Importance of traceability and work instructions

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Importance of traceability and work instructions


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Importance of traceability and work instructions

In the current fiercely competitive global market, manufacturers are under growing pressure to meet regulations set by the industry and government. This has significantly increased the need for the manufacturing sector to put more emphasis on lot traceability and compliance initiatives. Ways in which manufacturers may eliminate their products’ inefficiencies are: end-to-end lot traceability of manufacturing process, quality controlling, decreasing manufacturing costs and lessening the risks of recalls.

In essence, there are two forms of lot traceability. The first, product tracing, is the know-how to pinpoint place of origin of a product or a specific component by referencing records held in supply chain. The purpose of tracing products is to assist in investigating customer complaints and to enable product recalls. The second form, product tracking, is the ability to identify the path of a particular part of the product during movement between the supplier and the manufacturer in the supply chain. Components/ parts are tracked for logistical, inventory management and obsolescence reasons.

One of the main aims of lot traceability is to improve inventoryvisibility across product supply chain. According to a survey conducted by AMR (Gartner), most of the respondents agreed that traceability greatly improved visibility of supply-chain’s inventory. They viewed inventory visibility as the main benefit of lot traceability. This objective can be best achieved by recording production events at different points, storing them in a secured network that is accessible to all trading partners.

Lot traceability is critical in the manufacturing sector due to the complex nature of the global market. There are regulatory mandates that manufacturers must comply with; it is a legal obligation. Manufacturers and processing industries are required to have a mechanism of identifying to whom they sold a particular product and from whom they acquired a particular unit. Lot traceability helps manufacturers manage and improve customer relationship. Since it reduces time taken to address complaints, it enhances the level of consumer satisfaction.

Through lot traceability, manufacturers are in a position to guarantee the source of a unit. As such, they reduce the risks they encounter whenever there is a recall by swiftly identifying affected products and withdrawing the products from the market when required. Traceability improve quality of manufacturing process which in turn improves the quality of the products. This decreases costs by reducing non-conformities (expectations, deviations or standards) and simultaneously improving pertinence and efficiency of quality controls.

There are several benefits of electronic work instructions. Firstly, it saves money by eliminating costs of printing user manuals. Printing of user manuals is expensive because money is spent each time there is a revision to be made. Things that increase the cost of paper manuals are costs of toner, writing paper and cost of distribution of revised editions. Moreover, cost justification is required each time an instruction is to be updated. With electronic work instructions, there is a provision to continuously improve the instructions extra cost is incurred to publish new versions thus making it cost-effective.

The second advantage is increased ease of collecting data. For data to be useful, it must be reliable and up to date. Data that is efficiently and accurately collected give an in-depth analysis of what is searched. As a result of electronic work instructions, information can be gathered easily, edited and merged. Another advantage is increased release cycles that are instantaneously updated hence reducing time that would have been wasted when producing paper manuals. Paper manuals must be revised before printing, approved, printed, and distributed.

Another advantage is more secure and quicker process of revision. It is important to ensure that previous versions of data are no longer in use. It is hard to know if outdated and inaccurate data was used to develop new version of paper instruction because a lot of time is required to locate and archive outdated versions. Duplication of paper instructions can occur without managerial approval. Alternatively, electronic instructions save time because only accredited users can edit content. Old versions of data are archived the moment new version of instructions is uploaded.

Despite numerous advantages offered by electronic work instructions, there are also disadvantages associated with it. Sometimes paper instructions make more sense. A detailed instruction is usually easier to pass around, make notes on and read when it is in print form. Paper documents can be easily distributed if it is to be shared to a large number of people at once. Sensitive and highly classified instructions stored electronically could be compromised. Here print instructions are suitable since they can be safely locked and only accessible to authorized personnel.

Work instructions assist someone to perform a task diligently. Work instructions that might be introduced to workplace must be consistent, usable, credible and accessible. Consistency help create uniformity in worker training; work instructions must be accessible so that workers can easily access them. For workers to fully understand the instructions, they must be written clearly. Instructions that are credible are readily accepted and trusted by workers.

Terminology used in work instructions must consistent so that meaning of each word remain the same every time it is used. There must be no unclear technical terms or undefined acronyms. Format used to write instructions are supposed to be uniform so that the user knows how to locate information being searched. Standardized practices are achieved when work instructions are credible; workers trust credible work instructions. Workers use minimum effort to understand instructions when they are stated clearly.


Danger Behind the Wheel: The Takata Airbag Crisis and How to Fix Our Broken Auto Recall Process. (June 22, 2015.). U. S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

End-to-End Traceability: Reducing Recall Risks for Food and Beverages Manufacturers. (June 2016). Plex Systems.

Genovese, A. L. (2013). Greener Supplier Selection: State of the Art and some Empirical Evidence. International Journal of Production Research,, 51(10), 2868-2886. doi:10.1080/00207543.2012.748224

Roberts, M. (2013). 8 Ways Electronic Work Instructions are Transforming the shop floor. . Plant Engineering, 67(9),, 16-17.

Sower, V. (2011). Essentials of Quality. Hoboken, NJ: : John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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