in The Forrester Wave™: Digital Operations Platforms For Manufacturing Businesses, Q3 2020.
For manufacturers, meeting the requirement to track and trace the history and location of every unit or lot of raw, work-in-process and finished goods inventory can lead to a distinct competitive advantage. By integrating the trace and track capabilities into everyday operations, complete detailed records – from suppliers to customers or from “farm to fork” – create an accurate and unassailable record of operational processes. Inventory traceability provides transparency for continuous improvement and makes responding to and controlling the impact of recalls easier and faster.
An End-to-End Digital Inventory Traceability System
Most manufacturing companies use some type of traceability system, also known as Track and Trace, to comply with customer and market mandates as well as to have product genealogy for service, safety and process improvement purposes. According to the APICS, the premier professional association for supply chain and manufacturing operations management defines "traceability" as: "the attribute allowing the ongoing location of a shipment to be determined" and/or "the registering and tracking of parts, processes and materials used in production, by lot or serial number."
Often, this effort involves manual processes or even paper-based recording and form-filing. Interest in track and trace has become more widespread in virtually all products and markets (both discrete and process) to create an audit trail that can be used in the case of a product issue or mandated recall. Simply tracking the receipt of raw materials and shipment of finished goods may fulfill the bare minimum requirements in some cases, but the real value of traceability increases exponentially when every movement and value-adding activity is tied together in an end-to-end historical chain.
Required track and trace for regulatory compliance (e.g., food safety such as E.coli or salmonella poisoning; or consumer product safety such as automotive airbag failures) requires the ability to measure the “extent” or exposure regarding the recalled product or components. Consider a recalled farm product. If the manufacturer can identify the specific farm, shipment or batch that went into a tainted product, they may limit their exposure to a small subset of the products that contained that ingredient and not all of their production – saving them significant time, effort, and money. To underscore the importance of real-time food traceability, the FDA requires that a traceability report be produced within 4 hours of being notified of a food safety event.
Tracking can become challenging in the production environment with raw materials being split from their original shipping containers and used in multiple products throughout the facility. Effective track and trace brings a level of transparency with tangible benefits.
Real-time Visibility Across the Supply Chain with Plex
Track and trace functionality is integral to the Plex Manufacturing Cloud incorporating a rigorous tracking approach to record virtually every movement and operation in an unbroken chain of records to provide “high-resolution visibility.” It is often said that “For every action in production, there is a transaction in Plex.” That translates into transparency that many groups within the organization can leverage.
Plex can track individual parts, containers, or individual lots of ingredients including expiration dates and other critical information where appropriate. Barcode printing and scanning capabilities are built-in and tightly integrated so that all relevant information is consistent and controlled from the production database onto labels, including a library of customer-specified shipping labels that print automatically at ship time. Plex records every transaction and makes it accessible and reportable at anytime from anywhere that you can access Plex.
This level of traceability and genealogy creates a digital “family tree” that illustrates the parent-child relationship of each component and operation in production. Plex automatically creates this genealogy including component details (batch/lot, etc.) production operations (date, machine, operator), and other information as desired. This traceability tree guides search and documentation both backwards and forwards (or upstream and downstream) from any item in question to its ultimate source or disposition.
Companies that only track incoming and outgoing goods are left with a gaping hole – the production “black box” that limits the utility of track and trace. Plex tracking gives manufacturers real-time visibility to inventory, including work-in-process, which enables them to reduce excess inventory that companies often maintain to reduce the impact of unexpected shortages or other surprises.
Plex brings significant benefits to the operations of a manufacturing organization, giving every department real-time visibility as to what is happening where. That visibility helps companies make sound operational and business decisions with confidence.
Smart manufacturing solutions are not all the same. For example, historical ERP software solutions involve painful implementation projects followed by challenging periodic updates – often forcing companies to go years without updating their ERP system. Meanwhile, these same companies lose value day after day as new features and functions elude them, only implemented with the next painful ‘big bang’ upgrade.
Smart manufacturing technology from Plex takes a different approach. No more waiting. No more upgrades. New features are added daily to a single line of code, shared instantly with all Plex customers. Those customers not only realize renewed value daily, but share best practices real time with other peer Plex customers, all of whom have access to exactly the same features, functions and capabilities enabled by a true, single software code SaaS cloud offering.
Smart manufacturing should truly be just that; solutions. Manufacturers are often tempted by vendors touting strong financial, accounting, and even retail ERP software solutions and systems. None of these, however, do the one thing they need particularly well – manufacturing.
Plex is different, offering the only smart manufacturing solution built from the ground up in the cloud and focused exclusively on manufacturing. At Plex, we know manufacturing isn’t just part of the business: manufacturing is the business. Plex smart manufacturing solutions are purpose-built to fit your manufacturing business needs, evolving with you while adding value daily.
Smart manufacturing technology is not all the same. Plex can help you be different. Find out how.
Manufacturers have moved beyond the need for non-integrated point solutions to solve their challenges – they require a true ERP system. Beyond individual, bolt-on products, an ERP system enables connectivity between companies, their customers and their suppliers.
An ERP system must fit the business needs of a given company, while offering a broad array of capabilities designed for that business. With an eye toward the future, the right ERP system gives companies the power to scale at their pace while adding constant value in real time.
Move your business forward with a true ERP system. Find out how.