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101 Product Identification Tips From the Experts

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Supply chain abstract graphic

Product identification and traceability are accepted best practices in industries worldwide including aerospace and pharmaceuticals. Keeping detailed records for an entire supply chain can be an incredibly large task and often requires input from nearly every department in an organization. The consequences of failing to develop reliable product lifecycle management practices can range from poor customer satisfaction to regulatory fines. In today’s challenging supply environment disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is as important as ever to prioritize product identification practices.

When product identification is implemented effectively there are several benefits such as supply chain security and post-market safety. In the defense industry product identification is a formal process, called the Unique Identification (UID) program, with several requirements that any prospective suppliers must follow. To help understand the importance of product identification we have compiled these 101 expert tips. The list includes industry best practices, helpful tips, and potential new innovations that could add significant value to your operation.

Our list of expert product identification tips is divided into the following categories:

Why Product Identification is Important

Supply chain abstract graphic

1. Improved supply chain inefficiencies. “An effective product identification allows improved supply chain efficiencies which means the right product reaches the right consumer at the right time. By labeling the products uniquely, they become easily differentiable, increasing the items’ supply chain visibility.” – What Is Product Identification?, MapleJet; Twitter: @maplejetco

2. Inefficient product identification systems can cause significant costs. “Accurate product identification is critical within the steel manufacturing and fabrication industry. Inefficient systems used for the identification, tracking and tracing of products can cause significant costs to businesses in downtime, overtime and wastage.” – 4 Steps For Accurate Product Identification, Steel Efficiency Review

3. Product identification generates high operational efficiencies. “With careful assessment of business requirements and with a proven approach, asset tracking solutions can be designed, built and operated successfully. These solutions fulfill complex needs of your business, operating in various sectors ranging from healthcare to manufacturing. The benefits of asset tracking solutions will be reflected in high operational efficiencies and low sunk costs in your business.” – Types of asset tracking technologies, Deloitte; Twitter: @deloittenl

4. Asset management can maximize the value of investments. “Fixed assets such as servers, transport trucks and elevators require a large capital investment. They may comprise a large portion of a company’s net worth. In some businesses, as much as 40 percent of investment goes to buying equipment and vehicles. The better and more effectively a company manages its assets, the greater the prospect of maximizing value from these investments.” – What is fixed asset management?, IBM; Twitter: @IBM

5. Tagging assets helps prepare for audits and regulatory needs. “Not only does asset tracking enable businesses to stay on top of regulatory requirements such as equipment testing, calibration, and maintenance, but when coupled with a comprehensive asset tracking software solution, such as maintenance management software, it can completely streamline your reporting requirements.” – Dee Sarma, 6 business benefits for SMBs that use asset tagging, Intuit QuickBooks; Twitter: @QuickBooks

6. Asset tagging can help improve the security of sensitive items. “For organizations dealing with IT devices, data security is often the primary consideration for the implementation of an asset tagging program. The theft, accidental loss, or mismanaged disposal of IT hardware creates opportunities for criminal elements to steal and make improper use of business-sensitive data. Asset tagging acts as a deterrent to this by creating a central inventory that can be tracked and controlled, no matter where in the world that piece of IT equipment might be.” – Matt Butterworth, The 4 best practices for tagging your IT assets, TES; Twitter: @TESglobalnews

7. Product identifiers improve quality control. “With everyone in your warehouse reading SKU codes, you decrease the number of problems that occur because of miscommunication, which is the main source of human error. Concise communication through the use of SKUs is just one more way to prevent things like mispicks and misships, and to make sure that orders go out correctly every time.” – Gabrielle Green, How To Create SKU Numbers for Your Inventory, SkuVault; Twitter: @skuvault

8. Effective product identification helps with employee onboarding. “You cannot assume that new employees have experience with the types of assets used in your organization. While over time technicians will be able to easily identify assets, it will be difficult for someone new to know the differences between them.” – What is an Asset Naming Convention (and Why Does it Matter)?, FTMaintenance; Twitter: @FTMaintenance

9. Product identification helps streamline maintenance activities. “Lastly, asset management allows you to develop an effective proactive maintenance strategy to keep your assets in good working condition. You also can track asset maintenance history to make informed maintenance decisions. You will be able to avoid problems associated with under- or over-maintenance.” – Asset Inventory Management: A Beginner’s Guide, MaintainX; Twitter: @maintainx

10. IUID is an important product identifier used in the defense industry. “Item Unique Item Identification (IUID) is a DoD strategic imperative. IUID is an asset identification system instituted by the United States Department of Defense (DoD) to uniquely identify assets. Items are distinguished from one another by the assignment of a unique item identifier (UII) in the form of a data string encoded in a 2-dimensional bar code and securely affixed to the asset.” – Item Unique Item Identification, AcqNotes

11. Product identification enables supply chain responsiveness and agility. “Furthermore, some researchers argue that supply chain visibility enables supply chain responsiveness and agility (IBM, 2007) as well as supply chain reconfigurability which means the ability to change supply chain partners (Wei and Wang, 2010). These correspond with tactical and strategic visibility concepts, respectively.” – The role of global data identification standards for supply chain visibility: the case of GS1, KTH; Twitter: @KTHuniversity

