Production Traceability - Need to Keep Grip On



Hello all,
I hope that someone can help me, I have been given the task of coming up with a fool proof method for achiving tracability against time of production.

A am a Q.A technician in a cheese prepacking
company, at present we have a system in place that involves the following....
1)cheese is brought to production line
2)pallet ticket and creamery code from pallet is passed to feeder in.
3)feeder in passes ticket to Line leader
4)Line leader records information onto Q.A sheets and enters new creamery into weighing and labelling machine.
5)Line resumes production.

We have had recently new production managers, and as an outcome of idea bashing, it was decided that stopping a line to change a creamery code was un-acceptable, and a method was needed to record creamery on Q.A. sheets against a time that is preprinted on the packs, hence if any complaints arrive the time on the pack and the line code will be enough to find out from Q.A. records what creamery was in use at that time.

O.K. you say no problem, well a recent audit was undertaken, and it was found that under the present system, we were not achiving tracability due to on line staff failing to fill out Q.A sheets with all creamery changes that took place :(

This lead to the question and my project to complete by the end of the year, "How to introduce a time based tracability system and how to effectivly record this information in a way that can be achived by on-line personel".

The system required for recording will still be along the line of how it is at present, the problem and the reason for my post is, how can we make sure that every pallet that gets to line that has different LOT numbers and creamerys gets recorded every time.

Many Kind regards in advance


David Mullins

bar-code scanner.

Swipe the bar code when the new batch is introduced. Relevant data from testing or critical characteristics measured before hand should be linked to the bar-code.

The batch data needs to be linked to the Packaging coding info on the final product 's packet.

This way, if somebody questions a product you can provide a full history of production and testing. And this doesn't need to be expensive!



Bar-code systems were looked into, but present a problem, due to the nature of the production line, a pallet of cheese can be brought to the line upto 2hrs before being
packed as a finnished product, We have computer systems in place that gives us info on when raw/finnished goods enter/leave the production line and labels are bar-code scanned.

Problem is we need to keep written Q.A production sheets, on these sheets we include which pallet is in use and creamery information along with other checks made.

The production line is quite long,when a new pallet with different info comes to line a big "C" is drawn onto the first block of this
pallet, the ticket is then passed to the feeder in, who in turns passes this to the
line leader when the change block reaches the feeding in point. Only when the new creamery has reached the feeder can the line leader alter the weighing and labelling machine to reflect the changes and then fill in the Q.A.Sheet giving the new details.

When we deal with complaint, it relates to a single pack of product, from this we trace back through Q.A. sheets to determine which creamery was in use at a perticular time.

Problem is on-line staff are failing to record these changes. The problem from this stems from the needed to get as much tonnage out as pos. and production managers turn a blind eye to people cutting corners, We as a QA department are always trying to find ways of keeping Quality and tracability to the max, while production try to maximize output by what ever means possible.

Tracability is very important and a fool proof method is needed to get these changes recorded every time, no matter how much they try to get round the system.

David Mullins

May be I haven't grasped it all yet, but it seems to me that the barcode could be on the first pallet of each new batch (much like a Kanban ticket), instead of drawing a big C on the pallet. The barcode would be placed in a specific location on the pallet that corresponds to a fixed scanner located at the point where the pallet enters the feeder. Thus the batch data is automatically entered against other stored info.

It seems to me to be a fairly simple problem with numerous solutions to circumvent work practices that amount to gross negligence by line management and all those up the line who know what the "real" practices are, or have been informed.

Obviously management is aware that the current practices are not sufficient, or you wouldn't have this project.

You said they want a "fool-proof" method, then give them one. Automate as many steps as possible to remove the human (& cultural) element of negligence - Don't get bogged down by what the current process is.

Costs of implementation can be demonstrated to be off-set by the gains made in production through not stopping for each new batch, plus better control over process data, and ultimately product quality. This is a win-win for production, management, you and the poor customer who currently buys your product in good faith.



I agree with Mr. Mullins that you should examine a computerised scanning system in more detail. If your information needs run to more than a batch number and time-of-day, then look at 2D or 3D coding and scanning systems. They can encode large amounts of data in a small space. (For example, my driver's license has a small 3D "barcode" on the back that encodes all of the information from the front, plus other data.) With state-of-the-art automation and networked computer systems, you should hardly ever have to enter a data element more than once, or handle a piece of paper. A computer record can also be more traceable and secure than a paper copy, and a system that uses digital signatures is even better. For the type of process you appear to have, scanned codes (placed as Mr. Mullins suggested) and automated tracking will probably prove to be faster, more consistent and reliable, provide more data, and have less total production cost in the long run.

You said that "we need to keep written Q.A production sheets" ... WHY? If the principal reason is because that is the way you have always done it, then the process can almost certainly be greatly improved -- especially if you have a computerised system. I am working with a group that is installing a computer-based process management system that will replace a fully manual system. There are many improvements for the workers. The main one, though, is this --
We will no longer have to read information from one computer-printed form and enter it into another computer!
In addition, we will not have those paper forms any more -- you know, those things that get lost, torn, dirty, or are the wrong version.

A quote from Deming: "It's been going on for years" is a confession that the fault lay in the system.

Graeme C. Payne
ASQ Certified Quality Engineer
[email protected]
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