Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Serial Number Tracking for Manufacturing Companies

In my previous postings about lot tracking in a manufacturing environment, I tried to differentiate between manufacturing business management systems that take a shortcut to lot tracking and those that perform what I call “cradle-to-grave” lot tracking. I feel it is important to make this distinction because the latter will satisfy regulatory agencies such as FDA and FAA (as well as meeting ISO 9000 standards) while the former will not.

The characteristic that makes cradle-to-grave lot tracking so important lies in its ability to track the lot number(s) of any raw material component through multiple levels of sub-assembly, to the lot number(s) of the finished goods being produced.

I also pointed out that any software you select to assist with lot tracking in a manufacturing environment must deal with partial (split) lots. In other words, if there isn’t a sufficient quantity of a required material in one lot, then you need to get the balance for a different lot. The rub is that once you split lots, the software has to track all those lots through the entire production process.

Tracking serial numbers isn’t all that different from tracking lot numbers. While there can be many members of a lot, there can be only one member of a serial number. The MISys Manufacturing System allows you to identify a tracked item as either lot-tracked or serialized.

If raw materials are serialized, the serial number can be pre-assigned by the supplier, or assigned by the manufacturer at the time they are received. Some manufacturing software simply provides a field in the item master in which you can record the serial numbers of the items you have received. Bad choice.

As we have seen with lot-tracking, professional-grade manufacturing software (such as MISys) keeps a transaction log of the serial numbers received, then follows each individual serial numbered item through the manufacturing process. Ultimately, the software can tell you where a serialized item was used – and what serialized item(s) were used as components in a tracked finished good.

Without a doubt, using software that performs “cradle-to-grave” serial or lot tracking like MISys requires a degree of overhead that is not needed when running simple (arguably inadequate) manufacturing software. In my next post I’ll take a closer look at the work required to adequately track serial and lot numbers and discuss what MISys does to ease the burden.

For more information about the MISys Manufacturing System visit www.misysinc.com.

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