12. Product identifiers such as SKUs can speed up warehouse operations. “Speed up and improve accuracy in warehousing procedures. SKUs make it easier for the warehouse staff to quickly locate, track, and reference items and monitor inventory levels. SKUs can also help you ensure the correct items are delivered to customers, thereby increasing customer satisfaction and improving your perfect order KPI.” – HOW TO NAME YOUR SKUS (WITH EXAMPLES), Symbia Logistics; Twitter: @symbialogistics

13. Product identification and asset tracking lead to better inventory control. “Modern asset tracking software can give you better control over your assets and greater visibility into your operations. Experience shows that through improved management, companies purchase fewer new assets, recover lost rent, fix billing mistakes, reduce theft, avoid customer disputes, deploy assets more effectively, improve safety, win new business and retain existing customers.” – Tim Fusco, Top Five Asset Tracking Best Practices, Trackabout; Twitter: @trackabout

14. Product identifiers improve the efficiency of order picking. “Staff members can quickly and accurately find products with the help of an SKU number, effectively speeding up the order fulfillment process. By working efficiently and increasing order accuracy, businesses will be able to deliver products to their buyers, keep up with consumer demand, and achieve overall satisfaction.” – Hanh Truong, How to Use SKU Numbers – Complete Guide For Business Owners, ZIP Inventory

15. Harmonized System codes are important identifiers for exported products. “Among industry classification systems, Harmonized System (HS) Codes are commonly used throughout the export process for goods. The Harmonized System is a standardized numerical method of classifying traded products. It is used by customs authorities around the world to identify products when assessing duties and taxes and for gathering statistics.” – Understanding HS Codes and the Schedule B, International Trade Administration; Twitter: @TradeGov

16. Asset tracking helps bridge the physical-digital loop. “Asset tracking presents an opportunity to start digitizing your operations, by bridging the physical aspect of your assets with a digital dimension. The information you obtain from the real-time tracking of your assets can be leveraged to create a data-driven environment and connect asset tracking to asset intelligence.” – Helena Lisachuk and Rob Dickson, How can asset tracking bring value for you?, Deloitte; Twitter: @Deloitte

17. Product identifiers help in inventory identification and stock reconciliation. “Stock keeping units are highly important and commonly used by retail stores, warehouses, and product fulfillment centers. Stock keeping units have many key uses, such as the following:

Product Identification Design Tips

Fingerprint on a barcode label

18. Start with your asset tracking use case. “To circle back to the beginning of this guide, the asset tracking use case is key to determining which technology to use. You probably won’t need GPS transmitters on each box in a warehouse. Likewise, a barcode isn’t usually enough to track high-dollar mobile assets like trucks of perishable pharmaceuticals or bins of valuable tools.” – A Comprehensive Guide to Asset Tracking Technologies (2021), Wiser Systems; Twitter: @wiser_systems

19. Choosing tags is arguably the most critical part of the asset management process. “Tracking assets with the use of digitized tools have long been an essential process for asset-intensive businesses. But the ability to track assets is only possible when first beginning the asset tagging process. A key part of asset tagging is ensuring the right tags are chosen to collect data regarding a business’s physical assets. Keeping in mind that each tag is different and can collect different types of data.” – What Is Asset Tagging and Why It’s Essential for Asset-Intensive Businesses, Comparesoft; Twitter: @comparesoft

20. Make use of variable product information. “Variable information labels are also used for product labeling and cover information including the production date, expiration date, batch number, lot number, etc. This additional information could be presented in the form of text and numbers, barcodes, or both of these categories and can tell a great deal about a product to help maintain the product quality.” – What Is Product Identification?, MapleJet; Twitter: @maplejetco

21. Design authentic barcodes for labels. “Ultimately, while bringing a product to market may bring challenges, it is an exciting time where an entrepreneur’s hard work and passion can really start to pay off. Authentic barcodes are a must-have to support your business growth, prove you have a valid product, and ensure a faster speed to market.” – 3 Reasons You Need an Authentic Barcode, Verizon; Twitter: @vsmbe

22. Barcode formats must be compatible with scanning hardware. “If you want to use a bar code scanner to identify products, the product identifier must meet the requirements of the bar code standard that is used. Therefore, bar codes don’t typically contain the raw product number but a number that is generated specifically for the selected bar code technology. You can maintain multiple bar codes by bar code type. You can even associate the same bar code with multiple products and then select the actual active association when you scan a bar code.” – Product identifiers, Microsoft; Twitter: @Microsoft

23. Barcode technologies provide a good balance of cost and simplicity. “Providing unique identification—while not necessarily giving timing or location data—barcodes are affordable, reliable, and massively scalable. Given their widespread use in numerous industries, barcode systems also have a big advantage when it comes to technology recognition and trust. With the simple code-and-scan configuration, barcodes have found essentially global traction in retail, manufacturing, warehousing, logistics, public transportation, and just about every other industry.” – A Comprehensive Guide to Asset Tracking Technologies (2021), Wiser Systems; Twitter: @wiser_systems

24. Data constructs are a critical part of UII product identifiers. “Remember that we used data qualifiers to name data elements. These data qualifiers have to define each data element placed on the item. Specific data qualifiers are used to tell the imaging devices whether to read the UII by using Construct #1, Construct #2, an already concatenated UII format, or an IUID equivalent. Table 1 shows the different data qualifiers for each of the data elements that are used for determining uniqueness.” – Tips on Encoding the Unique Item Identifier (UII) Mark and Building the Concatenated UII, U.S. DoD; Twitter: @DeptofDefense

