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Better Product Tracking And Tracing

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Product traceability has been an integral part of business operations in most industries for many years.

 Its accuracy and robustness has continued to improve as control and information technologies matured and were deployed to improve business performance, ensure product safety and security, and meet new regulatory requirements. While many of today’s business-to-business processes and manufacturing operations are highly automated, business-to-manufacturing and manufacturing-to-packaging operations remain poorly automated and integrated, with no "single version of the truth." Today, manufacturing is very high volume, with increasingly rapid and global distribution channels. Plants are producing a wider variety of often more complex products with shorter product life cycles.

These trends, plus the growing impact of defective or contaminated product, the global nature of new animal and poultry diseases, and rising terrorism are increasing the potential impact on public health and economic stability, as well as the threat to product brand value. As globalization continues, manufacturers are deploying new, higher functionality business systems that can provide a "single system of record." However, without more highly automated factory floor operations and factory floor tracking and tracing integrated to this "single system of record," it will lack the granularity, accuracy and robustness to pass the corporate risk-mitigating due diligence expected of businesses today.

One of the top causes of product recall is product mislabeling. This can either be failure to match the product with the correct product label or failure to use the correct version of the product label. The financial impact of a product recall includes not only the identified "lot" of defective product, but to a greater extent, all the additional production that may also be defective or contaminated. Pallet serialization and the "nesting" of product, case, pallet and shipping data can provide the needed granularity and response time to minimize the financial impact and scope of a product recall. This includes the additional potential risk in not being absolutely sure that 100 percent of the recalled product was accounted for.

Reduce common errors

ARC believes the following minimum functionality is required in a factory floor system that will enable reduction or elimination of such common errors, minimize the financial risk and scope of a potential product recall, and simplify current and future regulatory compliance. The system should have the ability to monitor the functioning and health of all online devices such as case coders, print-and-apply labelers and readers. It should include proven interfaces to other control, production management, enterprise resource planning and warehouse management systems. The system should be capable of downloading product and label information, without manual intervention, from a business system to the factory floor system and the print-and-apply labelers. The factory floor system should be capable of automatically generating product and shipping reports. In addition, it must include a local database to support real-time operations and data collection.

The system software should require a minimum of customization, with facilities to support client-specific data customization and global regulations at the product, case and pallet level. Finally, the system should have multi-plant functionality and fully automated enterprise-wide label and product code change management.

Manufacturers should consider the importance of the technology provider's domain expertise, innovative approach to solving a business need, and capability to provide sole source project responsibility as a part of its selection process, as well as evaluating all the potential benefits that a fully integrated and automated factory floor product-case-pallet identification and trace ability system can provide. 

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John Blanchard,

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