Roll into the trace of the batch: it means a lot

Feb 24, 2016
Michael was disturbed. An end customer in his birth region was complaining about the quality of the finished cloth rolls delivered. Annoying visible color difference! Complaints are always terrible for a quality manager and especially if they come from beloved ones in your neighborhood. He was determined to investigate all: which supplier delivered the rough cloth, who produced this bad quality in his company, which other important customers could be affected? Immediately he was confronted with a basic rule: if you don’t register all, you cannot trace and report afterwards. Rolls which are correctly batch-managed are traceable afterwards. But the more detail you put into the software system, the more administration you have. Let’s find the good equilibrium together. Roll into the trace of the batch: it means a lot!

What is a batch?

At the start of each software project, master data decisions are crucial. Let’s take again Michael’s finished rolls. Are rolls with a different width but with the same cloth material another material code? Or just another batch for same material code and with another batch characteristic ‘width’? This is only one of the many decisions you will have to take when setting up batch management. Using the same material has the advantage that you can use different widths to produce the same end product, just by taking another batch. It makes your bill-of-material more lean. But immediately disadvantages pop up. MRP will calculate on material code level for available stock, but what if the available width is too small for that particular case? MRP will not detect.

Again, what is a batch? You could decide to take the whole supplier pallet with several rolls as one batch. Or each roll could be a batch. A more narrow batch level/roll allows refined traceability. Michael will very precisely find the root cause of this color problem. But during the whole logistical flow – and the purchasing especially here – you will have to register more data, more batches,… In your warehouse, it will be more difficult to pick the correct batch, etc.

Rolls with the same cloth material in different colors, another batch or another material? Assume some technical criteria on material level are different for different colors… This could be a very valid reason to create separate materials for other colors. The other choice is the same material with a batch characteristic color!

Moreover, the level of quality inspection is related to the level of the batch chosen. Refined batches mean more quality inspection.

Only classifying once

In Michael’s company the rough unfinished cloth is already bought in rolls at the subcontractor. And only the finishing process is done internally. Assume he receives a bunch of rolls, coming from the subcontractor. Within the purchasing process, all rough roll characteristics could be registered. As mentioned above also the subcontractor itself could be a batch characteristic (same material for several subcontractors!).

Typically those characteristics will not change when producing the end product batch. As a result, they are simply automatically inherited into the endproduct batch: batch inheritance. Only the additional characteristics on endproduct level (for example some specifications about finishing) could be added. But again, when having major differences into the finishing process, it will be another end product material!

Do what the customer asks

The power of refined batch classification is that you can take into account customer wishes. Assume you decided color to be part of the material codification and not within a batch characteristic for the same material. But even then several subcontractors can have slightly different colors for the same commercial catalog color. You could decide to mention subcontractor or subcontractor delivery as a batch characteristic into each roll. If a particular customer only wants rolls coming from that particular subcontractor for example, it’s perfectly possible to capture this within the sales delivery by means of batch determination. Doing all this upfront could have avoided Michael’s customer complaint about the color difference.

Bottom-up or top-down

The use of batch management, taking into account upfront the customer wishes, quality inspection on batch level throughout purchasing, production and delivery… can proactively avoid the majority of customer complaints. But even then, Michael will have to accept that from time to time, there will be a complaint.

If the whole logistical flow is registered with batches, the orders (purchase, production, sales) act as a cliffhanger to register the relationship between component batches, produced batches, delivered batches. Michael will typically perform a top-down analysis in his color issue complaint case. Which supplier batches and which production orders were involved in the production of the particular end product batch with the color complaint.

But also the opposite is possible. Assume the batch level is the supplier batch only (less refined), and a quality inspection on that batch reveals quality issues. One could trace then in which end products towards which customers, part of this batch was already used. To take appropriate proactive action.

Also in the food and pharmaceutical industry

Of course, batches are not only used in fashion and textile. They are even more typical in the food or pharmaceutical industry. But the choices you will have to make between enhanced traceability and more administration, trade-off between material or batch..  remain the same.

Are you interested in all our references where batch management is used? Please contact us, and meet your happy Michael!

Author: Wouter Dessein. You can follow Wouter Dessein on Twitter (@DesseinWouter) or connect with him on LinkedIn

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