Product Identification Numbering Tips

Connected laptop, global map, and interface graphic

25. Use a unique identifier instead of an asset serial number. “It’s tempting to double an asset’s serial number as its tracking number. After all, it’s already assigned, so it would reduce opportunities for confusion when communicating with the asset’s manufacturer or a specialized repair crew. However, working with a unique asset tracking number is worth the time and carries a number of benefits.” – 10 Asset Tracking Tips to Help You Control Your Assets, GoCodes; Twitter: @gokodes

26. Global UPI formats each have specific purposes. “There are different types of unique product identifiers, each serving a particular purpose appointed to various areas. Between the most recognizable ones belong GTIN (such as JAN, EAN, ISBN), Brand and MPN because they are all used globally.” – Silvia Sýkorová, What are Unique Product Identifiers and what is their purpose?, Blue Winston

27. Avoid using zeros in number chains. “Another thing to remember is each tag should include a number chain that’s unique enough to not be confused with another. Numbers should refrain from using zeros as this can cause software glitches. Number chains should be alphanumeric or be assigned with a specific identifier. For example, if you’re tagging laptops, the number could be ‘LAP12345’. For human-readable tags make sure that you use suitable fonts, such as ‘serif’ to enable easier differentiation between commonly confused characters, such as ‘1’ & ‘I’.” – Matt Butterworth, The 4 best practices for tagging your IT assets, TES; Twitter: @TESglobalnews

28. Be careful when choosing a numbering font. “Watch out with certain fonts — Some fonts can be confusing, so be sure you choose a typeface that distinguishes between 0 (zero) and O (letter o), as well as l (lowercase L) and I (uppercase i).” – Magali De Reu, Your Definitive Guide to Asset Labeling, Cheqroom; Twitter: @cheqroom

29. Define clear logic for your product numbering convention. “Good asset naming conventions should also have a certain level of logic so that everyone who works with the CMMS can easily find what they’re looking for. For example, adding a location component to a mobile asset makes no sense if the asset needs to be renamed every time it moves.” – Jeffrey O’Brien, How to set up a fixed asset numbering system for better maintenance, Fiix; Twitter: @fiixsoftware

30. Use abbreviations within your product identifiers. “I have seen a few methods and learned a couple of tricks, especially if you are establishing an ID number. Many people I’ve seen will use a series of abbreviations to help look at a list and search for it.  The abbreviations often include the site/campus, type of asset and the number.  Occasionally, someone may include the trade.” – Do You Have an Identification System or Approach for Numbering Equipment?, Dude Solutions; Twitter: @dudesolutions

31. Select an intelligent numbering system. “Second, intelligent numbers aid maintenance work because they help identify involved equipment and facilitate filing or computer classification. For example, an equipment number that begins with B for all boiler equipment would allow all boiler files to be kept together.” – Richard D. Palmer, Maintenance Planning and Scheduling Handbook, Third Edition, 3rd ed., McGraw Hill; Twitter: @MHEngineering

32. Be consistent with numbering terminology. “Terminology, abbreviations, and numbering schemes should not vary. For example, all chillers could be abbreviated as “CHLR”. All numbering should use the same number of digits. For example, the first record created under a number scheme that uses three digits will be ‘001’ instead of ‘1’ or ’01.'” – How to Create Your Own Asset Naming Convention, FTMaintenance; Twitter: @FTMaintenance

33. Finish with a sequential number. “The last two to three characters of your SKU number should be a sequential number. This is basically assigning a number to each SKU to ensure it is unique and so you can identify newer inventory versus older inventory in your product line.” – Matthew Speiser, SKU Numbers: What Are They and How to Set Them Up, Fundera; Twitter: @fundera

34. Use the initial characters to define product category. “Ensure that the first characters of the name refer to the categories you want grouped together because by default, your CMMS may sort records by the name. For example, all air handling units may begin with AHU followed by a number: AHU-001; a chiller may be CHLR-001. In the number portion, leave enough room for future expansion.” – Establish a Clear Asset-Naming Convention for Your CMMS System, DPSI; Twitter: @dpsiCMMS

35. GTIN numbering systems can be used to differentiate between product bundles. “The GTIN can be utilized to distinguish sorts of items at any bundling. Gatherings of exchange things with comparable generation what’s more, use qualities, for example, generation groups can be further related to the assistance of the group/parcel number, expiry date, and comparable information components. Individual exchange things can be extraordinarily recognized utilizing a GTIN in addition to serial number.” – Product ID Meaning & Definition, MBA Skool; Twitter: @mbaskool

36. Choose a numbering system based upon the needs of key stakeholders. “Organizations that create their own asset naming convention should decide what components work best for their stakeholders. For example, organizations that do fleet maintenance may embed manufacturer – but not location information – into the asset name, as vehicles are constantly on the move. Facilities management organizations may use location information, such as an address, as a part of the asset name.” – How to Create Your Own Asset Naming Convention, FTMaintenance; Twitter: @FTMaintenance

37. Remember that numbering systems are very difficult to change after implemented. “Because equipment location numbers are essential in these critical documents, once established they are very difficult to change and for this reason, the numbering system should be carefully designed. However, unless are you are at the preliminary stage of design for a new plant, you probably have an existing numbering system and nothing in this article suggests that you should change that.” – Asset identification and numbering, Veleda Services

