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With great interest I read ystein.granlarsen's blog on traceability systems. Specifically I like his 3 dimensions of traceability:

  • Depth - how far upstream and downstream it is possible to trace

  • Breadth - the amount of information recorded

  • Precision - the ability to pinpoint particular items' movements

Maybe it's my German nature - but I lack a fourth aspect here: Accessibility of such traceability information across various business and manufacturing systems.


Take a quality complaint from a customer that is captured through CRM, maybe recorded as a quality issue in QIM. How difficult will it be to analyse the root cause (e.g. in a specific shipment of raw materials, or during a specific dyeing process, or related to a specific rolling equipment further downstream)? And even more important - how easy will it be to identify all the deliveries and customers likely affected with similar defects?


Where do you manage your traceability?

We see customer either managing all traceability in MES (manufacturing execution systems) or other near-production databases, or they manage traceability in ERP. Often they to both: the MES holds high "precision" and "breadth", but has a much smaller horizon (or "depth") than the ERP system.


Sometimes, in discussions with customers I hear concerns to use batch management in ERP. If you manage your inventory and distribution with batches, well, then your logistics people will need to always identify the item they move by its batch number. Especially if you use batch management, like we often do in mill industries, not mainly to describe production lots, but similar or individual items. There are many ways to automate your logistics from good old bar code to RF-readers through mobile devices of all kinds. Nevertheless, there is a number of customers that did not activate batch management in their ERP for this concern in the past.


Nowadays we observe – as ERP functionality has added lots of capabilities over the years – that customers in our industry move more and more MES processes back into ERP. Some even decide to run their MES on an ERP platform, or at least very tightly integrated.


The big advantage of managing traceability in ERP in my opinion is the accessibility.


If the information is buried in a production system, it will extremely helpful to the folks that work in production - with all the precision you'd ever want. For the broader user community in shipping, customer service or even quality management (e.g. in one your downstream operations) this may be difficult to access, analyse and react on.


If you already run SAP Batch Management I would encourage you to take it to the next level and take a closer look to the new SAP Global Batch Traceability. Helps you to get a consistent, integrated view if you deal with multiple ERPs, multiple MES, and - as always - from different entities and suppliers.


And I just love the new graphical analysis tool for the corporate batch genealogy. Beautiful.

I have had several discussion recently whether you can change your mind, and activate batch management for already productive materials.

How would you do that with inventory and all? This depends on where you come from. There is a number of SAP notes on the topic. Please make sure you also read SAP note 533276 which mentions a report from SAP consulting that can be adjusted to your specific situation, and that may help to set the indicator for material masters even if you have inventory.


How about you?

How fast and how precise are your product recalls?

Can you guarantee all shipments to a customer are from the same dye lot?


I am curious to learn about how and where you model your traceability requirements?