"This is where a lot of meat packers get into problems, when they can't account for 100 percent of the raw material that went into the product they processed. Whether some fell on the floor and was disposed of, or they packaged 99 pounds out of 100 and then did something else with that last pound, the ability to isolate those odds and ends as sub-lots, and show that you actually controlled them, reduces risk and improves your ability to conduct a thorough recall, if need be," Granros points out.
Chad Collins, vice president, global strategy, for Highjump Software, Eden Prairie, MN, observes that its supply chain Advantage suite is "at its core about tracking and tracing products as they move through the supply chain.
"We're not only tracking SKU numbers and quantities as they move in and out of production and distribution and out to the retail locations, we're also tracking a great deal of additional information like lot codes, expiration dates and manufacture dates. We also have the capability to track such data as freeze and thaw cycles.
"And because this capability in the software suite really starts on the supply side, with procurement, we can also track the raw materials or ingredients as they come from suppliers into the production process and trace all of these components back from the finished, delivered product."
Mobile Computing Extends Traceability
The use of mobile computing systems by delivery drivers further extends detailed traceability of products to the actual point of delivery to the retail location, Collins adds.
"With goods that are sensitive to temperature change at particular points in their cycle, for example in bread distribution, this ability to pinpoint and notate every time a product moved from a frozen to an ambient location, can become important as well," Collins notes.
In fact, these sorts of tracking capabilities, Collins and others point out, not only insure a timely response in the event of a recall. They can also become powerful and versatile tools for helping companies improve many aspects of their manufacturing and supply chain processes, by creating rich repositories of historical data linking ingredients, processes and events with specific product outcomes.
For manufacturers that don't have adequate track and trace capabilities built into their ERP and/or supply chain execution suites, another option now available is a separate "track and trace engine," a piece of software designed to gather needed tracking data from among the many disparate systems where it is resides.
One such product is the Lawson M3 Trace Engine, 3.0, a program first developed and utilized in Europe, which has just been introduced in a version designed for the U.S. market.
Lawson's program is a standalone, web-based traceability system that operates with its M3 Enterprise Management system, as well as with many other ERP, farming or food lab software systems available from other vendors.
In addition to helping companies capture and manage tracking information, from procurement of raw materials through production and distribution, the system includes a web-based application for publishing and sharing data such as product origin and transport information online with customers and regulators.
As companies that have been involved in recalls can attest, the ability to communicate accurate, timely data to the public, customers and regulatory authorities can be just as important in preserving brand image as the ability to gather the information and determine the source and scope of the issue.