Product Traceability With a QHSE Management Platform

No doubt you have heard many stories of product recalls, which is why it is important to trace every product in the manufacturing process. As a QHSE manager, you want to see every step of a product from conception to manufacturing and assembly. Find out how a QHSE management platform can help you in product traceability. 

What Is Product Traceability?

Product traceability is the process of identifying and tracking products through a supply chain. It consists in logging manufacturing information in a database and following products at every step. This information is used to minimize the cost of product recalls, fight counterfeiting, control quality, and optimize production processes.

Olsen and Borit have proposed a modern universal definition for traceability as:

“The ability to access any or all information relating to that which is under consideration, throughout its entire life cycle, by means of recorded identifications”*.

*Olsen, P., Borit, M., 2013. How to define traceability. Trends in food science & technology 29, 142–150.

Traceability System 

A good system can help manage traceability. Just like a QHSE management system, this gives you structure. There are different elements to form a complete traceability system. Opara identified these 5 elements that form a complete traceability system*:

  • Product traceability – Determines the physical location of a product.
  • Process traceability – Ascertains the type, sequence, and variables of processes that have affected the product.
  • Genetic traceability – Determines the genetic makeup of a product, both type and origin.
  • Input traceability – Type and origin of materials used in production that don’t directly make up a product (e.g. fertilizer).
  • Disease/pest traceability – Traces the epidemiology of pests, bacteria, and other contaminants.
*Opara, L.U., 2003. Traceability in agriculture and food supply chain: a review of basic concepts, technological implications, and future prospects. Journal of Food Agriculture and Environment 1, 101–106

Paper-Based Product Traceability

Since 1994, the International Organization for Standardization had traceability standardized in ISO 8402:1994. Long before this, it was common to have paper-based traceability. This isn’t the ideal situation when a recall or product defect has been detected, but there was a system back in those days. With barcodes, digital traceability was the next step, which makes it easier to find out where a product is. This step makes it possible to systematically structure traceability. 

Trace Products With a QHSE Management Platform

With new technology and industry 4.0 becoming more important, there are a lot of opportunities to make traceability smart. The following are examples of traceability opportunities identified by a QHSE management platform*:

  • Determine what stage of the production process any product is from raw material to finished product.
  • Predict and diagnose problems in product quality.
  • Assist in inventory management.
  • Provide customer-accessible product information.
  • Improve manufacturing efficiency.
  • Increase response speed to recalls.
  • Monitor machine capacity utilization and determine overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and total effective equipment performance (TEEP).
  • Improve a manufacturer’s company reputation and brand.
  • Production scheduling.
*Product traceability in manufacturing: A technical review – Reuben Schuitemaker, Xun Xu∗ https://bit.ly/3JKGfGO

Make sure your QHSE management software/platform has the capabilities of product traceability or integrated connectivity with a traceability system.


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