Houston, We Have a Problem! – Enact Lot Genealogy in Action

Jim Frider
By Jim Frider | February 24, 2022
Senior Product Marketing Manager

Fact checked by Stephen O'Reilly

InfinityQS quality management software solutions—ProFicient, ProFicient on Demand, and Enact®—were created to help you turn quality into an advantage for your organization. From the manufacturing shop floor to executive management, from suppliers to customers, quality matters. And because quality matters, you need to safeguard your operations from scrap, waste, defects, and rework.
 
Lot genealogy is a map that can guide you to the root cause of a manufacturing problem and help you mitigate any issue better and faster. When you can investigate a problem quickly, you can cut down on the amount of damage and cost an issue may incur…damage and cost that may mean the difference between your company’s life or death.
 

Chipping In

Manufacturing Potato ChipsWhat’s a common component in food manufacturing? How about a potato? For our example of Lot Genealogy at work in Enact, let’s look at potatoes…in fact, let’s look at potato chip manufacturing. This could be fun…
 
We begin with a food company that produces potato chips in a variety of flavors and package sizes. They sell them to large grocery and convenience store chains across the U.S. They use lot numbers to track raw materials, work in process (WIP), and finished goods.
 
Lot numbers help them minimize the negative effects from bad raw materials, troubleshoot process issues more effectively, and reduce the cost and effort of product recalls. We look at this story through the eyes of the chip company’s quality personnel.
 

The Chip Scenario

Potato chip manufacturing has many steps…from onboarding raw materials to slicing and frying to bagging and packaging for shipment. An important part of making chips (and lots of other food products) is the sensory test—the test for flavor. This can be for oil, salt, barbecue, and a host of other flavors.
 
In our scenario, the food company never performed sensory tests for the cooking oil used in the chip frying process. Their oil vendors they’ve partnered with for years had always provided good oil, so testing any oil during the receiving process had gradually been phased out years ago.
Frying Chips in Oil 
However, recent price increases from oil suppliers prompted the company’s accounting department to ask if they could look for new, lower-cost oil suppliers. They didn’t necessarily want to abandon an old partner, but the need for lower priced components was starkly evident. The company needed a way to keep prices down and this move fit the bill.
 
The purchasing department and process engineering crew found a new, less expensive oil supplier. Samples of their oil passed the company’s internal quality tests, and a large order was placed—taking advantage of a large discount that was being offered. The bean counters let out a deep sigh of relief.
 
The new oil was received and given an input lot number – Lot B13492. 
 

Using the New Component

The oil was used in one large lot of fried potato chips (lot B30431). Once fried, the chips were sent on to the seasoning process. Two flavors were produced, BBQ and sea salt.
 
One lot of BBQ chips was produced (211101-4), then the next day a lot of sea salt chips (211101-2). These chips were bagged into BBQ Chip 300g Bags (lots B49593, B49594) and Sea Salt 300g bag (lot S30202). Here is a simple diagram depicting the general concept of how a bad component like oil would effect the lots produced.
Problem Frying Oil Lot Used in Various End Products
Problem Frying Oil Used in Various Chip Lots

Then into Enact…

One month after the sea salt chips were produced and delivered, the company started receiving customer complaints. Two of their largest grocery chain customers forwarded several dozen customer complaints regarding the taste of the sea salt potato chips. Customers uniformly complained that the chips tasted “different” and did not taste as fresh as normal. The company also received some complaints for the BBQ chips, but much less than the sea salt chips.

So, the company’s quality team looked up the lot numbers of the chips sold to the two grocery chains. They ran a Lot Genealogy report (featured below) for each lot and found that a specific oil lot was common across all the chip lots. 
Output Lot Genealogy Report
Output Lot Genealogy Report
 
In order to determine all the chip lots that used the bad oil, they ran an Input Lot Genealogy report (featured below), which confirmed the exact lots to be replaced.
Input Lot Genealogy Report
Input Lot Genealogy Report
 

Accountability and Mitigation

Quality and process engineering then performed sensory and physical property tests on the oil and the oil was found to contain a rancid odor. The supplier was soon thereafter contacted and asked to investigate the supplied oil.
 
After the supplier’s tests were complete, they admitted that the oil was substandard and agreed to send along a new shipment of acceptable oil. Additional losses were discussed, and an agreement was reached.
 
The food company also re-established incoming sensory and other quality tests of the new shipments of oil—a necessity moving forward. They also decided to mitigate their risk and buy from a variety of oil suppliers—this thereby minimized their exposure to future quality problems.
 
The food company also contacted all customers who received product under the output lots of concern and offered to replace their stock with new product. What I would call sort of a “soft” recall situation.
Enact Lot Genealogy Keeps Food Safe

In Closing

The chip company’s fast action allowed them to prevent more customer complaints and possible loss of customer goodwill. The lot genealogy tools within Enact made the process much more efficient and timelier.  
 
So, the bottom line is this: recalls, as nasty and unpleasant as they me be, are bound to happen. Enact’s lot genealogy function can help. Here at InfinityQS, we’re trying to help manufacturers cut down on the damage they do, and even stop issues before they get out of hand.
 
 
Take advantage of Enact lot genealogy today: contact one of our account managers (1.800.772.7978 or via our website) for more information.
 

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