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Traceability and Identification

keeping track of the essentials

Meeting customer expectations is a fundamental to business and to work process. Traceability and identification are essential for keeping tabs on the materials required, what stage the product or service has reached, and the outcomes of your business processes.  Customers rightly have high expectations for the work you do for them. In order to meet their expectations, it is important to maintain good work and location records. After all, the product or service is what the customer is buying. Losses or damage are not good for customer relations!

In fact, under ISO 9001, the Quality Management System Standard, one of the clauses is “Control of documented information”. As you will see further on, the Traceability and Identification as well as the control of records go together well. These two important aspects of the work process help us to understand how the Control of Records works in practice to protect products, and services.


Contamination, loss, wear, degradation or damage all affect the viability of your work process. These negative things can happen in a business. When they do, they affect the product or service directly. Consequently, the impact is directly on the customer, and your bottom line.

“Traceability and identification” is about maintaining suitable controls and records to track products or services. In the event of a problem, records help you to trace the source of problems to their root. Keeping good records will enable you to find, and address, issues that arise during storage, production or service delivery.

As one of the central aspects of management systems, “Traceability” helps to maintain produce or service standards. It can even help them rise. However, as in any other work process, to ensure that the quality of raw materials and supplies support other parts of the process, you must meet standards required further up the supply chain. This is where traceability and identification comes into the management of your work process for products or services.


Materials, components, products or services need to be traceable through both the operational processes, and onward through the supply chain. By keeping records and a trace on these primary components, you have clarity on their history. In turn, this history allows you to provide both assurance and proof to customers of the quality of the goods supplied to them.

Perhaps more important, the traceability record provides a chain of evidence for improving the business in general. Once you have established a traceability standard for your product or service, your records will give you and your customer confidence. That confidence will support your process and your reputation because you can trace problems, correct issues arising, or deal positively with new issues.

An established record of location, storage and transportation acts as a standard from which you can improve. As with any procedure, the management can look at ways of maintaining standards and improving the business. It is a simple path. First establish a standard, and then find ways to improve. That will move your management system and your business forward.


Of course, traceability is not only about maintaining standards in production or services. Traceability enables customers and others further along the supply chain to keep the product within a controlled inventory. Controlled inventory and associated shipping records means things are less waste, less likely to go missing or get left standing long enough to take damage or degrade. The quality of products is checkable at any point in the supply chain. Good traceability and identification records allow proper follow-up. In addition, those records give confidence in a proper delivery of product or service.


Traceability also links directly to identification. Best practice dictates that everything is clearly labelled. At the very least, everything in the work or production process is uniquely identified with the critical information about the item. That means, documenting the item, its type, its production lot, manufacture date and possibly other critical data. Identifying information is important. When, where, and how items are stored, moved, sold, and transferred all impact on proper completion. Ultimately, that means safe arrival of the goods at the correct destination. The customer’s door is an important place for every business. You want to maintain identification and traceability data that ties everything together so the customer can verify what they receive from your business. Good records for both identification and traceability provide customer confidence in your processes. That confidence is good for your business.

Traceability and identification provides the link between origination, storage and shipment. Good records are an essential part of the success of that link. However, to ensure the link is effective, modern methods of labelling help too. For example, Radio Frequency Identification tags (RFID), computer waybills or transit notes and computer monitoring by sensor systems all help an effective record keeping. More important these technologies also help quick retrieval of data and rapid identification of product or services in the event of problems. It makes good sense to know where everything is and how to find it. Afterall, supplies and stock efficiency impact the bottom line. Consequently, it makes sense to prevent losses and damage.


Nearly every industry now has standards of traceability. Some of these are especially strict with respect to safety issues. That is especially the case where product might become dangerous if allowed to degrade. Consequently, part of the safety of both employees and the public is to ensure that goods, perishables, production units and service processes all comply to high standards. When it comes to health and safety, everyone, including the customer, rely on the data your records provide.

The management standards you put in place should ensure sufficient levels of monitoring to ensure your product or service meets health and safety standards. These standards should apply on your premises, in storage, transit and at the customers’ premises. At all points from origination to customer receipt, identification and traceability techniques are a part of your business processes. The care you take, will protect both the business process and help reduce business risks and losses.


A full record of traceability and identification at each stage of your supply chain maintains the quality of supply as well as the safety of the components involved. This is a step well beyond the very basic needs of accounting for the income and cost of the company. Business success today depends on understanding every level of product or service delivery. The need to maintain traceability for all aspects of the process in your business leads to a complete understanding of the effectiveness of your processes. It gives your customer the assurance that you are able to provide a quality outcome right through the supply train.


There are some industries where the traceability requirements are quite low. Notably, these would be service industries where dangerous systems or products are not in use. However, even in a people-centred business where the service is critical, not the product, there are hazards. Consistent quality service with suitable records is critical to effective excellent Customer service.

Nearly every organisation has to keep their premises clean.  This involves chemicals that fall under strict identification and storage requirements. In this case, traceability helps achieve safe management of chemicals.

Then again, most organisations store equipment or supplies. More often than not, equipment and supplies have storage regulations or safety issues attached. Safe handling, stacking, and supply storage conditions are all a part of traceability. If you don’t know where you are storing things, you cannot be sure they are safely stored or can be moved or found when needed. Beyond the need to find things and store them correctly, training helps your staff to understand the importance of safe handling, economic storage and use as well as effective return on use. These issues all require the use of good labelling, record keeping and tracking. Training is much easier and more effective when the basic standards of identification and traceability are in place.


Like all good management activity, system traceability has to have its own procedures and records. Non-conformance and corrective actions apply like any other part of the system. So, when you receive goods, you know how and where to store them. Proper procedures give your staff the confidence to carry out storage and transit and to know where to find the things they need.

Surprisingly, traceability can save an organisation a great deal of money. When proper traceability systems are not in place, people put things in odd spaces. Undocumented locations with ‘lost’ product and items in unsuitable storage cost the company money and annoy customers. When products degrade without your knowledge – you can lose a lot of money.  That is not to mention how your reputation may suffer with the customer.

Proper identification and traceability, along with good labelling and signage, protects your products or services against loss or damage and degradation. Set standards help you to maintain your business as a viable proposition and gives you a baseline for improving your system. When everyone knows the right location and the handling procedures, your process or service is more effective. In turn, that helps keep your bottom line controllable. It also helps to promote safety and good quality goods or services.

Traceability and identification? What are all these items?

More business is lost every year through neglect than through any other cause.

~ Rose Kennedy

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