38. Item number should be tied to a specific legal entity. “The item number is the product identifier that is used by a specific legal entity. Ideally, the item number should be identical to the product number. If the nomenclature differs per legal entity, it becomes difficult to follow a product throughout the supply chain, and burdensome relabeling and referencing processes are introduced. ” – Product identifiers, Microsoft; Twitter: @Microsoft

39. Create an inventory number template. “Decide how many characters you want to use for your inventory number. Most inventory numbers are a combination of letters and numbers and are between four and eight characters long. Avoid using the letters I and O, since they are easy to confuse with the numbers one and zero. Use letters at the beginning of your number to help identify the inventory part.” – Karen Rogers, How to Number Inventory, Chron; Twitter: @chron

40. Avoid characters that might confuse software or people. “Do not use characters that might confuse people or software. For example, using a comma in your inventory item number might make it look like a quantity or price. Using a ‘/’ can result in Excel formatting your part number as a date.” – Designing Good Item Numbers For Products In Inventory, Clearly Inventory; Twitter: @ClearInventory

41. Sequential inventory numbers make it very easy to locate items. “An effective inventory system is one that assigns a unique inventory number to each item in your product catalog. With unique inventory numbers that are sequential, you’ll be able to tell at a glance how much is in your inventory.” – Stephanie Ellen, How to Develop a Numbering System for Inventory, Twitter: @BizFluent

42. Make use of an internal numbering system if you have one. “Making use of an existing internal naming convention can be beneficial, as it allows for better cross-department communication about maintenance assets. Look to see how your organization’s accounting department names assets and consider if it will work for you. If you are unsatisfied with their naming system, you should still track the number in your CMMS.” – 3 Asset Naming Convention Designs to Consider, FTMaintenance; Twitter: @FTMaintenance

43. Consider 3rd-party needs before finalizing a numbering system. “Will part numbers be handed off to suppliers or contract manufacturers, or perhaps across different business systems? If so, does that other business system have data type and size restrictions? It is a good idea to consider the needs and requirements of members outside your immediate organization.” – Part numbering system: How to get started, Arena; Twitter: @arenasolutions

44. Select between and intelligent and non-intelligent numbering system. “Also known as significant numbering, an intelligent part numbering scheme contains descriptive information about each part in the part numbers. Intelligent part numbers are typically alphanumeric and allow users to create categories for different product lines and subcategories for easier search and organization.” – Kathryn Kosmides, The Simple Guide to Product Numbering, Propel; Twitter: @propelPLM

45. A hierarchical numbering system could be very useful. “A hierarchical code gives some relationship to the type of asset and its part in the hierarchy of the system in which it is involved (e.g. manhole on a sewer system, a pump in a treatment system versus the building in which it operates). By thinking in hierarchical terms, we can develop the system such that the workforce and maintenance activities are easily related into the file number system.” – Develop asset identification numbering/naming convention, Water Research Foundation; Twitter: @WaterResearch

46. ID keys help enable global supply chains. “GS1 ID Keys give companies efficient ways to access information about items in their supply chains, and share this information with trading partners. ID Keys enable organisations to assign standard identifiers to products, documents, physical locations and more. Because GS1 ID keys are globally unique, they can be shared between organisations, increasing supply chain visibility for trading partners.” – GS1 identification keys, GS1; Twitter: @gs1

47. Don’t create overly complex product identifiers. “Finally, while you do want to infuse your SKUs with meaning, you don’t want to overload them. For instance — you don’t want to end up creating a 32 digit SKU because you wanted to get every last piece of detail you could into the number. It’s better to forsake some detail in the name of ease of memorability and fitting the number on your tags.” – Francesca Nicasio, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About SKU Numbers, Vend; Twitter: @vendhq

48. Consider using incremental asset IDs. “Incrementing asset IDs by one number whenever a new asset is put in service. This is by far the simplest way to assign asset IDs, provided that one person or system is assigning all of the asset IDs. The Dynamic Value Table in the Water Editing Toolbar that is part of the Water Editing Template is a simple way to have ArcGIS increment your asset IDs.” – Howard Crothers, Methods to Create Unique Asset IDs, Esri; Twitter: @Esri

49. Avoid including letters that may be confusing. “Because SKU numbers are alphanumeric, it can be tempting to take advantage of all of the letters of the alphabet. That said, you should avoid using letters that look like numbers to avoid confusion. For example, the letter ‘O’ may be easily confused with a zero and a capital ‘I’ looks a lot like a one.” – Meaghan Brophy, SKU Numbers for Small Business: The Ultimate Guide, Fit Small Business; Twitter: @FitSmallBiz

50. Link maintenance records to product identification numbers. “The inventory listing should have ‘inventory code numbers’, so that the record for each individual machine can be identified. The HTM Service then labels each separate piece of equipment with its inventory code number, to identify it among many similar items. Any maintenance record system should be linked to the inventory code numbers.” – Healthcare technology management, Open University; Twitter: @oufreelearning

51. Non-significant product numbering prevents a single point of failure. “To rely on a single person who knows the part numbering system in great detail might mean you sometimes have to wait to assign a part number. With non-significant part numbering, you can easily have multiple people pull part numbers. Your company can continue to run efficiently even if one of them is out sick or leaves the company.” – What is the Right Part Numbering Scheme for you? Intelligent vs. Non-Intelligent, Arena; Twitter: @arenasolutions

