Process Manufacturing ERP: A Tale of Lot Traceability
Here follows a tale of process manufacturing ERP and lot traceability, problems and solutions, life and death…….. (just kidding about the last one).
Maria came running, out of breath, to her boss’ office. “We might be in big trouble, Sam.” “I just heard that our big customer, Jones Co. had a major failure with our product. We sent them a big order only last week.”
There were already a couple of people in Sam’s office and more showed up to see why Maria was in such a panic. Sam kept calm and started asking questions. “What did you hear was the problem?”, “It might be the powder we used is failing to bond with the other ingredients”, she replied. “But it tested perfectly before we shipped it last week”, she protested. “I just don’t understand how there could be a failure now.”
Good News & Bad News
“OK”, says Sam. “Let’s see how we can contain this problem. Maria, get in contact with customer service and see if you can find out specifically what was the problem. John, see what was the lot number of the powder we used for Jones Co.’s order; where did we buy it from? What other orders have we shipped using that same lot? Our process manufacturing ERP will have that data. Do you know how to check?”
“No problem”, says John. He started clicking keys on his computer and in a couple of minutes he reports, the company got 13,000 lbs. three weeks ago. “We used 2,000 lbs for Jones Co. and 6,000 lbs on four other orders. Two of those are still here and is scheduled to ship today. The other shipped yesterday and is en route for two more days.”
Sam tells John to hold the two orders from shipping and not to worry about the one still in transit. The immediate action is to get the remaining powder from inventory and hold it for a materials review board. John leaves to call the quality assurance people, a chemist, and the supplier’s representative to meet and inspect the remaining inventory.
ERP systems sold to process manufacturers all have lot traceability processes. Of course, your people still need to apply these processes in their daily work in order to realize their full potential.
This analysis is easy because the process manufacturing ERP has in-depth lot traceability included and this company uses that capability regularly. Every incoming lot or batch from any supplier is tracked to the processes it was used in and where those went. Forward and backward tracking is important to many businesses, especially in food, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics.
Just after John leaves the room, Maria returns. “Good news”, she says, the problem was not with the shipment last week. But, bad news, the powder bond does seem to be failing with a previous shipment.
Sam decides to get on the phone with the materials manager at Jones Co. He is immediately received. He learns they just identified the problem. It seems that they used an old shipment that had an expired shelf life. It was an expensive mistake but completely the fault of Jones Co.
Not all process manufacturers need to track lots and batches, but many do. ERP systems sold to process manufacturers all have lot traceability processes. Of course, your people still need to apply these processes in their daily work in order to realize their full potential. It means a few more keystrokes but it can pay off quickly as we just saw.
Note: the preceding tale is a fictional one. Any resemblance to companies or persons is purely co-incidental. Having said that, the lessons learn't still apply.
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