The First Step Towards A Fully Integrated Supply Chain

By: Alex Marcy on April 14, 2015
Tagged: Education

As your manufacturing empire grows, it becomes critical to have as a better handle on your supply chain. From raw materials, through manufacturing, all the way to your end users, knowing when things go wrong as soon as possible can save you time, headaches, and avoid costly recalls.

Let's dive into the first step you can take to painting a better picture of your supply chain.

The Essentials

A track and trace system tracks a product through all phases of manufacturing and provides a trace of the product’s lifecycle from the plant to the customer.

The first step in implementing a track and trace system is assigning individual products or batches unique ID’s or serial numbers accessible with barcodes or RFID tags. When each unit enters the process its serial number and location is stored in a database. Each time it advances to the next step in the process the database is updated to reflect its location. Plant personnel can access the tracking information to easily determine where any item is on the line.

An advanced tracking system monitors process conditions along with quality control data to automatically flag products as defective as they advance through the process.

Traceability relates to the production history of each unit or batch. This includes information across the supply chain from raw materials to where each unit is shipped to once it leaves the factory. This allows you to pinpoint where quality issues originated and simplifies the process of doing product recalls.


Implementing a track and trace system helps you:

  • Improve overall process quality and efficiency by exposing error-prone portions of the process
  • Reduce recall expenses by knowing exactly where each unit or batch was shipped
  • Expose inconsistencies in raw materials
  • Reduce re-work and reject batches by catching quality issues as they occur
  • Increase process visibility for plant personnel

The rubber meets the road

One example of a track and trace system in action is our case study on upgrading a slot machine manufacturing company's conveyor system. Here we used RFID tags embedded into pallets to track each machine as it moved through the process, sending it to a rework area if rework was required, or required parts were no longer in inventory.

Track and trace is one of the first steps you can take towards the implementation of a full Product Lifecycle Management system.

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