inventory management

Guide to Material Traceability for small manufacturers

In both small and large manufacturing environments, material traceability is critical to ensure the quality and safety of your products.

In both small and large manufacturing environments, material traceability is critical to ensure the quality and safety of your products.

In order to achieve true traceability of your supply chain, every step of the manufacturing process needs to be documented, from the receipt of raw materials to shipping the finished product.

In this article, we will explain what material traceability is, why it is important for small manufacturing situations, and how you can successfully implement a process that works for you and your business.

What is Material Traceability?

Material traceability refers to the process of tracking and tracing raw materials and subassemblies throughout the entire production line.

This includes identifying the source of parts or raw materials, documenting material movement through the production process, and keeping track of finished products.

By tracking material movements, manufacturers can ensure that only authorized material is used in their products and that finished products meet all quality standards.

Why is Material Traceability Important?

Quality Control

There are many reasons why traceability is important, but perhaps the most critical reason is quality control. In a small manufacturing environment, it is essential to maintain tight control over material usage and product quality.

Additionally, material traceability can help manufacturers avoid liability issues by providing a clear record of material usage and product quality.

Better inventory management

Material traceability can help manufacturers keep track of inventory levels and avoid production disruptions due to material shortages.

By documenting material usage, manufacturers can achieve real-time visibility of their stock levels, more accurately forecast future inventory needs and thus avoid costly production delays.

Industry Regulations

Another important reason to implement material traceability is to comply with industry regulations (otherwise known as “compliance”). Many industries have strict guidelines governing the use of materials and finished products, and material traceability can help manufacturers meet these requirements.

By tracking material movements, manufacturers can ensure that their products are made using approved materials and that they meet all regulatory standards.

Improved Customer Service

Finally, material traceability can help improve customer satisfaction by ensuring that products meet all quality standards. When customers know that a product has been manufactured with care and attention to detail, they are more likely to be satisfied with the purchase.

Additionally, material traceability can help manufacturers quickly resolve any issues that may arise after a product has been shipped. In the event of a situation such as a product recall, material traceability can help manufacturers quickly identify the source of the problem and take corrective action to prevent further issues.

How to Implement a good Material Traceability process

Now that you know about the reasons why you, as a small manufacturing business, should be making traceability a priority, let’s now move on to how you can start to implement processes into your business that will ensure you are capturing the right data at the correct part of your production process.

Let’s take a look at the three main parts of a production process: the raw materials purchasing, the manufacturing / assembly process and the finished product management process.

Purchase process

One of the first steps in implementing a material traceability system is to put a process in place for tracking your purchasing of raw materials.

This process should include identifying the source of each raw material, documenting material specifications, and keeping track of material lot numbers.

Why are lot numbers important? It’s essentially because they can be used to track material movements throughout the production process. By keeping track of lot numbers, manufacturers can quickly identify the source and affected specific batch(es) of any material issues that may arise.

Additionally, it is important to have a system for receiving and inspecting materials when they arrive at your facility. This process should include documenting any material shortages or damaged goods, and taking corrective action to prevent these issues from happening in the future.

In-house process

The next step is to put a process in place for material movement within your facility.

This process should include documenting material usage, keeping track of material location, and ensuring that only authorized personnel have access to material storage areas.

Additionally, it is important to have a system in place for disposing of unused or damaged material. This process should include documenting material waste, and taking steps to prevent material from being used in future products.

Finished product process

Finally, it is important to put a process in place for finished products. This process should include documenting material usage, tracking product batches and locations, and ensuring that only authorized personnel have access to product storage areas.

Additionally, it is important to have a system in place for disposing of damaged or defective products. This process should include documenting material waste, and taking steps to prevent material from being used in future products.

Using a technique such as value stream mapping for the above three processes can be useful because it will give you a high-level overview of your material movements, and help you identify any potential bottlenecks in your process.

Using software to track your traceability processes

When it comes to material traceability, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Every small manufacturing business has different needs and requirements.

One option is to create a material tracking spreadsheet or database that includes all relevant information about each material used in your manufacturing process. This information should include the source of the material, the date it was received, the quantity used, and any other pertinent details.

Additionally, you will need to create a system for documenting material movement throughout the production process. This can be done using barcodes, RFID tags, or manual documentation.

Another option is to use material requirements planning (MRP) software. This type of software can help you track material usage, keep track of material location, and generate reports on material movement throughout the production process. Additionally, many MRP systems include features for managing quality control, such as identifying material shortages or damaged goods.

Once you have a system in place, it is important to train all employees on how to use it and make sure that it is consistently followed.

Craftybase: traceability software for your small manufacturing business

If you are looking for an easier way to track your material traceability processes, consider using Craftybase.

Craftybase is a cloud-based MRP software featuring a suite of traceability and compliance features. Craftybase allows you to easily track material usage, finished product inventory, and material waste.

In addition, Craftybase provides real-time reporting so that you can quickly identify and correct any issues that arise.

Learn more about how Craftybase can help you streamline your material traceability processes.

Sign up for a free trial of Craftybase today!

Nicole Pascoe Nicole Pascoe - Profile

Written by Nicole Pascoe

Nicole is the co-founder of Craftybase, inventory and manufacturing software designed for small makers. She has been working with, and writing articles for, small manufacturing businesses for the last 12 years. Her passion is to help makers to become more successful with their online endeavors by empowering them with the knowledge they need to take their business to the next level.