A Guide to Product Traceability

Learn what product traceability is, why it’s a crucial aspect of business, and how modern technology can make product traceability easier.

manufacturer using product traceability

Published 1 Jun 2022

What Does Product Traceability Mean?

Product recalls tend to occur frequently. According to a report published by Sedgwick, more than 1 billion product units were recalled in 2021 in the United States alone. There were over 53 million car recalls in 2019 that cost companies millions, and this is something that happens in all industries. But if you implement product traceability, you may be able to reduce the number of products recalled by your company.

Product traceability refers to the ability to track and trace every single product that you make throughout the manufacturing process. This includes tracking the minute the raw materials enter the manufacturing process until you ship products off to suppliers and retailers.

Product traceability includes a lot of information. Team members should be able to track each part and all the materials that go into a single product, along with the inspection results, assembly instructions, and how long each of these materials spend in every station.

Why is Product Traceability Important?

It’s important to stay on top of production and implementing a proper product and material tracing system is a great way of doing that. If manufacturers understand and track every single aspect of the production process, they take more control over their product’s quality. Additionally, it also allows them to find production issues that could lead to lower-quality products that don’t meet the company’s standards.

Tracing products through every step of the production process is tough. However, it’s a necessary step to consistently creating high-quality products. Here are a couple of other reasons that you need to implement product traceability in manufacturing:

The TREAD Act

A large number of defective tires in 2000 led to a massive recall in the United States. However, there were tons of injuries and deaths that the defective tires caused. In response to this, the US passed the TREAD Act, which largely applied to tire manufacturers and required product traceability.

However, multiple industries felt the impact of the TREAD Act. And to prevent massive recalls and hundreds of serious injuries and fatalities that poor quality products can cause, many companies and manufacturers now implement comprehensive product tracking systems.

Limiting Recalls

Product traceability is a great way of practicing good quality control. When manufacturers have a record of every single part that goes into manufacturing and report any abnormalities and issues with these parts, they can prevent recalls by always ensuring high-quality products exit manufacturing and move on to shipping.

When companies ensure that all their products are high-quality and pass their standards, they reduce the chances of product recalls. Additionally, these companies do a better job of satisfying customers with their products, which can also lead to boosted sales.

How Does It Work?

Generally, product traceability can be separated into two categories: chain and internal traceability. While these two types of product traceability are very distinct, they also retain a fair amount of similarities. However, understanding these two distinct approaches is crucial if you wish to implement a quality product tracking system within the manufacturing process.

Chain Traceability

Chain traceability looks at the bigger picture. Companies that implement chain traceability can track their products and materials through every step of the process. It’s important that you can track each step of the process if you implement chain traceability, both forward and backward.

This gives you a clear and concise report of how materials were processed during manufacturing and anything else that might be worth your attention. This approach to traceability gives manufacturers the ability to track where their products are being shipped while distributors and consumers later on can track where the products came from.

This allows manufacturers to have an easier execution of their processes while allowing consumers to have better transparency regarding the products and how they are made. 

Internal Traceability

As the name suggests, internal traceability monitors the movement and processing of products in a specific area. For example, you can use internal traceability to track the process in a manufacturing plant and use a separate internal traceability system to track progress in the assembly factory.

Example

Traceability can take a lot of work, but it’s more than worth it in the long run. When you can track products, how they’re made, and watch each step of production, you can ensure that only quality products leave the plant. This is how you can increase your customers’ trust, improve functionality, and minimize the likelihood of a recall ever occurring.

Let’s take a look at how product traceability can work in the manufacturing process as a clear example:

During manufacturing, the raw materials come into the plant, and they are processed into components of a company’s product. With that said, it’s also important to collect information on the shipping of the products to give managers and the other people in charge the full picture of what’s happening at a current plant or factory.

For example, you can take note of when the materials arrived and what was done to the materials right away. From there, they can note down any possible issues that happened along the way, including how they can affect the process down the line. This allows the manufacturing personnel to tackle issues from the very start, saving workers a lot of effort and the company a lot of time and money.

A way to do this is to assign each product an identification number or tag. You can use the ID number to link any potential information about the manufacturing to that specific product. This makes it easier to track various products and processes at the same time.

iAuditor: A Tool for Modern Product Traceability

While product traceability is tough, modern technological advancements can make it easier. If the company is struggling to find an efficient and quick way to track products, it may be time to take a look at iAuditor by SafetyCulture.

SafetyCulture staff writer

Leon Altomonte

Leon Altomonte is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. He got into content writing while taking up a language degree and has written copy for various web pages and blogs. Aside from working as a freelance writer, Leon is also a musician who spends most of his free time playing gigs and at the studio.

Leon Altomonte is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. He got into content writing while taking up a language degree and has written copy for various web pages and blogs. Aside from working as a freelance writer, Leon is also a musician who spends most of his free time playing gigs and at the studio.