Traceability has become an essential ally in making companies' intralogistics more efficient, flexible and competitive.
In the 4.0 context in which we find ourselves, traceability has become an essential part of the supply chain of many companies. This widely used concept refers to the possibility of identifying the origin and the different stages of a product throughout the production process and also during the last mile.
This process is achieved through the use of a series of procedures that make it possible to know the location and status of a product throughout the supply chain at all times. In addition, traceability can track the path of the goods or even know in advance the path they will take.
Logistics traceability: the advantage for companies, consumers and authorities
It can help identify weak points along the supply chain. Therefore, it is essential to resolve possible incidents more efficiently and increase productivity. In this way, it is possible to put an end to errors related, for example, to mishandling of goods. In short, traceability is a guarantee for improving the quality of logistics services.
Traceability is a way to ensure customer confidence when purchasing both products and services. Especially when we are in a global economy, where it is common to find complex flows of goods at national and international level.
There are sectors in which traceability is key to public health, such as pharmaceuticals and foodstuffs. In these sectors, traceability systems are necessary and mandatory, as they can guarantee the good condition and location of the goods.
What are the different types of logistics traceability?
Learn about the different types of traceability that exist and that we handle in the logistics sector. These affect depending on the operation.
- Tracing: tracing or backward tracing
Traceability, in this case, serves to identify the origin of a batch or a unit load. It is thus possible to explore the different stages that a particular good has gone through, from its production to its final delivery. It is therefore able to identify even the raw materials used for its creation or the production operations that were carried out.
- Tracking: forward tracking or traceability
This other type refers to the option of following the route that a given unit load or batch is going to take. In this way, it is possible to predict the path it will take and make a very accurate estimate of the delivery. This traceability is the most commonly used in eCommerce, in order to report the steps taken by the product to its final recipient.
The steps or stages of the shipment are as follows:
Order preparation: when the goods have been received by the warehouse and are being packed.
In transit: when the goods are shipped.
At delivery center: when the package is at the distribution center.
In distribution: when the carrier embarks on its route to deliver the packages to their destination.
Delivered: when the order reaches its final destination.
- Internal traceability
This is the one that covers the trajectory of the merchandise along the company's own production chain until it is shipped. The challenge of this type of traceability is to achieve maximum detail in terms of identification, delimitation and registration of product movements.
- External traceability
In this case, traceability consists of an identification and registration system that focuses beyond the boundaries of the company itself. In this way, it is possible to cover all the links in the supply chain and to control transit, even in different countries.
For this to work, the coding system must be shared by each of the agents involved in the flow of goods.
Benefits of traceability in warehousing and internal flow of goods
It is remarkable the positive power that traceability can inflict on the storage and internal flow of goods. It helps to:
- Formalize and standardize in a single channel the information and data to be shared with the different areas and stages of the supply chain.
- Reduce the percentage of manual data entry.
- Visibility and control of all processes.
- Automated calculation of management indicators.
- Use and implement tools based on the latest technology needed to streamline the internal flow of goods and optimize warehousing.
- Increase agility and efficiency in the search for goods in the warehouse.
- Reduce intralogistics time and costs by eliminating inefficiencies. In other words, reduce unnecessary operating expenses.
- Simplify the location of problem lots.
- Identify the raw material of the products being managed.
- Seamlessly coordinate the warehouse with distributors, as it is possible to create a guide to align orders, supplies and track packages.
How to achieve this power: basic elements of a traceability system
The three fundamental pillars on which traceability rests are:
- Formulas for identification and coding of goods
Traceability needs to uniquely identify unit loads and batches. This is only possible if a standardized language is implemented that is shared by all the agents involved. This will make it much easier to record the data, as it will be done in an automated way.
The most widely used systems worldwide are:
- Barcode: based on the use of a common language that creates unique codes that can identify the merchandise thanks to a series of numbers translated in the form of bars.
- RFID: it is based on a tag capable of transmitting data through radio frequency waves.
- Data collection and recording systems
For the traceability of our company to work perfectly, it is necessary to implement a series of devices that act as a bridge between the digital and physical world.
These key devices can be, for example, bar codes, temperature and humidity sensors or RFID antennas or arcs. Solutions such as voice picking or radio frequency terminals would also be included.
- Data processing software
It is only possible to link the flow of information with the movements of the physical world if we have an integrated computer system that gathers all the data, processes it and shares it among all the parties involved.
The main types of traceability software used are the following:
- Business management system or ERP: software designed to bring together the different sources of information from the main areas of a company.
- Warehouse Management System or WMS: this is a powerful software capable of optimizing all flows of goods that occur within the warehouse. Thanks to it, it is possible to register the products and communicate with the rest of the systems the company works with.
In short, traceability is the key tool if what we want is to achieve an intralogistics whose storage and internal flow of goods is efficient, flexible and competitive. This is the only way for companies to ride the 4.0 wave and benefit from its advantages.
Consultant in Logistics and Supply Chain Technologies