What is product traceability?

Ash Baggott

Product traceability, is the ability to identify, track and trace elements of a product as it moves along the supply chain from raw goods to finished products. It provides numerous benefits such as the ability to investigate and troubleshoot issues related to a component or ingredient. 

This becomes crucial during unforeseen events like recalls, it enables the source of the problem to be swiftly identified and rectified, and also allows a company to distance itself from the problem and highlight that their products weren’t affected.

It’s becoming an expectation amongst consumers to know exactly where the products they’re buying are coming from. Large companies such as Coca-Cola have been recognising the importance of this for a number of years – take a look at the bottom of a Coke can and you’ll find the numbers you need to be able to trace where the product was made, and where the ingredients inside the can came from.

However, it’s no longer just larger corporations tracing their products, smaller enterprises are joining in on the traceability train. There’s an increase in realisation that if a business can get product traceability correct, then consumers will have more faith in them. Confidence in your products is vital for the sceptical world we live in these days, especially as brand loyalty is becoming increasingly fragile.

How is it beneficial?

Some high-profile recalls are most-likely what will spring to mind when you hear the term ‘product traceability’. Having an effective system in place is what made it easier for companies such as Tesco and Mars to efficiently locate when and where the problems in their products took place, and remove potential threats from shelves swiftly.

Being able to quickly and easily recall an item is crucial to protecting the consumer, sometimes even saving lives. Plus, it’s commonly known that traceability also enables trust within the brand. By removing products promptly, you’re preserving consumers’ trust in the quality and integrity of their preferred brands.

Another driver in the need for traceability is that increasing numbers of consumers are wanting to know more about the products they’re buying. There’s an increase in demand to have the knowledge of what’s in the product, where they came from, the conditions they were made under, how they arrived on the shelf, and how they will be disposed of.

Who cares about it?

In 2019, almost everyone one of us. Whether that be consumers, regulators, processors, or even the media, we’re all demanding accurate, precise information and identification of products. Gone are the days of it being a “nice to have” concept, it’s now a must-have.

How can I make sure my products are traceable?

You need a system in place that records and follows the journey of where ingredients, parts and materials come from, how they’re processed, and ultimately how they’re distributed as end products. You need to be able to gather information of the components within a product such as, specific parts, materials, product quality, safety and labelling – barcodes and batch codes are vital components of product identification.

Packages with the same batch code will be considered the same quality in every way, so if there’s an issue with one product within that batch, you can easily identify where the batch came from and where it has been sent, you can recall the complete batch or, it can be withdrawn from the supply chain.

Although it may seem like a difficult task to put product traceability into motion, you should know that there are plenty of software and technology that have made it more achievable than ever. Having the right collaborative effort between your software and all other parties within the supply chain is definitely the key to a traceability success. You can implement the Holded Cloud ERP Software #1 to get your product traceability up and running, and even manage your sales, finance, operations and human resources at the same time.

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