Why you should care about lot numbers as a craft seller

We explain why lot numbers are really important to keep track of - especially for small handmade businesses.

Imagine you have just received an email from one of your raw material suppliers. In this message, they indicate that they have discovered a contamination issue with one of the materials they sell that you have previously purchased. They are thus undertaking a full recall of the material and ask you to comply.

The email indicates that you need to do the following:

  1. Locate any impacted materials you still had on hand and either dispose or return to the vendor
  2. Identify any products on hand that have been made using this material and dispose if found
  3. Identify any products already sold to customers that have been made using this material and advise the customer to cease using the product immediately.

Sounds daunting right? With consistent traceable record-keeping processes in place, it is completely possible to locate these products and customers quickly and efficiently.

The key part of traceable record-keeping is Lot Numbers - these are unique identifiers assigned to specific quantities of the materials you purchase and the products you make. By creating a manufacture tracking system that records lot numbers, you’ll be able to see exactly what materials were used in each of the products you have sold.

So how you keep track of lot numbers? There are a couple of different methods depending on the amount of materials you use, the types of products you produce and the volume of orders you process.

The simplest method is to ensure that you have labeled all of your materials with a unique item number, lot number, the vendor you purchased it from and the date it was received - this will allow you to quickly review your current inventory on shelf and identify any materials that match with the recall (Step 1).

As an example, you may have a batch of Shea Butter purchased from Soap Supplies Inc. on the 9th June 2021. You’ll want to ensure that this batch is labelled with a code representing the material (i.e. SHEABUTTER), the date (9 June 2021), the vendor (Soap Supplies Inc.) and a unique code for the lot purchased (SB-452). This code can either be the lot number provided by the vendor, or can be a code you create - the important part is you can use this code to confidently identify this batch when required.

Identifying which products you have made that contain the recalled material (Step 2) is a little more involved. To this requires you to also keep detailed records of each time you make your products, logging each and every material you used and the lot batch it was from. You’ll also want to create a lot numbering system for your products that you have made.

In order to locate which customers have purchased products containing the exact lot batch involved in the recall (Step 3), you’ll want to ensure that you maintain a historical order list containing the customer’s contact details, products ordered and the manufacture lot numbers provided to the customer.

If you use a manufacturing system that offers full traceability such as Craftybase, all three steps above can be completed very quickly using a couple of searches and reports. All material purchases can be logged with vendor, lot and expiry details and manufacture batch records can be created linking these lots directly to products made. Each order can be tracked and linked to manufacture batches, providing a full trace from material purchase to ultimate sale.

The big question is…how fast can you react to a product recall if this situation ever arises for you?

Nicole Pascoe Nicole Pascoe - Profile

Written by Nicole Pascoe

Nicole is the co-founder of Craftybase, inventory and manufacturing software designed for small manufacturers. 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.

Want to learn more about compliance and traceability?

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