Product Identification Techniques

World map on a barcode label

52. Establish clear responsibilities for employees. “If an employee is going to use a company asset, make sure he or she can’t take it without officially checking it out in his or her name. Establish consequences for failing to officially check in the asset when done with it, and emphasize the importance of pointing out any problems with the asset as soon as they are noticed.” – Jennifer VanBaren, What are the Best Tips for Fixed Asset Tracking?, SmartCapitalMind

53. Automated identification techniques can have a dramatic impact on efficiency. “Automated Identification (Auto ID) applications can provide corporate information systems with the identity of each physical item in the supply chain in an automated and timely manner. The real time availability of item identity allows other information, related to the item, to be drawn on in order to assess both the current state of the product and future actions required. In the context of supply chain operations, widespread introduction of such systems represents a major opportunity to overhaul and improve tracking and tracing systems, process control and inventory management.” – The Impact of Automatic Identification on Supply Chain Operations, The International Journal of Logistics Management 

54. Consider mobility when choosing tracking technologies. “Asset mobility signifies the extent of movement of your assets that need to be tracked. If the movement is restricted to a certain premise like a facility, a building, or a room, then short-range asset tracking technologies are the right fit. If your assets are moved across different locations, then long/wide range asset tracking solutions like GPS serve the purpose.” – Types of asset tracking technologies, Deloitte; Twitter: @deloittenl

55. Create product names that are brief, consistent and logical. “Names should be brief, logical, consistent, and unique. By brief, we mean keep it simple. Avoid abbreviations and acronyms that do not make sense to everyone. Create a logical structure so that employees can identify an asset by its asset label.” – What’s in a Name? CMMS Asset Naming Conventions, MaintainX; Twitter: @maintainx

56. Near field communication can be used for short-distance asset scanning. “NFC and RFID are quite similar to each other. In order to keep track of your inventory and asset, you do not any specific scanning equipment. You can use your smartphone for asset tracking. However, it has only a few inches of range. Therefore, you cannot use it from a distance, you have to stay close to the asset or inventory. NFC processes in no time making it very quick and efficient. You don’t have to focus it to scan just take it close and read automatically.” – 7 Most Common Methods Used for Asset Tracking, AssetInfinity; Twitter: @assetinfinity 

57. A combination of barcode and RFID tags may be best. “Bar coding also allows for a more controlled inventory. Tags can be tracked and assets visually confirmed as well as being captured within the inventory. RFID asset tags are becoming more standard in the datacentre and server environment, and also with other assets that organisations don’t want to leave the premises. Overall, having an RFID and Barcoded asset tagging solution will bring greater management and security to hardware assets.” – David Foxen, Quick guide to Hardware Asset Tagging, The ITAM Review; Twitter: @itamreview

58. Pay close attention to the details. “This process isn’t a sprint, but it isn’t a marathon either. You want to move quickly to get your asset tracking started as soon as possible, but you also need to make sure your staff are properly inputting all data. I guess you could say this step is most comparable to a math test: work as quickly as possible, but go back and check your work.” – Sarah Laubach, 7 Asset Tracking Best Practices, FMX; Twitter:@fmxexpress

59. Create a clear strategy for labeling assets. “When it comes to labeling your assets, you must devise a strategy on how your team is going to go about it. Since asset tagging is a beginner’s step towards achieving higher security and efficiency, you should first shortlist the items you want to label wisely. The IT and internal audit departments can provide valuable feedback about which equipment should be hard coded with identification numbers.” – Asset Tagging Best Practices: A Guide to Labeling Business Assets, EZOfficeInventory; Twitter: @OfficeInventory

60. Not all product information needs to be stored on the product itself. “Thus product information has to be managed during a product’s whole lifecycle: from design, manufacturing, maintenance to disposal or recycling. In most applications it is not possible, not desirable or not necessary to store all the product information along with the product itself. Typical reasons are: The amount of data is too large for the available storage or representation capacity. Not all of the product information should be accessible openly or has to be hidden due to legal restrictions. Only a very small portion of the product data is necessary.” – Diethelm Bienhaus, Patterns for Unique Product Identification, Semantic Scholar; Twitter: @SemanticScholar

61. A periodic inventory management system may be helpful. “Instead of tracking inventory on a daily basis, a periodic inventory system tracks inventory at the end of an accounting period. This can be on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. The system does not require inventory management software. Instead, all inventory is counted physically by hand and manually recorded in journal entries.” – Rhiân Davies, 4 Types of Inventory Management Systems for Small Businesses, The Blueprint; Twitter: @themotleyfool

62. Understand product characteristics before assigning identifiers. “Before attempting to classify your product, you must have its complete description and know the product’s function, composition and characteristics. This includes having documentation that describes its:

63. Choose a clear way to categorize assets. “There’s more than one way to categorise assets. You can sort them according to their department (i.e., assets in the finance department, R&D department), role (i.e., HVAC, electrical system, alarms), or usage (i.e., furniture, IT, audio-visual equipment), depending on what’s more convenient.” – A Step By Step Guide to Asset Tagging, Infraspeak; Twitter: @infraspeak

