More and more industries within manufacturing are focusing on compliance and quality, which lead to traceability. As companies expand their businesses internationally in this global economy, more regulatory mandates put commercial pressures and expectations on businesses. In an effort to manage quality, recalls, liability, counterfeit parts, inefficiencies in manufacturing, and cost savings, these regulatory mandates rely on traceability. In other words, traceability acts as a risk-management tool.
When dealing with traceability, many confuse traceability for tracking, which have very different operations from each other. Although they share similar functions or ideas, they serve different purposes in manufacturing.
- Tracking involves movement from one sequence to the next and how a part will move throughout the manufacturing process. For instance, a router or traveler in a manufacturing company would be used to track where parts are in the shop, who worked on it, and how long until it is completed.Traceability shows the progression of manufacturing.
- Tracing involves identifying a part’s origin through records and visibility across the supply chain. For example, material certifications, certificates of origin, and purchase order numbers allow parts to be linked back to their sources in the supply chain. Traceability shows the authentication of manufacturing.
To expand on traceability, let’s discuss why it’s so important in manufacturing and why so many industries and companies require it. First off, traceability doesn’t fall under one person or one company’s responsibility like tracking might. It actually involves many aspects of the entire supply chain, so many companies are involved to comply. In manufacturing that requires quality and risk prevention , traceability is used in order to prove where it came from, that there’s no counterfeit product, and the product is what it should be. Which is why the defense and medical industries are notorious for mandating traceability. Let’s review this example to better explain the importance of traceability:
Company ABC is a defense company that makes military tanks. Let’s say they go to Manufacturer Inc. to get their parts manufactured. Manufacturer Inc. get’s the material from Source A, makes the parts in-house, then sends it to Source B get special plating. Company ABC requires the material of their military tanks to be made from material that comes from the USA and the plating to be without chemical X so the tanks can withstand its strength.
Source A ended up supplying the material from China and Source B accidentally included chemical X in their plating. Both Source A and Source B did not provide traceability records to Manufacturer Inc., so Company ABC did not have any traceability on the material or the plating. As a result, the end product of the military tanks looked identical to what Company ABC ordered, so from the naked eye, everything about the military tanks looks legitimate. However, when it came time to test the military tanks, the material proved to be inadequate and the tanks failed the ballistic testing. As a result, the military tanks completely failed.
If there would have been traceability, Manufacturer Inc. would have known that the material supplied was not from the USA before they began manufacturing parts. They would have been able to send it back to get the correct material to have a clean slate moving forward. From there, if there would have been traceability for Source B, Manufacturer Inc. would have known the tanks had the wrong plating before sending the end products to Company ABC.
In essence, all these major mistakes would have been prevented because the traceability records would have provided accountability. The records would have indicated the authenticity of the material and plating which would have prevented major risk/liability, lack of quality, inefficiency in manufacturing, revenue, and time. Now you can see just how important it is to have traceability in manufacturing to allow visibility throughout the supply chain.
At Vista Industrial Products, Inc., we take pride in our quality manufacturing and make sure to include traceability throughout our manufacturing and sourcing to ensure the products we manufacture are to our customer’s exact specifications. Not only does this prevent us from working with the wrong material or giving bad product to our customers, but it also prevents major issues down the line when the product reaches its end customer. Whether it’s a soldier using a military product or a patient in a hospital using a medical device, we want to make sure the products we make meet the requirements to be successful.