst charging, which led to a product recall on a scale rarely seen. Samsung quickly identified and recalled the affected products by linking the series of fires with a specific fault in the phone's battery. They were able to identify which of their products were affected and arrange replacement products to the public in good time. Although Samsung suffered some negative publicity from the faulty phones, it must be understood that such an event could happen to any organisation at any time - it is how quickly and efficiently an organisation can trace the problem and take control of the situation that is remembered, especially if lives are potentially at stake.

The benefits of ERP software in these situations is that it provides a cradle to the grave system of tracing the whole supply chain and all the information relating to the product - this is because all product data is centralised into one system. In food products, this relates to everything from the farm on which the ingredients were grown, to the entire chain that takes the product to the supermarket shelves and into shopping trolleys. For non-perishable items, it will break down the item into its component parts alongside all the details and source of its own manufacturing.

Aside from product recalls there are many times when such information proves invaluable, such as locating replacement parts, tracking production or when providing aftercare service. Having all of that data held electronically in one place such as the WinMan ERP system not only saves on paper, clutter and time, it makes it available from wherever you are, all of the time. Traceability is accountability and that means taking full responsibility of your supply chain.

Topics: Manufacturing

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