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Custom Information Services (CIS)

Serial, Lot Tracking and Traceability for Manufacturers


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Food, Chemical, and Pharmaceutical distribution and manufacturing companies along with anyone that has government contracts all know that quality control and lot traceability are paramount in the procurement and manufacturing process.  With the current state of the Gulf of Mexico, I am confident that companies who produce products for the oil industry are going to come under close scrutiny.

I must say on a personal note that I love Gulf shrimp (it is the only kind I buy) and I am from Louisiana so these events have impacted my family, friends and my dinner table.   I am very concerned and unhappy about the environmental and economic impact of this tragic event.

First and foremost operational controls are the first step to ensuring your products are of the highest quality and that in the event of a recall you as a business owner can quickly access the information needed for a recall.   However, if you are operating your company with a big chief tablet and a number two pencil then you may be in for a challenge in locating the manufacturing work order and/or purchase receipts for the product being recalled.   I am not saying that it is impossible, however, it will take a lot more time to research and hopefully, your staff has good penmanship.

One major problem that we encounter is that SOME companies that lot/serial track run into problems if they do not have good inventory controls. If you don’t have good inventory controls then lot/serial tracking is going to be a nightmare for you.  Your first step is to make sure you are solid operationally and you have good inventory controls.

Good personnel is essential in an industry that has compliance concerns.  A solid materials receiver is of the utmost importance.  They see the products coming in the door and if you don’t have Quality Control (QC) review all products then items can get in inventory that is not up to par.

Production personnel should also pull the correct lot/serial numbers or record the right lot/serials after use.  QC should also occur during or after staging, then at specific points in your manufacturing process.

It goes without saying that the only fast and good way to document lots, serial numbers, quality control and be able to complete your products’ history is with a good business software system that you can record the following for compliance and traceability.  Notice that I did not say cheap… business software is an investment in your company’s future.  Get yourself a good vendor that really understands your business needs and that you can trust.  Of course, I fit that bill and always look out for the best interest of my prospects and customers.

Lot track vendor materials.  If lot tracking is not the norm for your business you should start lot/serial tracking with only your top materials then add a few more each month.  Your best bet is to use the vendor lot number.

Enter the lot number into your ERP system like Dynamics GP when the material is received.  Don’t worry at this point about paying the vendor or checking costs; that is why we have accrued receipts in GP.  Your Accounts Payable clerk will take care of updating any costs when they get the invoice.

Have QC review any high profile or all products and have a pass/fail QC program in place that can track specific attributes.  Programs like Vicinity Manufacturing and Horizon’s Manufacturing that integrate to Dynamics GP have great tools for this activity.  It is usually a good idea even in smaller companies to have someone other than the receiving staff complete this task.  Have an area set aside for products that require QC?   Keep in mind that the QC results will follow the purchase order/purchase order receipt through the lifecycle of this product.  And if you are lot/serial tracking the same is true for the lot/serial number.

I realize that a lot of times you are waiting on a raw material to come in so you can start production, however, I would not skip the QC test or review.

Some companies want the production staff to pull raw materials without having to specifically pick a lot/serial number then record the information during work in process (WIP).  This is fine and probably the most common practice.  However other companies tell the staff what to pick either on the work order or on their handheld device.  Either way is fine depending on your business processes.

I have recorded my lots/serial number and I have attached my QC results throughout the receiving and manufacturing process.  I sold the product AND recorded the lot/serial number on the order.  I relieved the right item when I picked the product for shipping.   (I didn’t even touch the distribution side or BOM/ECO revisions of business! Maybe another day…)

Now what?  Your customer calls and says that you shipped them an inferior product.

If you use Dynamics GP you can-

  • Find all transactions for a serial number (shown below)
  • Find all transactions for a lot number
  • Find serial numbers shipped to a customer
  • Find lot numbers shipped to a customer
  • Find serial numbers received from a vendor
  • Find lot numbers received from a vendor

And

  • Recall serial numbers shipped to customers
  • Recall lot numbers shipped to customers
  • Recall serial numbers where stocked
  • Recall lot numbers where stocked

Lot / Serial Tracability
There also similar reports you can run within Dynamics GP to get the same data.  Vicinity Manufacturing and Horizon’s Manufacturing also offer these features.

I will follow-up with tracking quality control and BOM/ECO revisions in another article.

Custom Information Services is a Microsoft Dynamics GP reseller in North Texas and has specialized in selling and implementing manufacturing and accounting software to mid-sized companies for about 20 years.

If you care to comment on the information above or have any questions please feel free to contact me by phone at 682-367-1699.

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