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Agents and Brokers Traceability system

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#1 PCF

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Posted 15 October 2019 - 02:59 PM

Hello,

We are agents and brokers company, who imports and stores products in the warehouse and then supplies the customers. 

We are looking to implement an effective traceability system, which could help us achieve the wanted results of full traceability.

I was wondering if anyone could share their traceability procedure/system/flow chart which could give us an idea how do the A&B company operate. Any suggestions/examples are more than welcome and any information would be very valuable and much appreciated.

Thanks in advance 



#2 pHruit

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Posted 15 October 2019 - 03:29 PM

Hi PCF,

As an agent/broker this should be a fairly simple system to implement, particularly if you don't use any contract packing/processing services and it's "just" buying and selling.

It really is as simple as keeping a record of:

  • Material coming in - product, batch number, source, arrival date, purchase order number, invoice number etc, production date, BBE/Use by date(s). We also have our warehouses take a photo of the label that is then attached to the relevant stock record; very useful for checking that you've received what you were expecting, if it's not going in to your own warehouse so you can't routinely inspect it yourself.  
  • (You may also chose to give material an internal batch / stock number of some sort. If you have suppliers using lots of different forms of batch codes then it can sometimes help to have a standardised one that you use internally, but be wary of confusing yourselves / your warehouses / your customers switching between the suppliers' batch numbers, which will presumably be the ones on the label, and your own).
  • Where it is stored - location, temperature regime (if relevant) etc. The relevance of this will depend on your business model - if it's all ambient product in one warehouse then you already know where it is, whereas if you have thousands of products across ambient, cool ambient, chilled, frozen etc in warehouses spread around the country then it becomes more complex. You may also want to think about purchase/sales in terms of Incoterms as this has a bearing on where "your" stock is - if you are buying EXW Mumbai then you "own" the product at collection in Mumbai, rather than on arrival to your warehouse in the UK. This can be relevant if something happens on the journey that can impact food safety/quality, so you'll want to be able to identify from your records whether your stock was e.g. on the a boat that had a small fire. (This is commercially useful too - the more information you can throw at insurers in such circumstances the better ;) )
  • Material going out - order date, delivery date, batch number supplied, customer's purchase order number, your sales order and invoice numbers, transport service used if relevant, other "outputs" for stock (write off due to damages, use for samples, provided FOC for trade shows etc) so you can account for all of the stock.

Are you using any business management software at present to look after your purchasing/inventory/sales functions? If so, you may find that this already does everything you need for the BRC requirements, or can easily be adapted to do so, and your procedure can be written to reflect how this is used. For the manufacturing side of our business we have an assortment of records from our factory that are required for complete traceability, but for the agents/brokers side all the data is in / attached to our SAP system.



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#3 PCF

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Posted 16 October 2019 - 01:01 PM

Hi PCF,

As an agent/broker this should be a fairly simple system to implement, particularly if you don't use any contract packing/processing services and it's "just" buying and selling.

It really is as simple as keeping a record of:

  • Material coming in - product, batch number, source, arrival date, purchase order number, invoice number etc, production date, BBE/Use by date(s). We also have our warehouses take a photo of the label that is then attached to the relevant stock record; very useful for checking that you've received what you were expecting, if it's not going in to your own warehouse so you can't routinely inspect it yourself.  
  • (You may also chose to give material an internal batch / stock number of some sort. If you have suppliers using lots of different forms of batch codes then it can sometimes help to have a standardised one that you use internally, but be wary of confusing yourselves / your warehouses / your customers switching between the suppliers' batch numbers, which will presumably be the ones on the label, and your own).
  • Where it is stored - location, temperature regime (if relevant) etc. The relevance of this will depend on your business model - if it's all ambient product in one warehouse then you already know where it is, whereas if you have thousands of products across ambient, cool ambient, chilled, frozen etc in warehouses spread around the country then it becomes more complex. You may also want to think about purchase/sales in terms of Incoterms as this has a bearing on where "your" stock is - if you are buying EXW Mumbai then you "own" the product at collection in Mumbai, rather than on arrival to your warehouse in the UK. This can be relevant if something happens on the journey that can impact food safety/quality, so you'll want to be able to identify from your records whether your stock was e.g. on the a boat that had a small fire. (This is commercially useful too - the more information you can throw at insurers in such circumstances the better ;) )
  • Material going out - order date, delivery date, batch number supplied, customer's purchase order number, your sales order and invoice numbers, transport service used if relevant, other "outputs" for stock (write off due to damages, use for samples, provided FOC for trade shows etc) so you can account for all of the stock.

