3 steps toward end-to-end traceability capabilities

Regardless of your industry, improved product traceability is important in enabling better customer response and handling operational issues quickly and effectively.

06/20/2014


Product recalls. Supplier issues. Increasing customer demands. For manufacturers, these are all problems that can quickly pop up and throw a huge wrench in the operational gears, significantly impacting a company’s bottom line. Dealing with them efficiently and effectively is key to keeping operations running smoothly and customers happy.

But before you can address a particular problem, you need to have the visibility to identify it and isolate it from the rest of healthy operations, and this is why market-leading companies today are focusing on end-to-end product traceability.

Regardless of your industry, improved product traceability is important in enabling better customer response and handling operational issues quickly and effectively. Below, we’ll explain three important ways to get started.

What Does End-To-End Really Mean?

First, let’s quickly define “end-to-end.” When we say “end-to-end,” we’re talking about the ability to track information on all components or raw materials and associated processes across the value chain, including the design, engineering, supply, manufacturing, delivery, and service phases.

Why is this so important? Well, it’s a crucial ability for quickly and effectively investigating customer complaints and managing potential product recalls, which speaks directly back to improved quality and product consistency. Additionally, it helps in identifying any root causes of defective products so they can be isolated/contained and any identifying supplier issues so they can be dealt with.

It’s often the case that this chain of traceability breaks down within the complexities of manufacturing processes, which is why it’s so important to focus on this particular area of the value chain.

1.) Carefully evaluate your current process and software capabilities and decide where you need to improve.

In order to achieve end-to-end product traceability, the most important and obvious step is to ensure you have the technology and process capabilities to make it a reality. A good place to start is to establish common goals and objectives across multiple departments and all relevant stakeholders within. It’s important for these people to be armed with the same data, information, and key performance indicators (KPIs) for success.

But another thing you’re going to want to consider heavily (if you haven’t already) is implementing Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) software applications like production execution and workflow software to track all production activities, materials, and product characteristics.

In our 2013-2014 MOM survey, which has been taken by over 350 respondents, we glimpse a view of current end-to-end traceability capabilities within manufacturing operations. Looking at the graph below, you’ll see only 23% of respondents had traceability processes and software. However, taking that into account, within a year, we see around 60% stated they will have some type of software and/or process for traceability. This is a clear indication of the growing importance of product traceability in the customer’s eyes.

End-to-End Product Tracking and Component Genealogy Capability, Courtesy: LNS Research

2.) Consider approaching your traceability initiative at the enterprise level, as an extension of your system of record.

While you may have product lines that compose a significantly larger portion of your business than others, it’s nonetheless important to take a high-level view of this initiative to ensure you’re serving customers to the fullest and staying competitive in your industry.

Your product composition or customer base may evolve over time, and taking an enterprise-wide approach ensures long-term success. Depending on your IT architecture, this can be set up in a number of ways, either by integrating with a single ERP or PLM system. If your company lacks a single system of record, a new enterprise platform approach to traceability may be worth exploring.

3.) Remember traceability capabilities require varying levels of technology support unique to the situation.

Be cognizant of the fact that the best technology strategy for you may include a single or, more likely, multiple separate MOM applications. Several MOM applications play an important role in facilitating end-to-end product traceability. According to research data, companies that have the process and software capabilities to handle end-to-end product visibility typically have multiple applications deployed to support this initiative.

Looking below, you can see production execution software topping the list at 69%, followed by Quality Management (64%), Asset Management (46%), Historian (46%), and Workflow (40%). The level of adoption of these applications speaks to the complexities and difficulty to be navigated in achieving full end-to-end product traceability.

MOM Applications, Courtesy: LNS Research

Building Your Own End-To-End Traceability Capabilities

Achieving end-to-end product traceability is a lofty goal that isn’t achieved overnight. In addition to these three beginning steps, it’s important to perform your due diligence around appropriate programs and processes characteristics as well as to select MOM software vendors that fit your industry needs and have a proven track record of solving complex, enterprise-wide product traceability challenges.

Greg Goodwin joined LNS Research in May of 2013 as a Research Associate. To learn more about 20 of the top vendors in the MOM space and strengths in traceability capabilities, see a free copy of the LNS Research MOM Solution Selection Guide. This article originally appeared on LNSResearch.comEdited by Brittany Merchut, Project Manager, CFE Media, bmerchut(at)cfemedia.com



No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
Learn how to create value with re-use; gain productivity with lean automation and connectivity, and optimize panel design and construction.
Go deep: Automation tackles offshore oil challenges; Ethernet advice; Wireless robotics; Product exclusives; Digital edition exclusives
Lost in the gray scale? How to get effective HMIs; Best practices: Integrate old and new wireless systems; Smart software, networks; Service provider certifications
Fixing PID: Part 2: Tweaking controller strategy; Machine safety networks; Salary survey and career advice; Smart I/O architecture; Product exclusives
The Ask Control Engineering blog covers all aspects of automation, including motors, drives, sensors, motion control, machine control, and embedded systems.
Look at the basics of industrial wireless technologies, wireless concepts, wireless standards, and wireless best practices with Daniel E. Capano of Diversified Technical Services Inc.
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
This is a blog from the trenches – written by engineers who are implementing and upgrading control systems every day across every industry.
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Control Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.