If you don’t have a clear idea on what Batch Tracking is and how it can help your business then this article is for you. We’ll explain the basics of Batch Tracking, what it is, and why it is crucial for your business. We’ll also cover Serial Numbers and how they are different from Batch Numbers. Finally, we’ll show you how you can improve the way you track goods within your distribution or wholesale company.
Batch tracking is a smart way to quickly identify and trace the batches of goods that you manufacture, distribute and sell.
It’s a simple way to optimize the management of your supply chain and keep on top of quality control.
If your business deals in the production, distribution or the sale of manufactured goods or prepared foods, you need to have a batch tracking system in place. Batch tracking enables you to quickly identify and locate goods in storage, during shipment, in stores or in the possession of consumers.
When goods are manufactured or assembled, they are produced in batches (or lots) at a specific assembly plant, on a specific date, with the same materials and an expiry date for perishable goods.
Batch tracking enables you to easily track and access information about a batch of products, from the supply chain right through to the point of sale.
Batch and serial numbers play a key role in the quality control process and enable you to respond swiftly and efficiently in the following situations:
1. Improved quality control
2. Improved regulatory compliance
3. Enhanced Security
4. Improved Customer Relations
5. Faster and more accurate product and batch tracking
WHAT WE MEAN WHEN WE USE THE WORD ‘PRODUCT’ IN THIS ARTICLE
The word ‘product’ can mean many things. In this article, when you see the word ‘product,’ we mean single unit, not a product line or batch of units.
Batch numbers are issued when a group of products are manufactured at the same time. If, at a later date, there is a problem with the quality of the product, the batch number can be used to track down the source of the issue and you can correct the problem. Other products manufactured on the same day, with the same raw materials can be easily traced and recalled.
Batch tracking is especially important in the event of product recalls and the efficient management of expiry dates.
It is not just dairy products that go bad over time. All products derived from organic materials (including rubber, plastics and paints) will degrade over time and their expiry dates must be carefully monitored using Batch tracking to ensure the quality of the product and the safety of consumers.
EXAMPLES OF PRODUCTS MADE FROM ORGANIC MATERIALS
HOME & DECOR
• Paints and stains
• Filters for respiratory masks
• Fire extinguishers
• Mattresses and furnishings made from plant-based foam
HEALTH AND WELLNESS
• Prescription medicine
• Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
• Baked goods
• Chocolates and sweets
• Canned meats and vegetables
• Dairy products (Butter and Cheese)
• Fresh fruit and vegetables,
• Frozen food
• Bottled water, sodas, fruit juice and milk
• Coffee and teas
• Beer, wine and hard liquor
ALL OF THE ABOVE PRODUCT TYPES REQUIRE BATCH TRACKING FOR THE EFFICIENT MONITORING AND MANAGEMENT OF EXPIRY DATES
Manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors rely on batch tracking when they need to quickly trace and recall goods they wish to remove from the market. No business wants to pull a product from the market, but it is one of the realities of doing business.
Here are some common, real-world reasons for removing a product batch from the market:
• Brakes, steering wheels, wipers or headlights
• Batteries for devices that overheat and catch fire
• Aging, unsold stock
• Improper storage while in transit or in warehouses
• Salmonella, Botulism or E. Coli
• Product tampering
• Aging, unsold stock
• Improper storage while in transit or in warehouses
• Supply chain issues or production errors
• Newly discovered side effects
• Product tampering
• New bans on certain chemicals and plastics used in the production and packaging of food, furniture and clothing
As you can see, product recalls and expiry date issues are common in many industries. Good quality control is all about proactively monitoring expiry dates and for defective goods. Such products must be swiftly removed from your distribution network, otherwise spoilage and defective goods can result in:
• Lost sales
• Lost customers
• Damage to the reputation of a brand
Thankfully, automated batch tracking can make all the difference by helping you efficiently manage the above potentially dire scenarios. Batch tracking is good for customer relations, and it’s also good for the reputation of your brand. Batch tracking tools are often included in online inventory management solutions.
Batch tracking is used during the manufacturing process to capture essential information about products assembled together (batches or lots) at the same time. Depending on the goods being manufactured, batch tracking records may include these and other production details:
For each lot of goods produced, a batch number is issued. This number can be used to review, down the road, the entire production history of goods made together. The batch number can be used to track products with a common defect or with the same expiry date and determine the location of the products in question.
A batch number is a powerful tool that can help you track down goods that are about to expire or need to be recalled.
It is important to be able to quickly locate defective products and goods about to expire within your distribution network, which could be at:
AUTOMATED BATCH RECORD MANAGEMENT = GOOD QUALITY CONTROL
Detailed Batch Records are essential for efficient quality control and can be used as legal evidence in court cases when a company is sued.
We’ve looked at the batch (lot) numbers of products and how we use them to track groups of goods manufactured at the same time. Now let’s dive into how we trace individual units using serial numbers. Batch records are only half of the equation.
A serial number is a unique identifier for a single unit within a product line. Serial numbers can be formed using a sequential or incremental chain of numbers and/or letters and/or symbols.
Serial numbers are relied on by many industries and have a wide range of uses which we will come to shortly.
Serial Numbers are indispensable for the efficient management of:
A batch (or lot number) enables us to identify a group of goods produced with the same materials, at the same plant, at the same time; whereas, a serial number is used to identify a single unit using a serial or incremental, alpha-numeric numbering system. Serial numbers help marketers distinguish between identical products and forged products throughout the distribution chain and especially at the point of sale. Detailed serial number record management is essential for the effective management of warranties, returns and maintaining good customer relations.
