Cimlogic Solutions: Track & Trace
BY: Luciano Canalini – Head of Projects
Requirements on traceability have always been the most disparate in the Manufacturing Operations Management arena.
Traceability is perhaps one of the most demanding functionalities within MOM, with many requirements, regulations and tools which require detailed evaluation.
In reality, a good traceability tool will drastically improve the control of the materials in production. Having a good traceability system allows you to analyse and prevent all possible exceptions that result in logistic inefficiencies, contaminations, poor product quality, incorrect production and transportation scheduling.
Manufacturers are constantly searching for ways to reduce the cost of and time to return the required information, whilst improving the quality of captured data.
Yet, astonishingly, a high percentage of information is still collected manually by the operators, leading to hours lost each shift that could have added value to other activities, like Quality control or maintaining the equipment efficiency.
Another critical requirement is the complexity of the process. Any traceability system needs to be able to monitor discrete, packaging, continuous and batch process. Dealing with totally different materials and containers: liquid, gas, powders, SKU’s, bags, bottles, vials, boxes, cases, pallets etc. And considering all possible exceptions: rework, returns, and incorrect allocations.
The feasibility of the traceability system is one of the major challenges. Manual data collection cannot always be applied to FMCG due to the speed of the process. Mixing of lots in liquid and powder formats, especially in continuous environments, are hard to track manually.
And, especially in regulated environments there is always the fear of collecting inaccurate or wrong data.
The last challenge of traceability is to cover the grey area that is related to all the material movements between the production cells and the logistics warehouse areas.
A pragmatic approach to the traceability
The first step is to assess the level of traceability currently implemented, which requires interaction with all the Operations departments. The target is to have a complete view of the material flow from goods in to goods out (internal traceability).
Some organisations are also implementing full traceability to the distribution centres and through supply chains (external traceability), needed to provide a complete picture of all material movements.
The next phase includes a risk analysis that should identify the critical material transformation, movements and separation that can affect the final product. Contaminations, out of standards and process procedure variance, if not properly monitored, can affect the company’s reputation, potentially reaching legal implications.
Any data collection should be focused to the most critical process steps where data can be gathered from automated systems, vision systems and sensors.
Alternatively, manual traceability tools can be applied. Assistive technologies that can reduce or eliminate any possible human errors such as label printers, bar code readers, and RFID can be applied relatively easily.
The rest of the traceability picture is related to a good interconnection with the company’s logistics and storage systems. Including internal and external transports: Fork lift drivers, AGV’s, Conveyors, Trucks etc.
The new challenges
As companies are diversifying their product portfolio, and move to a make-to-order supply chain, the demands on traceability systems will be enhanced and the potential for human error will be increased. There are some interesting challenges ahead!
Determining the ROI of an automated traceability system is difficult. The time to produce an audit trail can definitely be reduced, but in reality, true ROI will only be achieved in the midst of a true recall or quality traceability issue, which we all hope won’t happen!
The logical conclusion is that every single step in the logistic/production material flow should be traced delivering a true wall-to-wall traceability and genealogy system.
Committed to quality, traceability and product safety.
To find out more about Cimlogic’s Track & Trace Solutions click here.
Part 3 of 9 Cimlogic Solutions Blog Posts.
To read more blogs by Cimlogic click here.