64. Prepare for Industry 4.0 capabilities. “Industry 4.0 will require every component to be individually identifiable and located wherever it happens to reside within the supply chain. Information regarding origin, storage, state and location of materials, components and products must be instantly retrievable. As well as providing the history or current status of a part, such comprehensive tracking of parts and components could be an aid to operational analysis, suggesting alternative and more efficient production paths.” – Michael Tyrrell, Product identification 4.0, Aerospace Manufacturing; Twitter: @AerospaceTweets

65. Assets valued at over $5000 should be formally tracked. “Your facility team is responsible for the assets inside and on your facility’s property. You should have a formal inventory of maintainable or replaceable assets — those that need upkeep and those that need to be regularly changed. Tracked assets in your formal inventory should include anything that must be maintained once per year, anything that costs more than $5000, and anything that would cause extreme duress if it were to fail.” – THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO FACILITY ASSET MANAGEMENT, AkitaBox; Twitter: @Akitabox

66. Equipment maintenance activities should be closely identified and monitored. “Part of the management of equipment-related activities is the identification of problems and needs. All equipment-related activities should be monitored and evaluated, and the performance of equipment, staff, and departments should be supervised” – Healthcare technology management, Open University; Twitter: @oufreelearning

67. Define the asset type for each product. “It is up to the company to determine which type is best for their needs. It is important to determine which items should be identified and which should not. In a company, this often comes down to two types of assets:

  • Strategic assets: These are assets that do not necessarily have a high monetary value, but which, if they are out of stock, can harm the company’s activities.
  • Value assets: These are assets that you want to track because they have a high monetary value.” – Guide to Asset Tagging 101, Hector; Twitter: @hectorasset

68. Familiarize yourself with common product identifiers. “Product identifiers are a series of numerical or alphanumerical digits that are used to identify a specific product. Ultimately, they are the key to helping customers locate products online, and commonly include Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs), Manufacturer Part Numbers (MPNs) and brand names.” – What Are Product Identifiers & GTINs?, Linnworks; Twitter: @Linnworksglobal

69. Combine multiple product identification techniques. “Among other things, it relies on methods for non-destructive testing to determine unique features from inside the component. These features are not destroyed or concealed by subsequent processing steps and can be used for permanent identification as well as for protection against product plagiarism. The various technologies are supplemented and linked with regard to data processing with machine learning methods.” – Unique product identification in production and logistics processes, International Surface Technology

70. Limit data collection when performing an initial inventory. “One of the most important things when collecting data within facilities is knowing what information you’re looking for and how much of it to collect. Making a plan before information collection process will keep you from wasting time gathering data you don’t need.” – Ultimate Preventative Maintenance Checklist, AkitaBox; Twitter: @akitabox

71. Automated identification technologies are becoming more mainstream. “Automatic identification (AI) is a new type of communication, which uses passive components through the logistics chain for marking, transmission and automatically identifying information with these related elements. Product identification in manufacturing firms is helping to specify what material is a composite product, who the supplier or other properties of the product. Identification of the product also prevents the possible confusion. ” – Armila Koudelkova & Richard Pospisil, Introducing Identification Technology in Manufacturing Companies and Their Impact on Business Economics, IDEAS

72. Procedures are just as important as software and people. “The challenge of assigning a unique code to all the items stocked in a warehouse existed even before the era of computerized maintenance management systems (CMMSs) and enterprise resource planning (ERP). But despite investing heavily in ERP, a significant percentage of companies reportedly continue to have inefficient codification systems, and consequent inventory problems. In short, it is the systems, procedures and people, not the software tools, that make the difference.” – Kumar Iyer, The secret to getting your inventory under control, Chemical Engineering Journal; Twitter: @Chem_Eng_J

73. Limit area and equipment identifier character length. “What is important is that all assets are defined using the same convention. This means that they must also have the same number of characters. Clearly, you will have to define your own naming conventions but this is a simple task. You will be surprised how easy it is to reduce the identifiers for your areas and equipment to two and four letters respectively.” – Bryan D Weir, CMMS Naming Convention and Data Configuration Simplified, Downtime Central

74. Choose product identifier type that works best for your operation. “There are several different types of information that may be used to identify assets: literal identifiers, relationship identifiers, synthetic identifiers, and extension identifiers. These four identifier types are differentiated only because they are represented differently in the data model. No identifier type is intrinsically more or less valuable for performing asset identification than any other identifier type.” – Specification for Asset Identification 1.1, NIST; Twitter: @NIST

75. Asset ID tags can be a good alternative to barcodes and RFID tags. “Asset ID tags exist to fill the space between the more pedestrian barcode option and the more advanced tool tracking capabilities of equipment trackers and smart tools… They use a 2D matrix code rather than a traditional barcode, which scans more easily and accurately. These codes are exceedingly easy to scan and can be picked up by any smartphone with a camera. On the job, this ‘scanability’ will come in handy—no more having to wrestle with a barcode reader and hold it just right in order to get it to scan.” – Dean Gagliano, Guide to Tool Tracking: Why the Construction Industry Is Embracing Inventory Asset Tagging, One Key; Twitter: @MilwaukeeTool

76. Emerging technologies can revolutionize existing practices. “Revolutionizing logistics and supply chain management in smart manufacturing is one of the main goals of the Industry 4.0 movement. Emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles, Cyber-Physical Systems and digital twins enable highly automated and optimized solutions in these fields to achieve full traceability of individual products. Tracking various assets within shop-floors and the warehouse is a focal point of asset management; its aim is to enhance the efficiency of logistical tasks.” – Reliable Identification Schemes for Asset and Production Tracking in Industry 4.0, Sensors; Twitter: @Sensors_MDPI

