It’s important for food manufacturers to have a clear understanding of what’s coming in and what’s going out of their facility. This is especially true for businesses that deal with perishable goods that need to be acutely aware of what’s happening both on a micro and macro level. Strategic lot tracking best practices can go a long way towards getting to a level where you have clear, bi-directional visibility at every step of your manufacturing process.
Lot tracking is essentially the process of recording information that’s associated with a batch of product. Depending on the business, the scope of information that you need to capture can be quite large. Based on the lot tracking criteria you establish, you can do everything from track several units of a single stock item to defining and attributing statuses that determine when items can be sold (This latter issue is especially important when dealing with expiration dates)
With a lot tracking system in place, you can confidently and efficiently complete accurate unit withdrawals based on tiny isolated issues or widespread problems in order to maintain the safety and quality of your output.
When it comes to lot tracking in the food industry, there are a number of things you need to understand in order to be successful. For your convenience, here are 3 lot tracing best practices for you to consider.
1. Attribute licence plates to pallets
There are typically three different areas of lot tracking: RF barcoding, RF scanning, and labeling. Furthermore, lot tracking takes place at either the license plate level, bin level, or even at individual box level.
Most companies leverage the licence plate method for lot tracking as it is commonly understood to be the easiest and most efficient approach. With licence plates, food suppliers receive a pallet of goods, they then produce a pallet license plate which can house information like shelf life data, expiration date and production date.
A main advantage of using the license plate method is being able to place multiple lots into a single bin. Not only does this speed up the process, it also requires less storage space in the warehouse.
2. Identify your standard product batch
Every food manufacturer has their defining standard batch This is nothing more than the standard product that all future products are measured against for quality and consistency.
In the food manufacturing industry, you have to monitor processing times and temperatures for all batches. Having set times and temperatures ensures that the ingredients are no subject to contamination or spoilage.
By integrating your standard product batch data with lot tracking, you can be confident in the consistency of production and that there are no significant variances that could impact the taste, safety, or quality of the end product.
3. Sanitation procedures
Proper sanitation of equipment is one of the most important aspects of a food manufacturing facilities daily operation. Regular sanitation procedures prevent the introduction or transfer of allergen and other contaminates into food items.
In the unfortunate situation that food items have been exposed to certain allergens in your facilities, you need a lot tracking system in order to isolate contaminated items, halt production on food processing equipment that’s come into contact with allergens and ensure nothing leaves the warehouse that could possibly be impacted in a negative manner.
What about traceability software?
Know the importance about lot tracking at your facility, you’re now wondering if you’re current system is giving you the viability you need to execute on the best practices listed above. We suggest checking out our Food Manufacturer’s Guide to Traceability Software to learn more about recall best practices, the layers of material tracking and how software can help aid your efforts.