Process Manufacturing ERP: Lot Traceability

One ERP feature that is a requirement for almost all process manufacturers is the ability to track lot numbers. Backwards lot traceability means that when a customer inquires about a lot they received, you can trace every ingredient back to the incoming lot from every supplier. In the case of a food manufacturer, that means all the way to the field the crop was grown on. Forward lot traceability means that we can start with any incoming supplier lot number in our process manufacturing ERP and know exactly which production lots used which materials and which customers received products containing any of the materials from that supplier lot number.

In some cases, lot traceability may be internal. There might be an interim formulation that is never sold but is later used as an ingredient in one or more downstream production lots.

Lot traceability within process manufacturing ERP is often a requirement by regulatory bodies and is also required by customers. Supplier lot numbers come in a wide variety of formats and your ERP must be flexible enough to handle any format. Some final sales lot numbers are in a format required by a customer or an external regulation but usually the format is specified internally. The lot number is always related to the production job the product is made under and often that job number is part of the lot number.

Maximizing Efficiency, Minimizing Risk

Many products have a shelf life or an expiration date. That date will be related to specific lots. Particular lot numbers might have specific safety factors that must be provided to customers and be available to regulatory agencies. Those lots will have their own MSDS published. A lot number can also relate to a manufactured date or the date the ingredients were mixed. An expiration date could relate to a particular ingredient which might be the controlling factor in the product’s life. All these variables affect inventory quality which, in turn, affects the efficiency of the process manufacturing process. With this in mind, these variables should be tightly controlled within your process manufacturing ERP system.

In some cases, a single production lot might be divided into several sales lot numbers. Many products are graded - the best output will have one set of lot number and lower level output will be assigned others. Co products and by products will receive their own lots too.

Many products of process manufacturers are hazardous on their own and others can be hazardous after unexpected reactions. Still others might be found later to be tainted. People’s lives are at stake so the potential for a disaster is present. Even if no people are harmed, the financial risk from lawsuits or regulatory penalties can bankrupt a business. It is critical for process manufacturing ERP users to maintain lot traceability processes and use their ERP properly to minimize risks.

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Tom Miller

About the author…

Tom completed implementations of Epicor, SAP, QAD, and Micro MRP. He works as a logistics and supply chain manager and he always looks for processes to improve. He lives near San Francisco Bay in California and can be found on the water in his kayak or on the road riding his motorcycle. Contact Tom at

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Tom Miller

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