77. Pair location-tracking technologies with asset management methodologies. “No doubt about it, there are multiple dimensions to asset management and maybe even more factors to consider when using asset tracking software. In the end though, you will want a solution that effectively pairs the right level of asset identification with location tracking technology.” – Georgiana Strait, Two Keys to Asset Management Software: Asset Identification & Location Tracking Technology, Link Labs; Twitter: @LinkLabsInc

78. Simply the asset allotment process. “You can define an expiry date to the assets while being allotted to different persons. You will get reminders for returning the assets. The asset tracking management software allows you to return single or multiple assets from users of different departments. You can add information – type, name, utility, condition, status, additional files or any other information.” – What Is the Importance of Unique Asset Code in Asset Tracking?, AssetInfinity; Twitter: @assetinfinity

79. An asset report can be periodically shared to improve product identification. “How will you track systems when they arrive at your business? With asset reporting you can easily integrate new assets into your existing asset management systems. An asset report can be emailed daily, weekly or monthly, and serves as a useful tracking tool for identifying all PCs shipped in the previous timeframe.” – Dell Asset Tagging and Reporting Services, Dell Technologies; Twitter: @delltech 

80. Tag all products when first received. “To make it really works, the tag should be physically placed on the asset at the time it is received. Some one individual, or department, has to be tasked with this responsibility. It is totally unrealistic to expect someone in the accounting department to run down to the receiving dock every time you receive an item classified as having to be capitalized.” – Lie Dharma Putra, Fixed Assets Tagging for Better Physical Control, Accounting Financial & Tax

The Role of Product Identification in Traceability

Airplane with target points on a map displayed on a smartphone screen, traceability concept

81. Barcodes enable product tracking and inventory management. “Product identification plays an essential role in improving the traceability of the products as they move along the supply chain, i.e., from raw materials to the finished goods delivered to consumers. Barcodes and data code labels allow the products to be tracked and recorded in inventory, which can prove helpful to identify the source of a problem in case an issue arises.” – What Is Product Identification?, MapleJet; Twitter: @maplejetco

82. Identification is a critical component of asset lifecycle management. “Life cycle management of assets means monitoring the assets throughout their existence in the business organization. It means making a log of all the activities of fixed assets from the date of acquisition through the date of disposal. In a nutshell, it means preserving the history of fixed assets. The documentation process creates a robust audit trail that helps to meet compliance norms and detect and correct significant errors and omissions before they impact the organization’s financials.” – 6 Tips Help You To Manage Your Company’s Fixed Assets Effectively, Wiki Accounting

83. Product traceability enables continuous improvement practices. “A continuous improvement system is essentially a form of lean manufacturing. However, the biggest difference is that with continuous, you and your team members will take responsibility for identifying inefficiencies on the shop floor, developing plans, and implementing improvements. Product traceability systems will be a crucial tool for helping you gather real-time and accurate data on your manufacturing, so you can perform regular audits on your operations to make sure your production is always running smoothly.” – What is traceability and how to implement in manufacturing?, Katana; Twitter: @Katana_MRP

84. Create a quality and verification process. “The last step of asset tagging is implementing internal processes to tag future equipment. Determine who will make new tags, if necessary; train your team not to move assets without registering them first; avoid unauthorised changes and integrate the IDs across all of your organisation’s softwares, including the maintenance management software.” – A Step By Step Guide to Asset Tagging, Infraspeak; Twitter: @infraspeak

85. GS1 product identifiers help track company information. “Your GS1 Company Prefix is the globally unique number issued to your company by GS1 US® or another GS1 Member Organization. GS1 Company Prefixes are assigned to companies in varying lengths. Some GS1 US members may have a prefix certificate that shows only a U.P.C. Company Prefix (formerly a UCC Company Prefix).” – An Introduction to the Global Individual Asset Identifier (GIAI), GS1; Twitter: @gs1

86. Product identifiers strengthen supply chain traceability. “Product identification numbers can be essential for protecting both consumers and brands when a product is recalled, or when a company is experiencing fake products entering the market. They allow a marketplace or retailer to very quickly identify the stock of any product. These numbers also come into play in the supply chain. At any stage of the supply chain, a company or supplier can discover where product is located, thus enhancing visibility.” – Dayana Mayfield, Guide to product identification numbers for e–commerce companies, ShippyPro; Twitter: @shippypro_

87. Product manufacturers should always clearly display contact information. “Display the address where the manufacturer can be contacted. It is also allowed to display the address of an authorised representative of the customer’s services, as long as it is clear that there is a single contact point, in particular for market surveillance authorities. Note that the address of a website is not considered as address information.” – Product traceability and identification, ProductIPedia; Twitter: @productipedia

88. Traceability and product identification are both linked to global supply chain practices. “With increasing globalization, organizations are now having to maintain global supply, manufacturing and distribution chains. Over those thousands of miles, there’s a lot that can go wrong. Traceability helps ensure the risk of disaster is kept to a minimum and provides the tools required to quickly nip problems in the bud when they occur.” – Sandy Abraham, What is Traceability in Production & Why is it Important?, FORCAM; Twitter: @FORCAM_global

