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End to End Product Traceability



In the step towards the Perfect plant concept of End to End traceability is getting into picture. There are many doubts in mind of functional consultants while defining the solution. In my following thoughts I would like to focus on what is exactly mean by End to End traceability and how to achieve this.

As far as SAP is concern it is closely related to SAP-PP and SAP ME (Manufacturing Execution)




ISO 8402:1995 Quality management and quality assurance Vocabulary traceability definition:

"Traceability is the ability to trace the history, application or location of an entity by means of recorded identifications.

The word traceability can refer to:


The origin of materials or components.


The history of the processes applied to the product.


The distribution and installation of a product after delivery."




Traceability capability is required to manage product quality issues; it fulfils customer requirements in terms of serial number information transfer and supports warranty management. It is essentially required to handle equipment retrofits (recall cases) efficiently and with low costs. The Traceability data can also be used to enhance product reliability through measurement and analysis. Traceability may play an important part in customer relations and customer services.

Traceability can be divided in two different processes: Data Storing and Tracing Process. Enablers for Traceability should be in place to ensure well functioning of these processes. These enablers are explained later in this document.

Well working Traceability is a combination of cross functional/divisional activities.


Business Requirements


The Traceability concept support customer's business requirements of enabling identification of serialized, exchangeable units and their current location at any time either in the demand-supply chain or supplied to sub customer. In addition, it enables creating links to the material source of the produced exchangeable units at least on supplier lot level. It supports warranty related matters and helps to manage Product Quality issues. Traceability supports also managing the repair process by enabling storage of item specific repair history information.

It is essential and required from manufacturer that the units are labeled correctly.


The primary business objectives of product traceability



1. To minimize the quality costs and impact of quality problems by identifying,locating and separating defective or potentially defective products from the total product population in internal material flow and from the customer base (e.g. retrofit or recall).


2. To identify and help fixing the root causes which led to the quality problem.


3. To enable warranty status identification by providing warranty-related dates.


4. To enable better management of product reliability by providing a link to the product's repair history.


5. To enable data for repairs/replacement of components and upgrade deliveries for systems.


6. To enable data for development of supplier quality


7. To enable product quality and life cycle management


The business objectives require traceability in both directions, from production (source of supply) to customer and from customer to production (source of supply).



Other requirements of Traceability


Traceability is needed to:


1. Assure that only adequate materials and components enter the final product


2. Provide obvious identification, e.g. to avoid mix-up of products which otherwise look alike


3. Assure identification of unit under warranty


4. Permit recall of suspected products on a precise basis, e.g. when hazards are discovered, there is need to identify the product suspected of causing the hazards. The more precisely this can be done; the less will be need for massive recall.


5. Localize causes of failure and take remedial action at minimal cost.


There are also other uses of traceability - in inventory control, scheduling of product changes etc. For example, use of materials on a first-in first-out basis reduces the risk of quality deterioration due to corruptible materials.





Traceability is not working as defined/required until so called traceability enablers are in place. Enablers for Traceability are:


1. Identification and marking of the items


2. Accurate data storing


3. Definition of product structure and level of identification for each item


4. Data recording and maintaining


5. Defined and implemented two way tracing process


6. Traceability responsibility defined with customer


7. Traceability responsibility defined with material and service supplier


8. Traceability responsibility defined with manufacturing partners





In general, manufacturer should be able trace products until customer delivery. Products in repair should also be traced.

1. Trace to current location


Tracing to current location means capability to locate individual (serial numbered) items by means of recorded data at any time in the delivery process.

Tracing materials and their serial numbers to current location or their material source is required in several cases. In any case, it is mostly related to materials functionality or systematic faults, usually identified at the source of supply. In these cases, tracing forward to current location of certain serial number ranges is required.

2. Trace to material source


Tracing to material source is the capability to find out the origin of an item or an assembly or a component in the item structure at any time in the delivery process.

It also happens, that always the same systematic faults are identified specifically in one area or at customer location, which is then leading back to trace the units back to their material source.

3. Warranty tracing


The product warranty is connected to the materials serial number. Even if different warranty types (e.g. supplier, factory or customer warranty) are in use, these warranty time frames can be identified through checking the serial number of a material.


 Product Quality & Reliability


Tracing reports can be utilized to measure the quality of individual products. With ranges of serial numbers connected to a product type, materials can be traced and it can be identified how many faults, recalls, repair or swap cases of the material have been managed. In addition, it can be identified which components have been the reasons of malfunctions and therefore our suppliers can be controlled easier. Corrective actions in the product programs can be taken according to the information gathered through the tracing reports.


Assembly is hierarchically, the lowest product in hardware, which has an identifier of its own in marketing, product development and production.

Item is a defined entity that can be individually considered. Any part, device, subsystem, functional unit, piece of equipment, or system can be an item.

Item code is a number or a string (of numbers) that uniquely specifies each type of product.

Item identifier is identification for an item, which consists of item code and revision number.

OEM product is developed and manufactured and it is based on Original Equipment Manufacturer own standards or specifications.

LOT is a definite quantity of an item, manufactured by one supplier within a certain time period and under conditions of manufacture that are presumed uniform.

Production Lot Number is an identificationidentification for a production lot. Serial number is unique identifier (like social security number) for an item.

Third party products are developed and manufactured by third party company (e.g. OEM=Original Equipment Manufacturer) based on their own standards or specifications.

Traceability is Ability to identify the history, application, or location of an item by means of recorded identification back to the source.

Revision is a subset of the basic implementation or product type distinct from other implementations.

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The systems that customers today require tend to extend beyond what can be done in manufacturing by shop floor solutions.  For example, when a recall is issued, the materials are often already in the supply chain and even in the hands of the customer.  In this case, the answer to the simple question "where is the lot/batch now and when can I get it back?" is often difficult, especially when legacy systems are also involved.  The extending of the traceability definition to an end-to-end approach spanning suppliers, manufacturing (incl outsourcing) and supply chain is required.
SAP Supply Network Traceability provides this wider reach to do all that you write about, but in addition it allows faster and more precise recall, accurate refunding of legitimate customer claims and record retention consistent with regulatory requirements.