Are you using any business management software at present to look after your purchasing/inventory/sales functions? If so, you may find that this already does everything you need for the BRC requirements, or can easily be adapted to do so, and your procedure can be written to reflect how this is used. For the manufacturing side of our business we have an assortment of records from our factory that are required for complete traceability, but for the agents/brokers side all the data is in / attached to our SAP system.

 

Hi pHruit,

Thank you for your time detailing the case.

What I have been trying to achieve was to have all of the batches and where they went without our warehouse interference, as they seem to be struggling with it as we have so many products. Our products come in big number of pallets and it is not really possible to divide them by different batch (if there are different batches in the same order).

As we are quite small company which is still growing and wanting to reduce the costs, we are not "provided" with any software yet. That is why I wanted to find a "manual" way of doing this. 

My plan for now is:
1. Get the batch/BBE information from our suppliers and log it in my created log.
2. Create an internal batch code for the whole container/lorry. Pass it to the warehouse so they could apply a label with given batch and receipt date on the pallet to help them to pick certain stock and to ensure stock rotation
3. On the dispatch note we would ask to type in the given batch code, so we could trace it where certain batch code went. 

4. In a case of complaint or other issue, I would ask customer to provide the batch numbers which I could find in my created log and then contacting the supplier accordingly. 

From your point of view, would this work ? Maybe I could do some improvements on my "vision"  :ejut: ?  Once again thank you for your time answering the questions!



#4 pHruit

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Posted 16 October 2019 - 01:26 PM

Are you using your own warehouse, or an external one?
Most will batch-sort for you, at a cost ;)

It can certainly be done though - we're at around 2000 products, with incoming orders ranging from a single box through to full containers. One thing you could look at is controlling it at the front end; we stipulate a maximum of two batches per delivery unless prior agreement has been obtained, and indeed a growing number of our customers won't accept mixed batches unless on clearly marked separate pallets, and even then they often set a maximum of two per delivery.

 

I'd definitely agree with (1), but I'd also want to physically check the batch codes when it arrives - you're probably doing this anyway as part of the "have we got the right product, has any of it been damaged etc" checks on receipt anyway?

For (2) I'd personally greatly prefer a batch code per supplier batch, as it is then easier to track things like individual best before dates, generate delivery notes for customers etc - if your business is growing then you'll find that as you land larger clients they get more fussy about this sort of thing, and it's usually easier to design it in at the outset. Nonetheless there isn't necessarily a "right" answer, so you've got to go with what works for you.
The question for (2)/(3) is then which batch code (yours, or the supplier's) are you using to pick/dispatch? If it's yours, then you just need to remember that under your proposal this links to several supplier batches, so in the event of a problem/recall you'll have to call back more stock than the batch that is actually affected/implicated. Again not necessarily a problem and this is an approach I've seen businesses use.

For (4) I fully agree with you. Customers give us all sorts of useless references numbers for this - their own booking in / rotation number, their stock code etc., all of which are meaningless since we can't see their system, so I always ask for actual confirmation of the batch number that is physically written on the label.

 

You mention "typing in" the batch code, so just be aware that if this happens at multiple points in your system then it will cause errors where you get entries that don't match - humans are fallible ;)

If you're proficient with MS Access or Excel you can possibly build yourself a basic database or a few spreadsheets so that people can "pick" stock and have the details automatically copied across. If macros and Visual Basic aren't your thing then you can possibly still set up your records in a way that means people can copy/paste the correct details from original entries into sales/dispatch records rather than having to manually re-enter them, as this should reduce the opportunity for errors to creep in.



#5 PCF

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Posted 17 October 2019 - 12:42 PM

Are you using your own warehouse, or an external one?
Most will batch-sort for you, at a cost ;)

It can certainly be done though - we're at around 2000 products, with incoming orders ranging from a single box through to full containers. One thing you could look at is controlling it at the front end; we stipulate a maximum of two batches per delivery unless prior agreement has been obtained, and indeed a growing number of our customers won't accept mixed batches unless on clearly marked separate pallets, and even then they often set a maximum of two per delivery.

