What is a lot number?
A lot number is an identification number assigned to a particular quantity, batch or lot of a product from a single manufacturer. Lot numbers can typically be found on the outside of packaging.
A product will typically have an identifier often referred to as a SKU (stock keeping unit). For example a case of tomato sauce may have a SKU of SCS-123. In addition to the SKU, the case will have a lot number which may be different on each case. For example cases purchased in December may have a different lot number than those purchased in January but the SKU will be the same. A lot number may also be a date code representing the expiration of the product.
Why should my business track lot numbers?
Lot numbers enable the manufacturer to trace a product back through the production process to the source of the raw materials used in the finished product. In our example of tomato sauce, the lot numbers on the cases allow the manufacturer to determine which tomatoes were used and from which supplier. So in the case where a certain batch of tomatoes may have been contaminated, the manufacturer can recall only the lot numbers affected instead of a total recall.
For food and beverage manufacturers, electronic traceability has become an industry requirement. On July 31, 2009, the House passed the Food Safety Enhancement Act, which has been touted as the most far reaching reform to food safety legislation in 50 years. The legislation outlines the requirements for all companies who produce, manufacture, process, pack, transport, or hold food to maintain full pedigree of product information and electronic traceability records. On Oct. 5, 2009, 55 food-service manufacturers, distributors, and operators launched the Foodservice GS1 Standards Initiative outlining the adoption of a common timeline for implementation of GS1 global standards for company identification, item identification, and product description.
Electronic record keeping is a central element of the BioTerrorism Act and all food companies regardless of size must comply with the regulatory chain of custody conditions. Among other things, in the event of a recall, it mandates that a company be able to provide a complete chain-of-custody of a tainted product within four hours or face fines and penalties. This rules out the use of paper records.
How can Order Time help track lot numbers?
Technology exists to ease the regulatory burden. These solutions include electronic records-handling to help streamline the handling of bills of material and work orders, as well as technology such as barcodes and labels for lot traceability and expiration dates. Small manufacturers don't usually have an affordable solution to these issues. However Order Time provides a sophisticated yet cost-effective means to track lot numbers through the supply chain to the consumer and it is integrated with QuickBooks and most major eCommerce platforms.