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Product traceability using lot#

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Posted 06 April 2015 - 03:26 PM


Could anyone recommend a system how to effectively and efficiently rack lot numbers of finished goods? Basically, a way to track where lot numbers of a finished good were sold to.

Thanks a lot!



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Posted 06 April 2015 - 05:27 PM



Lot number tracking "systems" as you have put it are very often just a subset functionality of whole business software solutions run onsite on your company computer systems or via the internet in the cloud. They are called ERP's (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems. In your question you reference "finished goods", but I would point out that tracking lots of finished goods is of little meaning unless they are linked to lots of the ingredients that went into the finished goods. To be of practical use for traceability, recall and market withdrawal, tracking is far more sophisticated that just finished goods. ERP systems allow a business to track lot numbers of incoming ingredients through storage and use in your facility, to outgoing finished goods.

ERP's are generally very expensive. even those marketed to small and medium size businesses approach and exceed $100,000. Besides the initial cost, the cost of training and system maintenance can add up quickly depending on your company circumstances.

You may have heard ERP names like Oracle, Sage, Exact, Aspen, Just Food

I have worked with two ERP solutions and would not recommend either one of them for a food business! Besides not being specifically for food and beverage, their service and problem resolution was an untimely, nightmare like travesty.

Any given ERP may have been initially designed e.g., for a nuts and bolts manufacturer and later as an after-thought applied to a food manufacture. If you bought such a solution, it would in fact work for food, but for the life of the system you would have to adjust to your food production room being called the "shop floor". In other words in would continually be in your face that your expensive ERP is not the best suited to a food operation.


I have never heard of an intermediate technology for tracking lots except the old manual data input into excel, but you did say "effectively and efficiently". Maybe other members have ideas for tracking that are unknown to me.


  • IMO seek out an ERP that was designed from the ground up as an ERP by and for food, beverage, manufacturers or growers.
  • There are scores of ERP's out there all competing for the business, even catalogs of them and paid organizations that perform vetting to recommend those ERP that ostensibly fit the characterization of  your company.
  • For a food business an ERP should not only perform Traceability, Recall and Withdrawal well, but also include excellent Document and Data Control, Document Storage, Document Retrieval etc.
  • An ERP for food should handle all sorts of QA/QC functions e.g. Supply Chain Management, Hold and Release, Test and Hold, Test Results, Audits ,Registers, CAPA, Specifications, SOP, GMP, SSOP, PRP, CCP critical limits, Preventative controls, Preventative Maintenance, Security etc.
  • ERP companies, like any sales/service business may be aggressive, shrewd and cunning; let the buyer beware.
  • Evaluate ERP solutions as a company TEAM, similar to a multidisciplinary HACCP team.
  • Get it in writing first.
  • ERP's may be offered as "build your own", with add-on modules. Start with basic system and add modules that handle specific function later.
  • ERP may have value added features like laser scan-in and scan out bar code readers that automate receiving and shipping
  • ERP may have pallet/bin tracking through Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
  • ERP may leverage android or iOS pads and tablets for immediate data collection and processing on the floor of your facility

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Posted 06 April 2015 - 06:11 PM

I agree with much of what xylough says.

If you have some type of ordering system (so you can see history of which customers order which products), but are not at a full-scale ERP solution, you can have your shipping department write the lot numbers on the pick tickets.  


It doesn't sound very efficient - and may not be, given your business - but take a look at various factors:

- do you have many, many skus?

- what's the shelf life of your product?

- do you have many, many customers?

- have you had a recall before?

- what is the likelihood of a recall?

- is shipping documentation readily accessible?

- do you have a good customer service team who can help identify customers by the types of products they buy?


If you are selling just a couple of items to lots of customers, this is probably not a good solution.  But if you know that certain customers take only selected items, this may be a possible way to go.


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Posted 06 April 2015 - 07:29 PM

You can use a quality management software.  Our clients manage this data using our system.  Of course, it is not as wide-range as ERP, but it definitely does the job effectively AND only costs a fraction of an ERP system.  


In detail, what they do is scan in the UPC code to the system using handheld devices and record (from a drop-down box, for example) where it was shipped to.  You can also configure other types of information in the same template, for example, the COA, shipment checks, time and dates, usernames, etc.


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Posted 09 April 2015 - 02:29 PM

It may be useful to know (at the very least) what your product is as some products are more easy to trace than others.

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