Important product information, including everything from serial numbers, to batch (lot) numbers, to expiry dates, often appear next to barcodes.
Serial numbers are often embossed into the metal and plastic structure of the product to protect against the sale of stolen goods.
Be careful, serial or batch numbers can also appear as a barcode to facilitate the product scanning.
And now to prevent you from being confused with all the different types of numbers you can find or use in inventory and sales management, let’s try to understand 2 more notions that you need to be familiar with: barcodes and SKUs.
Barcodes are machine-readable and consist of parallel vertical lines of varying widths. They can be used to graphically represent any list of numbers and letters and used to retrieve data about an item.
To confuse matters, UPCs (Universal Product Code) are often also referred to as barcodes. They are administered and sold by GS1 US.
WHAT IS A UPC?
UPCs are numeric codes with 12 digits. UPCs are administered and sold by GS1 US. A UPC code is assigned to a unique product and remains constant throughout the product’s shelf life. The UPC code always stays the same among all retail outlets and are for external use.
But barcodes can also be used to graphically represent SKUs, that you define internally to classify and define your own products.
WHAT IS A SKU NUMBER?
SKU stands for Stock Keeping Unit. It is an internal product inventory coding that identifies all your product features (colour, size, etc.). These codes are unique to your company and allow you to keep track of your inventory easily. They provide many information relative to your products or business: type, color, brand, size…
To learn more about barcode best practices for distributors and wholesalers, please click here.
SPEED AND EFFICIENCY ARE ESSENTIAL WHEN MANAGING AND TRACKING INDIVIDUAL UNITS AND BATCHES OF PRODUCTS IN TODAY’S 24/7 GLOBAL ECONOMY
Using software to create batch and serial numbers is a smart and efficient way for wholesale and distribution businesses to reduce spoilage and manage recalls. Maintaining robust, batch records is also part of the due diligence companies must undertake to comply with regulations and industry standards legal requirements..
Relying on an automated batch and serial number tracking system can even increase revenue: Being compliant with strict batch and serial bumber tracking and quality control requirements allows you to sell your products to larger clients.
Software-based batch record management is not just good for your peace-of-mind, it’s also good for your business.
You are probably wondering at what stage you should start generating batch records, serial numbers, so let’s look at two common workflows for wholesalers and distributors. Which batch tracking scenario best applies to your needs?
You purchase goods with existing batch or serial numbers
To maintain product traceability through the entire supply chain till the end customers, you must record batch or serial numbers from your suppliers into your inventory and order management system.
1. Incoming goods from suppliers
2. Outbound delivery to customers
You manufacture your goods
Not every item needs to be tracked with lot or serial numbers. It is quite a heavy work to manage product traceability so make sure to be very organised and to plan ahead.
1. [For lot only] Define your lot size : choose when and how to split each lot. Here are a few rules :
2. Choose a format for your batch or serial number and stick to it
3. Log all details of each lot into a batch tracking record document
4. Label each product with its batch or serial number
5. Input stock into your inventory system by assigning quantities to each batch.
Automated Inventory Management Systems often include features that can help you to manage and trace important product and Batch ID information, throughout the Supply Chain and Sales Order Process. To learn More about the Sales Order Process, please click here.
Consumers, distributors, wholesalers, logistics firms and merchants all rely on automated Inventory Management Systems to quickly find product identification, batch and serial numbers which can be found on most packaging and products.
INVENTORY MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE ALLOWS YOU TO CONVENIENTLY TRACK INDIVIDUAL OR BATCHES OF PRODUCTS ACROSS YOUR SUPPLY CHAIN USING SMARTPHONES, TABLETS, SCANNERS OR COMPUTERS
WHAT IS AN INVENTORY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM?
Inventory management used to be done manually and there was a lot of human error involved. Today’s Inventory Management Software enables SMEs to automate and integrate their Sales Order Process.
You may be wondering now, how to store, manage and track this wealth of product information (Batch record information, expiry dates and serial numbers).
That’s where Inventory Management System software comes into play.
Inventory Management Software comes with advanced product information tracking features that allow SMEs to create batch records, barcode labels and to automatically trace a single product or an entire batch of goods across the globe.
Automation is a simple way to speed up and simplify quality control and the tracking of products across your company
Automating your batch and product identification process isn’t as daunting as it sounds. Today’s software solutions are affordable and user-friendly. They make it easy to set up automated tracking.
Automating your product tracking system provides improved integration, troubleshooting, compliance and customer relations.
Everyone within your organization is now able to instantly trace and verify batch numbers, serial numbers, expiry dates and warranty information during customer interactions.
Automating the product information process also enables you to quickly and efficiently troubleshoot. Imagine being able to instantly track and pull expired or recalled products from the market – thanks to automated, end-to-end tracking of batch records right through to the point of sale (POS).
Automation can even help you sleep better at night. Why? Because improved accuracy and regulatory compliance may reduce the risk of litigation. Nobody wants their brand tarnished by court case.
Improved compliance can even lead to sales growth. By meeting the stringent regulatory compliance requirements of larger corporations, your company will potentially have access to new, highly lucrative markets.
Inventory Management systems, like Erplain, are a smart solution for your business, regardless of whether your business purchases ready-made goods (with existing batch numbers), or you manufacture goods and need to create your own batch numbers for the products you distribute and sell.