Lot tracking has been a popular method for organizing information in chemical processing as well as the food and beverage industry. But as the consumer electronics industry explodes with demand and innovation, many manufacturers therein also lot track their supplies during product assembly.
And for good reason - lot tracking, otherwise known as batch tracking, groups raw materials and designates them with serial numbers. As these materials undergo processing, they are regrouped again and again after passing through each stage, eventually winding up as a single, fully formed product with a unique bar code.
With chemical and F&B industries, shelf lives and regulations from the Food and Drug administration drive companies to adopt this system. So what's the draw for electronics manufacturers?
Electronics lot tracking: A 21st-century approach to organization
First, let's address the obvious: A finished consumer device may look and feel simple to the user, but a single handheld gadget may consist of dozens of smaller components. Each component has an origin, possibly traveling the world over to arrive at a manufacturing plant with thousands of "brothers and sisters" exactly like it. At its core, lot tracking keeps supplies organized.
As the lot number goes down, the value per unit goes up.
But items aren't lot tracked arbitrarily. As we mentioned earlier, as lot-tracked supplies move through the assembly process, they are grouped into smaller lots. As the lot number goes down, the value per unit goes up, as does the amount of data per unit.
The details are everything in electronics QC.
For standard quality control purposes, lot tracking therefore allows electronics manufacturers to internally audit materials throughout the breadth of production. Lot tracking also simplifies and optimizes a potential recall process, as it gives QC managers the ability to keep everyday batch testing consistent and home in on specific batches should problems arise. If a customer calls in with a faulty product, its individual serial number will correspond to other serial numbers assigned to the myriad lots the product's components were derived from. Armed with that knowledge, manufacturers can then infer what other products may also be glitchy and proactively address the issue before other customers call in with broken goods.
Lot tracking needs ERP to exceed expectations
As valuable as lot tracking is to the electronics industry, the method involves the organized storage, transmission and utilization of a lot of data, not to mention crystal clear communication between disparate departments: production, inventory, QC, finance, etc. Without the right workflows in place, it's easy for lot tracking to lose its cost- and time-efficient edge. Subsequently, this underperformance then also affects related day-to-day practices like bar coding and recycling programs.
An advanced end-to-end ERP solution behind the scenes, however, helps manufacturers realize the full potential of lot-tracked goods. Let's return to the situation mentioned above: A customer calls in reporting a malfunctioning product. As soon as the representative documents the failure, the ERP system can trigger the following:
- Notify QC and open an investigation report, autofilling all relevant data to ensure a speedy audit.
- Inform production teams so they can account for assembly needs outside of their normal production schedule.
- Check inventory to see if all the resources to replace or repair the customer's product are available.
- Weigh the cost efficiency of repair versus replacement to minimize disruption to standard operating procedures.
- Update financial records so repairs or component recycling don't affect regular procurement or fulfillment.
And behind all this functionality is data gleaned from lot tracking. So to take full advantage of big data management practices that boost customer retention, create site-wide visibility and uphold operational excellence, let ERP do the heavy lifting.