Traceability remains a buzzword in the manufacturing world, and for good reason. Achieving high traceability within an organization essentially means materials or product components are consistently and accurately tracked from initial arrival at a production facility to finished goods being shipped, including which machines processed them and which machine operators as well. Real-world high traceability 

Why is Traceability Important to Manufacturers?

Traceability is critical in the production process because that process isn’t perfect. There are times when errors in the process occur or products make their way through it but aren’t up to standards in terms of quality. In these instances, having the ability to perform a root cause analysis and easily determine when and where errors occurred is crucial. Faster identification means a quicker resolution of personnel, material, or machine issues – saving an organization time and money.

Traceability is also necessary in times of product recalls. When a component or material is found faulty, manufacturers often recall any production run impacted by the issue. Lacking high traceability, organizations can’t easily identify which runs were impacted and need to be recalled – resulting in larger and more costly recalls. On the contrary, manufacturers with high traceability can narrow down to which run and even which individual products were impacted.

With recalls within the food and beverage industry, the health and safety of consumers and manufacturing employees are also at risk with poor traceability. If an ingredient is found to be harmful or dangerous, it is critical that food manufacturers can accurately track all uses of that ingredient to identify which products need to be recalled to avoid as many health issues as possible. The same applies in non-consumable industries as well when a component or material is found to be dangerous to handle.  

Along with the operational benefits of high traceability, it also keeps manufacturers compliant with various national and local regulations and standards. While not all, many geographies have strict traceability regulations for manufacturing organizations to conduct business there. Maintaining high traceability also keeps the brand image and consumer opinion of an organization high and lessens the chance of legal repercussions from the negative impacts of poor traceability.

Forward vs. Backward Traceability

It’s important to note that traceability occurs bi-directionally, going both forward and backward. The easier one to comprehend is forward traceability, meaning the ability to trace a product component or material through the entire production process, from raw materials arriving at a production facility to the deployment of shipments of finished products.  Backward traceability, as its name suggests, works in the opposite direction and is the ability to take a finished product and backtrack it through the production process step by step.

Each direction of traceability is vital for modern manufacturing organizations. Upon discovering a defect in a finished product, manufacturers must backward trace the identified item through the production process to identify the root cause of the issue. In cases where an issue is identified with a particular raw material or ingredient, being able to track the progression of that material through the production process via forward tracing is essential.

Manufacturers should regularly audit the traceability within their production facilities as part of their proactive approach to operations. To test forward traceability – track a batch of raw materials from arrival on the production floor to final products containing the materials. Testing backward traceability involves tracking a finished item or batch from the time it left the facility in transit to the customer back through production to identify which batches of raw materials were initially used. In the food industry especially, many manufacturers regularly conduct mock recalls to test their plans and processes in place should a recall occur.

How to Improve Traceability within a Manufacturing Facility

Several factors can contribute to poor traceability within a production process, including poor communication, inefficient processes, and a lack of technological solutions in place that make traceability possible. Improving this within an organization involves both an accurate audit of operations and industry expertise when it comes to the current manufacturing software solutions on the market.

At IMCO Software, we bring the expertise and decades of experience in both manufacturing and supply chain management. We’ve curated a suite of proprietary software and a robust selection of third-party integrations designed to solve the most common (and frustrating) challenges manufacturers face regularly.

When it comes to traceability, many of our partners choose to implement a manufacturing execution system, like the CIMAG-MES, as it offers real-time forward and backward product and process traceability, including comprehensive data on all materials, personnel, and tools. Having access to that data and the ability to disseminate the information across all production functions means better-informed decisions and overall more efficient operations. The software was designed for small to mid-sized manufacturers and has helped many improve traceability, reduce unplanned downtime, minimize scrap and rework and improve efficiency as a whole. 

Each manufacturing facility is unique in how it operates, resulting in diverse technology needs as well. The right combination of software solutions specifically curated to meet the needs of a production facility can completely transform the shop floor and as a result – profitability. The team at IMCO Software can help identify which solutions would be most impactful when it comes to meeting your organizational goals. For a demonstration of CIMAG-MES and its impact on traceability or to learn more about our other manufacturing software solutions, give our team a call at (904) 855-8885 ext. 108 or reach out via message today!