What is Traceability?

Last Updated: August 3, 2022

Regardless of your organization’s business model, products, or customers, you need to manage your assets at every turn. Inventory accuracy, safety, and quality are all necessary to run your business efficiently — but how can you keep track of everything when your business has so many moving parts?

As you add more products, tools, and equipment to your business, you need a smarter way to track and account for the physical goods you own. If you’ve ever had equipment “magically” disappear, you know how these costs can add up quickly.

Item traceability fixes this problem by adding a layer of transparency to every facet of your business. Learn how traceability works and how beneficial it is for growing your business.

Tracking Inventory

What is Traceability? 

Traceability is the practice of tracking physical goods in an organization. This includes the moment you receive an item, every time you use it, and when you finally dispose of it.

With better traceability, businesses are able to identify and trace products in their supply chain. That might require using different processes, tools, and software to keep tabs on everything you own. Durable barcodes and tags are the foundation of traceability, providing a simple identification method for assets that can be used to monitor their movement throughout an organization or through the supply chain. When choosing labels and tags, consider the environmental conditions your assets or equipment are exposed to and choose durable label materials that can withstand harsh conditions while remaining readable throughout the lifespan of your assets. Metalphoto® labels and tags, for instance,  have an expected exterior lifespan of 20+ years, even in harsh conditions.

Traceability is important for customer-facing assets, like B2C products or food processing equipment. But it’s also important for manufacturers who need to keep a tight rein on assets like machines, boilers, and pipes.

Depending on your business model, you can use traceability to get greater visibility into:

  • Raw materials
  • Parts
  • Finished products
  • Vehicles
  • Tablets and electronics
  • Machinery
  • Tools

You can gather much more data on your assets with traceability, too. With scanning solutions and software, you’ll be able to track data on:

  • Suppliers
  • Lot numbers
  • Maintenance and inspection notes
  • Product authenticity
  • Asset locations
  • Shipping and logistics

Traditionally, businesses filed paper forms to maintain item traceability, but with so much room for error, losses and failures are inevitable.

You need to digitize to get the most out of your traceability practices. A powerful combination of QR labels, barcode scanning, and software solutions make it easier than ever to automatically track your assets — whether they’re in the warehouse, in the field, or with your customers.

The Benefits of Traceability

But why does traceability matter? Businesses are free to operate without traceability processes, but it has so many benefits that will make your business more competitive in this cutthroat environment.

1. Better Manage Product Recalls

If there’s a recall on a specific model, ingredient, or product you have or sell, it can be a nightmare to determine what’s actually recalled. But with traceability, it’s easier to comply with these recalls because you know which items to pull — as well as where they’re located — for faster resolution.

2. Increase Accuracy

Does your business suffer from inaccurate inventory counts? While you might not be able to remove all errors from your business, traceability makes it easier to avoid input errors that are common with manual processes.

With traceability, you can keep up with maintenance information, logging it accurately every time. The right practices and technology will ensure that what’s happening in real life matches what your traceability systems say, too.

3. Reduce Asset Loss

It’s easy for things like laptops and field equipment to go missing, especially in a larger organization. Asset loss costs businesses millions of dollars every year, but with traceability, you add a layer of accountability that makes it much harder for assets to disappear. This won’t stop all asset loss, but it will make a tremendous dent in your current loss figures.

4. Increase Asset Lifespan

If you’re using traceability to keep tabs on vehicles or machinery, it can actually increase the lifespan of the equipment. Traceability makes it a cinch for techs to locate the correct assets and do the right maintenance for the machine at the right time. If you’re keeping up with the recommended service schedule, this allows you to get more mileage out of your assets over time, saving thousands of dollars in the long run.

5. Stay Compliant

Depending on your industry, you might be required to prove traceability for compliance reasons. This is common for defense contractors, as well as aviation and manufacturing companies.

With traceability, it’s much easier to hand data over to regulators. Have everything prepared for auditors in a neat little package instead of scrambling when it’s time for your audit.

Ensure Traceability with Smarter Tagging Solutions

Traceability can feel like an insurmountable challenge, but with the right processes and technology on your side, it’s simple to implement at scale. Proper traceability starts with asset tagging solutions from MPC. Get a free sample of our durable asset tags to see how you can remove human error from the equation.

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