What is traceability?

Traceability is the ability to track every part and product throughout the manufacturing process, from the moment when raw materials enter the factory to the moment when final products are shipped. 

Information on each part and product, including inspection results, assembly details and time spent at each station, is recorded from end-to-end.

Why is traceability important?

There is often this notion that traceability only applies to products that might be subject to recalls, like food or airbags. In those cases, it is obvious why traceability is important. You can’t effectively recall a defective or contaminated product without a full understanding of its source, history, and distribution.

In 2018, an E. coli outbreak linked to Romaine Lettuce was declared by the Center for Disease Control. The CDC advised to avoid eating any and all Romaine lettuce, as they had difficulty tracing back to the source (common grower, supplier, distributor or brand) of the outbreak.

In 2018, an E. coli outbreak linked to Romaine Lettuce was declared by the Center for Disease Control. The CDC advised to avoid eating any and all Romaine lettuce, as they had difficulty tracing back to the source (common grower, supplier, distributor or brand) of the outbreak.

However, every modern manufacturer – even those in sectors without strict compliance regulations – should make traceability a priority. Indeed, traceability helps improve quality and efficiency by giving manufacturers real-time visibility into their operations and by facilitating root-cause analysis.

For example, if some products are reaching the end of the production line with defects, it is useful to have visibility into their whole production process. Perhaps they did not stop through a particular station for quality check. Or maybe all defective products were handled by the same new operator, which points to gaps in training. Or perhaps all defective products went through the same machine, which should be checked by maintenance. Or all defective products contain components from a particular supplier.  

Benefits of traceability

1. Root cause analysis

Having access to all the data on products’ paths enables manufacturers to dig deep, and find the root cause of problems. Issues are identified and solved quickly to minimize impact.

2. Continuous improvement

Seeing how parts and products move through lines facilitates continuous improvement. Indeed, improvement opportunities are lost when genealogical data is not accessible. Knowing where and when bottlenecks and delays occur makes real-time optimization possible.

3. Value stream mapping

Since traceability monitors how products move through the manufacturing process, it helps with value stream mapping. Equipped with detailed product genealogy records, manufacturers gain supply chain visibility, which provides a much more granular picture of their operations’ value stream.

4. Quality and engagement

Moreover, part traceability along the entire production line can also help find key points where quality check-ups should be added. It also increases accountability and engagement on the shop floor.

5. It’s an obligation!

Finally, in highly regulated industries, manufacturers do not need to weigh the benefits of traceability, since it is compulsory. In any case, digital technologies can make demonstrating traceability simple and seamless.

How can you improve traceability?

Modern tools automate traceability. Indeed, they can monitor parts and products along the production line automatically, and record all relevant data. 

With the help of barcodes and scanners, parts and products can easily be tracked at every station. No need to plaster post-its everywhere reminding workers to scan products: simply add a step to digital work instructions. Then, access all reports and information from a Product Genealogy/Traceability app

Furthermore, with IoT connected devices, manufacturers can easily keep track of tool location and inventories.

Tulip’s Product Genealogy/Traceability app.

 

Tulip’s no-code manufacturing app platform collects data from the people, machines, and sensors throughout your factory. Tulip gives manufacturers real-time visibility into their production lines and improves traceability. Schedule a demo to learn more.