Safety, quality, savings – traceability affects many areas of modern industry. When should a system for production genealogy be implemented? What are the benefits of detailed product knowledge? What does current research say about this topic? How can the system to run production be more flexibly used? And is it definitely necessary in your enterprise? In today’s article we take a closer look at the topic of traceability in the production process.
Traceability – definition
Traceability or manufacturing genealogy, is the ability to verify the history, location and origin of a product. It means to collect key data from the production process and all stages of the supply chain. Full traceability means detailed knowledge of a product and verification of its path based on various sources of information. In the industry, it means being as transparent as possible and tracking the history and related parameters – from the raw material to the finished product delivered to the store shelf.
Traceability – what data does the system collect?
Traceability, as one of the elements of an MES system, is becoming a standard (and often a requirement) in the food, chemical or pharmaceutical industries, as well as the automotive industry. Thanks to traceability solutions, we may know:
- components used to create the product,
- semi-finished products included in the finished product,
- from which supplier, from which batch of materials the raw materials come,
- machines and conditions of production,
- place and time of component production,
- which employees that took part in the production process.
Motivations for implementing a traceability system
When considering the decision to invest in a production genealogy system, it is worth answering questions about the purpose:
- Why do you want to use a traceability system?
- Under what circumstances did the need arise?
- Are you sure you need automated traceability?
Practice shows that manufacturing plants most often decide to implement a system for automatic production traceability, linked to process data acquisition, for three reasons.
Legal considerations – the need to identify goods at each stage of production, storage and distribution is imposed by legal standards and regulations, which were introduced by: WHO, the European Parliament and local legislation of the country. Key requirements and principles for traceability solutions are among others defined by the GS1 GTS2 Global Traceability Standard.
Customer need – the buyer requires that he or she will receive full, automated documentation and product history with the purchase.
Informed decision – managers and leaders come to the conclusion that the traceability system is able to solve the challenge of the production plant, e.g. ensure quality, reduce costs. The decision to invest in the solution is made on the basis of an informed business calculation.
The emergence of a real need to implement a traceability system is also confirmed by a survey conducted among companies in the manufacturing sector, 2021 by EY (an international conglomerate providing professional consulting and auditing services). According to the managers, manufacturing companies will benefit most from technologies such as:
- Monitoring and visualization of business KPIs (in real time).
- Track & Trace of the product – across the entire value chain. Automated systems have long been an everyday occurrence, and the cost of storing data is steadily decreasing. Tracking the path of a product from raw material delivery to release to the customer is possible in any industry.
- Increase quality and catch errors faster – thanks to the traceability system, we can quickly catch possible difficulties and stop defective production at an earlier stage, which, among other things, minimizes costs, increases safety, affects product quality or the company’s image.
In addition, the EY report “Procurement in a post-pandemic world” showed that as many as ⅔ of those surveyed, are invested in digitization to better adapt to changing conditions (including in the supply chain).
The longer you think about the opportunities that knowledge of a manufactured product provides through traceability, the more elements that are important to the daily operation, development and stability of a manufacturing plant can be found.
Safety – immediate access to data and assistance in signaling future challenges and difficulties has a huge impact on safety.
Cost reduction – knowledge in the manufacturing process is a huge support for business decisions. Access to data allows you to find room for optimization and has an impact on the speed of response, which in turn affects savings.
Carbon footprint – optimal consumption of electricity in the manufacturing process, proper production planning, minimization of wastage make it possible to reduce the level of greenhouse gas emissions created, among other things, in the production process of a given product, during its storage, transportation and operation.
Is a technology advisor necessary?
Once the decision is made to invest in a traceability system, further questions arise:
- What will be the scale of the project?
- Do you need a dedicated system, or will commercially available, proven modules suffice?
It is worthwhile to consult your plans with an independent expert and conduct a pre-implementation analysis. His or her experience and being a little “above” the long-standing processes in place at your company will be helpful in determining the real needs of your company, creating a notebook of requirements and estimating a budget. Initially you may think you need a dedicated (and therefore more expensive and not yet fully tested) solution. However, you should consider whether customization is inadvertently sweeping suboptimal processes in your company under the rug. It is also worth taking advantage of the experience of companies that have already implemented traceability and are making real use of the tools.
Are you thinking about implementing a traceability system? Do you have questions about product traceability? Wondering how to reduce the footprint of your machinery? Be sure to let us know. We will be happy to talk and advise you. We also invite you to actively follow our blog.