Do you ever wish you had access to a magical genie? One who could grant all your manufacturing wishes and make your scrap, waste, defects, and rework disappear? Here’s a secret: You do have such a genie!
The “Lot Genie”—aka Lot Genealogy—can tell you which components in your manufacturing process are the root cause of production issues. This knowledge can help you mitigate any issues better and faster.
A typical discussion of lot genealogy includes the “finished goods” lot. This is the lot you put on the truck and send to the grocery store; or on to the next step in the process (maybe another department in the plant); or on to another manufacturer who takes your “finished” product and incorporates it into some other product, which is then sold. The important thing is that you’re finished with the product, sending it out the door to its next destination—whatever that may be.
After you convert raw materials into a finished goods lot, a brand-new lot number is attached to that finished goods bunch of material. But you can still see all the other lot numbers of the different ingredients or components that went into that finished material.
As an example, let’s look at what’s called a “jacketed” bottle: a bottle with an extra level or layer of protection from heat or cold. Suppose the bottle has a leak somewhere. You need to figure out where the leak is, so you can cut down on rework and waste.
You’ll need to work “upstream,” backwards into the production process, to determine where the leak occurred.
- You have the bottle cap, which will have a lot number that associates it with that bottle.
- You also have the lot number of the plastic preforms used to produce the bottle.
- And there’s the lot number of the label that goes around the bottle.
Those are all discreet components that went into creating the finished goods lot.
You can start to see why lot genealogy is so important and such an integral part of ensuring that your finished goods are up to snuff.
Other Finished Goods
There are other kinds of finished goods lots that are created from various components that all get commingled. Suppose you’re making salad dressing, and you have tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and salt; all these ingredients get blended together to make the finished product.
Traceability for this example is complicated. There’s a lot number of the salad dressing, whatever flavor it may be. But if you have a contamination, you don’t really know if it came from the tomatoes, or the oil, or whatever—it could be any of those things. You lose the discrete traceability. More complications are added if, for example, three tomato lots were used to produce the salad dressing finished goods lot.
Generally speaking, those are the two types of finished goods lots we’re talking about when we talk about lot genealogy. Now let’s look at why ProFicient is such a value-add when it comes to this type of production control.
Component lots are for the individual ingredients, or components, included in your finished goods. Component lot reports are an important part of what ProFicient can provide the operator.
Suppose you received a bag of sugar or a big pallet of sugar and you established a lot number at the receiving inspection. And now over some period of time that pallet of sugar is being consumed in all manner of finished goods—because you make muffins and cookies and crackers and breads and all kinds of things in your factory, and they all have sugar in them. You can generate a component lot report, which shows you all the places where the sugar was consumed.
A component lot report can show you all the places where a component lot was consumed. As an example, let’s look at chocolate chip cookies. A lot of sugar went into making the chocolate chips, as well as making the dough. So, the chocolate chip is a component lot to the cookie dough.
Suppose you have a problem with the sugar—for example, the lot of sugar is tainted. You’ll need to take a good, hard look at everything. You know that three lots of chocolate chips consumed the sugar. It also went into 45 lots of finished goods: chocolate chip cookies. And it went into gingerbread cookies, and a whole host of other finished goods. Recalling all those finished goods isn’t ideal. But if you isolate the problem to a specific component, you know exactly where the component got consumed in the production process.
Benefits of Having this Knowledge
Why do you need all this knowledge of lots and which component corresponds to which lot number? What can you do with that information? The first, most obvious, benefit has to do with recalls.
Let’s say that you realize there’s a problem with your finished goods lot. If you’re keeping track of the lot numbers that went into the finished goods, you know what other component lots you need to capture in your “quarantine” to investigate and determine where the problem is. You don’t have to take everything out of your finished goods flow or component lot flow to isolate the problem.
If you have no clue as to what components went into those finished goods, then the whole factory is suspect—or at least the whole factory of components that could have been in those finished goods is suspect. So the net you cast to find the issue is really big. However, keeping track of the lots minimizes the risk and reduces the effort to isolate the root cause.
You need to mitigate your risks, and you need to know who to call when things go wrong. Recalls are horrible. If you don’t have traceability into your finished goods lot, you don’t know who to call. Especially in the case of a recall, lot genealogy is very helpful with the size of net you cast.
If you know what the finished goods lots were and you tracked the components that went into the product, then when you’re troubleshooting you’ll know what precise lots need to be investigated.
The Way It Works in ProFicient
The way this is implemented in ProFicient is that during data collection, the operator or technician is asked for the lot number of whatever it is they’re measuring. During what’s called “string compare,” ProFicient validates that the component has the correct lot number associated with it. When prompted, the operator checks the lot number in the scheduler and confirms that the run is ready to go with the correct components. Admins can load the ProFicient database with valid lot numbers. It’s a simple pass or fail when the numbers are checked. But this process ensures that the operator is running the right lot numbers at the right times—and on the right lines.
ProFicient provides two types of lot genealogy reports: lot report and component lot report. The lot report shows all the component lots that went into the finished goods lot. Because this report resides in your ProFicient SPC system, all lot summary statistics, including start and end times, are available. The lot report below shows the component lots and sub-lots for finished goods cookie lot CCC-88293-12A.
The component lot report shows all the downstream lots that have consumed the selected component lot. You can see below that sugar lot LT2002-0037 was used in a lot of chocolate chips and those chips went into the CCC-88293-12A cookie lot.
Rub the ProFicient Lamp for Your Lot Genie
As nasty and unpleasant as recalls may be, they’re bound to happen. But there’s a genie ready and able to help. ProFicient helps manufacturers cut down on the damage recalls do—and even stops issues before they get out of hand. If you know where your component lots are being used, you can quarantine all those finished goods and they won’t get shipped out. Then you can test those goods to make sure they’re okay. You also know which finished goods have been shipped to which customers and who you need to call.
When you can isolate a problem to a component lot, you truly minimize your investigation effort. If you can quickly investigate a problem, you can cut down on the amount of damage and cost an issue may cause—damage and cost that may mean the difference in your company’s life or death.
The ProFicient Lot Genie can lead you to the components in your manufacturing process that are causing problems, to help you mitigate issues better and faster.