Effective Tracking & Tracing Systems

When considering a tracking-and-tracing (T&T) system implementation, there are several aspects of these systems that should be considered, beyond the typical regulatory needs that they satisfy.

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With the recent increase in product recalls and their coverage in the media, it is increasingly important for manufacturers to evaluate every aspect of their operations to ensure safe and high-quality products. Product safety and security is a major concern for all manufacturers, because a product recall can seriously impact the financial health of a company and affect its long-term reputation. All manufacturers are under constant pressure to make sure that their products comply with all regulations and that customer satisfaction is supreme. The entire supply chain is closely being monitored, and information is being gathered at every point to perform a thorough analysis.

In the food-and-beverage industry, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) programs have been rolled out, along with extensive effort to minimize human contact with the final product. The regulations are forcing manufacturers to maintain records that will enable a quick and efficient recall of products that are off-specification or harmful to consumers. Paper-based record keeping is very inefficient and prone to manual entry errors. An automated regulatory data management system is becoming a necessity that can help in quickly and consistently tracking and tracing material and resources that are used during manufacturing.

A T&T solution tracks the equipment used, the materials consumed, the operators involved, and the utilities used to manufacture a particular product. It provides the ability to perform quick product recalls based on customer feedback or raw material quality. Proper record keeping enables focused recalls with limited scope, thereby reducing lost production, and sometimes saving millions of dollars on a single recall.

A well-thought out implementation can provide a strategic advantage. T&T solutions can be extended beyond regulatory data management to additional areas of recipe management, asset utilization and continuous improvement programs, which all provide improved quality, cost reduction and consistency in the process.

Operational excellence can be achieved by incorporating a comprehensive solution that incorporates different aspects of manufacturing. Most T&T solutions are implemented to track lot number and amounts of material that are consumed at different stages of the manufacturing process. This information is then combined with the production order information to complete the genealogy. When you combine this data with the equipment used during production and the resources utilized, a clear understanding of the total cost of manufacturing can be calculated.

Sustainability focus

Furthermore, with today’s increased focus on sustainability, it has become exceedingly critical to track material and energy usage.  These help in calculating the production efficiency to provide a better understanding of the performance. Processes in which scrap or waste is being generated can be more easily identified.

The T&T solution should provide process manufacturers a means to model the material balances within their manufacturing facilities and analyze performance in order to identify process improvements. A comprehensive T&T solution will enable you to calculate the carbon footprint of your product as well as provide you with complete supply-chain visibility.

Successfully implemented T&T solutions can provide a number of strategic advantages that have direct impact on the bottom line:
•    Better record keeping and compliance
•    Visibility across entire supply chain
•    Accurate work-in-process (WIP) and inventory
•    Consistently good quality production.

Companies should consider all the positive aspects of these systems as they justify their implementation.                       

Divya Prakash, dprakash@matrixti.com, is Director of MES Implementation at design engineering and system integrator firm Matrix Technologies Inc., in Maumee, Ohio.

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