How to Improve Traceability in the Supply Chain

How to Improve Traceability in the Supply Chain

In 2017, the Food Standards Agency discovered that more than 700,000 contaminated eggs from Dutch and Belgian farms were distributed to the United Kingdom. The final destination of each egg was unclear, so thousands of salads, sandwiches and other meals containing egg were recalled from supermarkets.

However, it's not just the food industry that is affected by product recalls. Recalls can be expensive and damaging to many industries, causing producers to appear less reliable. Manufacturers can help to control a product's origin, status and location while meeting industry standards by automating their tracking and tracing processes. Automated technology not only can enhance visibility in the supply chain but also optimize production with the aim of preventing recalls.

In addition to meeting regulations, organizations can improve customer satisfaction and create a cost-efficient supply chain by investing in technology. Through increased tracking and tracing, plants can achieve just-in-time (JIT) delivery as well as lean manufacturing. Both of these processes promote a zero-waste factory, preventing defective products from leaving the facility and decreasing overall waste.

Tracking or Tracing

Tracking and tracing are two different, yet important, processes. Tracking monitors the movement of a product through each stage of the manufacturing process. It mainly involves monitoring the location of a product, where it has been and the length of time taken to manufacture it.

Tracing, on the other hand, shows the authentication of the manufacturing process, identifying product origin and condition. Traceability is required for quality and risk prevention, and proves that all product components have been sourced and assembled to the customer's requirements.

Increasing visibility in both of these processes is beneficial for both manufacturers and customers. Manufacturers can optimize production for a more cost-efficient supply chain. Customers are also assured of product quality, as they can see where products are sourced, how they are built and how they are delivered.


Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is the main technology that manufacturers use to both track and trace products. RFID technology utilizes radio waves to communicate information between a tag, consisting of a microchip and aerial, and a reading device. These tags contain electronically stored information about the product, such as its origin, location and availability, that manufacturers can read and adapt.

Each product is given a unique code, so individual products can be tracked throughout the process of supply, assembly and delivery. However, several tags can also be read at once to efficiently check batches of products.

RFID tags are useful in controlling and securing product stock. Tracing the product from its origin also allows manufacturers to monitor product quality and shelf life to remove faulty items. More visibility in both tracking and tracing from RFID tags helps manufacturers provide cost-efficient and high-quality products to customers.


Kanban is a scheduling system first implemented by Toyota to achieve JIT delivery. It supports the production line and allows manufacturers to visually manage work. Waste can be reduced by implementing a paperless, electronic Kanban (e-Kanban) system. This system allows everyone to view workflow and production, and edit the system in real time to lower the risk of mistakes.

In conclusion, improved visibility of product quality and processes can optimize production both on the plant floor and in administration. Efficient manufacturing will reduce waste and avoid recalls caused by defective products, preventing scandals such as the contaminated eggs.

About the Author

Jonathan Wilkins is the marketing director at EU Automation, an obsolete industrial parts supplier.

Subscribe to Machinery Lubrication