89. Build a complete asset report for each item. “An effective traceability and identification system generates complete reports on every item from start to finish. Warehouses implement this system in batches of pallets by maintaining documentation at every step of manufacture. The company may choose to use barcodes and batch codes as well.” – What is Product Identification and Traceability?, Algopix; Twitter: @Algopix

90. Product identifiers help reduce the costs associated with recalls. “Products must be traceable to manage quality issues and improve product quality. Thanks to traceability programs, manufacturers in the automotive, primary metals, aerospace, and other manufacturing industries can minimize the costs of product recalls, fight product counterfeiting, monitor production processes for quality control, and optimize those processes for quality assurance.” – Part & Product Traceability in Manufacturing Supply Chains, Laserax; Twitter: @laserax_inc

91. Consider the fundamental features of traceability systems. “Commonalities between traceability systems in both design and implementation were found when looking at a fundamental level, but largely varied at a detailed level. Product traceability systems tend to be interwoven into many layers of a manufacturing execution system, both at a physical and digital level, making implementation a complicated task.” – Reuben Schuitemaker & Xun Xu, Product traceability in manufacturing: A technical review, ScienceDirect; Twitter: @sciencedirect

92. Conduct traceability exercises to verify product tracking systems. “Your company should periodically verify that the tracking systems being used are effective by conducting traceability exercises, both forward (finished product from production to shipping to the first point of shipment) and backward (finished product back to all raw materials used in the production). Failure to identify and trace 100% of the raw materials used and finished product produced is an indication that additional strengthening of your Traceability Program is needed.” – Robin Armsbary, Raw Material/Product Traceability, QA Magazine; Twitter: @qamagazine

93. Product traceability methods should take customer requirements into consideration. “The method and level of control is determined by your customer’s requirements and what is needed to support your organization’s processes. If you are unable to identify a part or its status during production without a route sheet, then having a route sheet is required for your organization. In the same way, if your customer requires lot tracking, then you need to have a lot control process and records for lot traceability.” – Identification and Traceability, 9000Store

94. Clearly define traceability practices for product batches. “Unique identifcation and traceability in any system hinges on the definition of what is the batch size or, using the terminology developed by Kim et al. [1], the traceable resource unit (TRU). For batch processes, a TRU is an unique unit, meaning that no other unit can have exactly the same, or comparable, characteristics from the point of view of traceability [1].” – T. Moe, Perspectives on traceability in food manufacture, Trends in Food Science & Technology

95. Product identifiers make it easier to track lent assets. “Asset tagging also helps connect devices with individuals. When a device is missing at the end of the year or the end of a semester, district IT leaders can work with administrators in individual schools to identify the student or staff member who did not return the device. This can help them track down and locate missing tech more easily.” – Rebecca Torchia, How Can Asset Tagging Save a K–12 School Money?, EdTech Magazine; Twitter: @EdTech_K12

96. Traceability should include the entire flow of product objects. “Keep track of the flow of objects from the acceptance of raw materials and parts to the shipment of products, and consider questions such as ‘are materials and parts controlled individually or by lots?’ ‘how is the information assigned, read and managed?’ ‘what information is necessary and what information should be acquired in preceding and subsequent processes?’ and ‘how can we change the processes to ensure traceability effectively?'” – Building a System that can Clarify and Identify the Flow of Objects, Keyence; Twitter: @KeyenceUSA

97. Product traceability is important for both perishable and non-perishable goods. “You might think that you don’t need product traceability since you don’t sell perishable goods. However, product traceability systems will help you improve production efficiency and product quality control, as you’ll have real-time visibility to understand where your production is causing problems, such as bottlenecks in production.” – What is traceability and how to implement in manufacturing?, Katana; Twitter: @Katana_MRP

98. Product identification pertains to internal and external traceability. “Internal traceability includes all aspects of tracking and tracing production efforts within a single facility or organization. External traceability covers the ability to identify where a product has been (and what has been done to it) before entering a facility or where it goes after leaving the facility.” – Sandy Abraham, What is Traceability in Production & Why is it Important?, FORCAM; Twitter: @FORCAM_global

99. Don’t overlook product rework as it pertains to traceability. “In addition to the initial raw materials, any rework generated needs to be documented. The rework information needs to identify the product as well as the production date/shift. This will allow the plant to identify the date the rework was initially manufactured. When the rework is used, its addition (quantity added, date, and time of addition) should be documented. During a traceability exercise, don’t forget to track the subsequent use of rework.” – Robin Armsbary, Raw Material/Product Traceability, QA Magazine; Twitter: @qamagazine

100. Product information is a critical component of traceability systems. “For that purpose, a traceability system identifies objects by using a representation format such as serial numbers or lot numbers, as well as the transfer medium such as labels and RF tags. When all people related to the supply chain, including consumers, can recognize the status of the product and objects and information has been linked, tracing forward/back can be done easily.” – Traceability Laws and Regulations Vital for Every Industry, Keyence; Twitter: @KeyenceUSA

101. Traceability applies to the entire product supply chain. “Based on the customer/regulatory requirement, traceability can be implemented to all the suppliers/job work / Outsource process. Example: As per clause of Product safety, Traceability is a requirement for the entire supply chain. For sheet metal component, traceability is applicable from the raw material supplier in the form of Heat Number which continues till the final product although traceability code changes.” – Bhavya Mangla, Identification and Traceability, LinkedIn; Twitter: @LinkedIn

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