 

I'd definitely agree with (1), but I'd also want to physically check the batch codes when it arrives - you're probably doing this anyway as part of the "have we got the right product, has any of it been damaged etc" checks on receipt anyway?

For (2) I'd personally greatly prefer a batch code per supplier batch, as it is then easier to track things like individual best before dates, generate delivery notes for customers etc - if your business is growing then you'll find that as you land larger clients they get more fussy about this sort of thing, and it's usually easier to design it in at the outset. Nonetheless there isn't necessarily a "right" answer, so you've got to go with what works for you.
The question for (2)/(3) is then which batch code (yours, or the supplier's) are you using to pick/dispatch? If it's yours, then you just need to remember that under your proposal this links to several supplier batches, so in the event of a problem/recall you'll have to call back more stock than the batch that is actually affected/implicated. Again not necessarily a problem and this is an approach I've seen businesses use.

For (4) I fully agree with you. Customers give us all sorts of useless references numbers for this - their own booking in / rotation number, their stock code etc., all of which are meaningless since we can't see their system, so I always ask for actual confirmation of the batch number that is physically written on the label.

 

You mention "typing in" the batch code, so just be aware that if this happens at multiple points in your system then it will cause errors where you get entries that don't match - humans are fallible ;)

If you're proficient with MS Access or Excel you can possibly build yourself a basic database or a few spreadsheets so that people can "pick" stock and have the details automatically copied across. If macros and Visual Basic aren't your thing then you can possibly still set up your records in a way that means people can copy/paste the correct details from original entries into sales/dispatch records rather than having to manually re-enter them, as this should reduce the opportunity for errors to creep in.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Much appreciated!

 

We are using external warehouse, which makes this a little bit harder as it seems they're lacking competence on this case and we just moved to them. But again, this is my job to find a way how to sort this one and there is no one to blame. :headhurts: 

The problem is that our system which generates the dispatch notes will not generate the batch codes on the dispatch sheet (tried to contact the developers of the software, and they've told that it is impossible). As it is mainly created for accounts. That is the reason I am trying to find another way.
The warehouse - they're creating their own dispatch notes, with their locations and their "created" batch codes, which means that they're sending mixed batches occasionally. That's why I'd like to create a batch code of ours and they could put that on their system and on the pallets. So in a case of problem I could just trace it from my created log. But this just made me think, if they're creating these batches, I could provide them with the supplier batches and they could sort it and label the pallets accordingly. For stock rotation, I would provide the batch code which to prioritise so they could sort it out themselves.

 

They must have some kind of system where they log the goods in batches/quantities anyway? And this is generating the dispatch notes

 

I liked your way of dealing with the batches ("we stipulate a maximum of two batches per delivery"). I will have to discuss that with the MD if the agreement between suppliers and us is possible on that. 

 

And about the customer fussiness, that is very true  :biggrin:.

 

As a solution to the case I see that I will have to be very persistent with my requests from warehouse, that all of the goods in batches checked, pallets labelled accordingly and dispatch notes sent to me with correct batch codes and other info

.



#6 pHruit

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Posted 17 October 2019 - 01:07 PM

Have you physically visited the warehouse?
Questions like this can often be a lot easier to resolve in person, talking to the people that actually use their systems - it may be that they haven't fully understood what you're asking, and have something that will help (even if not achieve 100% of what you'd ideally like) but call it something else, or haven't made the link that it could be useful.

We used well into double figures of third party warehouses over the years, and some have been far more challenging than others, but almost all have benefited from a day digging around in the warehouse, talking to people from various departments etc.



#7 PCF

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 03:40 PM

Have you physically visited the warehouse?
Questions like this can often be a lot easier to resolve in person, talking to the people that actually use their systems - it may be that they haven't fully understood what you're asking, and have something that will help (even if not achieve 100% of what you'd ideally like) but call it something else, or haven't made the link that it could be useful.

We used well into double figures of third party warehouses over the years, and some have been far more challenging than others, but almost all have benefited from a day digging around in the warehouse, talking to people from various departments etc.

We have visited them and explained the aim. They have agreed on the requested, but it seems that's too challenging for them to implement something new as we cannot see any changes. 
They've mentioned that they're working with other companies like ourselves, but they're using their own given batch.


Edited by PCF, 21 October 2019 - 03:40 PM.






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