For many years, lot tracking inventory has not just been good company practice. In a number of industries, regulating agencies such as the FDA, CFIA, and ISO are now mandating that products be lot-tracked from the time they are received until the time they are delivered to the customer. In the Food Industry, there is a huge push to force all Food Manufacturers and Food Distributors to be able to lot track the products they distribute. With the signing of the Food Safety Modernization Act by President Obama in January of 2011, the FDA now has far more authority than ever to force these requirements.
In the event of a product recall it is the responsibility of all Distributors and Manufacturers to inform their customers that they may have been shipped potentially harmful products. The information provided should indicate what products and lot numbers of the products need to be removed and the appropriate action to be taken.
Let’s assume that a product you are distributing has been recalled. What happens next? There are basically three methods to proceed.
- If you do not track products, you manually look at all the orders you have shipped with that specific product over the past few weeks. You then call all the customers you shipped that product to and tell them to remove the entire product quantity as you do not know what you shipped them. This could potentially be a very large financial loss to your company as all the products are being removed. If you cannot determine who you shipped the product to, there could even be legal ramifications.
- You manage the traceability of your products by manual processes or using software such as Excel. When the recall is announced, you can track back to the specific products and determine who they were shipped to. Although you were able to manage the recall, were all the hours you spent over the days and months keeping your manual processes up to date worth it?
- As part of the software to manage your business you have the built-in ability to have the software automatically manage Lot Tracking for you. At the first sign of a recall, you perform a quick search, generate a report of those customers who have received the specific product and contact them to take appropriate action.
Lot Traceability is like having life insurance. You buy it but you hope that you never have to use it.