Does the “Lot Genie” Work for You? Lot Genealogy Explained

The “Lot Genie” is magical. She provides a map, of sorts, who can grant you a very important wish: she can lead you to a component in your manufacturing processes that may have been the root cause of a production issue…and a map to that root-cause treasure can help you mitigate any issue better and faster.
 
So, the genie is here to help you with your supply chain and rescue you from scrap, waste, defects, and rework. The genie, of course, is Lot Genealogy. InfinityQS’ ProFicient quality management software is how I know about lot genealogy. It’s been a part of our on-premises statistical process control (SPC) quality management software for decades now. So, let’s discuss the genie and see where she leads us…
Lot Genealogy is the Genie in the Lamp

Finished Goods

Usually when I discuss lot genealogy, I discuss the “finished goods” lot. What I mean by that is the lot you put on the truck and send to the grocery store, or on to the next step in the process (another department of the plant maybe), or on to another manufacturer who takes your “finished” product and incorporates it into some other product, which is then sold. The important aspect of this is that you are finished with the product, sending it out the door to its next destination, whatever that may be.
 
So, you have converted raw materials into a finished goods lot. And a brand-new lot number has been attached to that finished goods bunch of material; but then I can see all the other lot numbers of the different ingredients or components that went into that finished material.
 

Example

Lot Genealogy exampleLet’s look at what’s called a “jacketed” bottle, in other words, a bottle with an extra level or layer of protection from heat or cold. And suppose we have a leak somewhere. We need to figure out where the leak is, so we can cut down on rework and waste and such.
 
We’ll need to work “upstream,” backwards into the production process, to determine where the leak occurred. [I discussed working upstream in detail in my Life of Data blog series; please give it a read if you have a few minutes...it’s good background material for this discussion.]
 
So, we have the bottle cap, which will have a lot number that associates it with that bottle. We're going to have the lot number of the plastic preforms used to produce the bottle. There’s a lot number of the label that goes around that. Maybe that's it. Maybe there’s more. Perhaps the lot number of, if it's a metal can, the adhesive rings on the two ends of the can. So, there'll be lot numbers associated with those pieces. Those are all discreet components that went into creating that finished goods lot.
 
I think you can start to see why lot genealogy can be 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 when they get created with various components everything gets commingled. Let’s say I'm making salad dressing, and I've got a lot of tomatoes, garlic, and salt, and all these ingredients get blended together to make a bottle of my “Steve’s Own” salad dressing. And so that's a little more complicated. There’s a lot number of the salad dressing, whatever flavor it may be. But if I've gotten a contamination in that, I don't really know if it came from the tomatoes, or the oil, or whatever, it could be any of those things. I lose that 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.
Lot Genealogy

Component Lots

Component lots are for the individual ingredients, or components, that are included in your finished goods. Component lot reports are an important part of what ProFicient can provide the operator.
 
I've received a bag of sugar or a big pallet of sugar and 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 I make muffins and cookies and crackers and breads and all kinds of things in my factory and they all have sugar that go into them. And I can generate a component lot report, which shows me all places where the sugar was consumed.
Lot Genealogy - Finished Goods

The Ol’ Cookie Example

A component lot report can show me all the places where a component lot was consumed. Let’s look at, say, chocolate chip cookies—which is one of the examples we’ve been using for years when we demonstrate this functionality—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.
 
Cookie ProductionIf I had a problem with the sugar, say that the lot of sugar is tainted or something.  I will need to take a good, hard look at everything, "All right, these three lots of chocolate chips consumed that sugar. So, let's recall that. And it went into these 45 lots of finished goods, chocolate chip cookies. And it went into the gingerbread cookies and this, that, and the other. We're back to recalls…ugh. I know if I isolate the problem to a specific component, I know exactly where that all got consumed in the production process, and I can put a net around that and pull it in.
 

Benefits of Having this Knowledge

So why have all this knowledge of lots and which component corresponds to which lot number? What can I do with that information? The first, most obvious, benefit has to do with recalls.
 
Let’s say that I realize there's a problem with my finished goods lot. Well, I know if I'm keeping track of the lot numbers that went into that, I know what other component lots I need to capture in my “quarantine,” if you will, to investigate, to find out where the problem is, what's creating that. And I don't have to take everything out of my finished goods flow or component lot flow to isolate the problem.
 
If I had 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, then the net I cast to find the issue is really big. However, if you just keep track of the lots, it minimizes the risk, it minimizes the effort to isolate the root cause.
Lot Genealogy 
In other words, you need to mitigate the risks. You need to know who to call when things go wrong. Recalls are horrible things. If I didn't have that traceability into my finished goods lot, then I wouldn't know who to call. So, especially in 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 were tracking the components that went into the product, then when you're troubleshooting you would know what precise lots need to be investigated.
 

The Way it Works in ProFicient

So, the way this is implemented in ProFicient is this: 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 her scheduler and confirms that the run is ready to go with the correct components. And admins can load the ProFicient database with valid lot numbers. It’s a simple pass or fail when the numbers are checked. But it ensures that the operator is running the right lot numbers and the right times…on the right lines.
 

Reports

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 report below shows the component lots and sub-lots for finished goods cookie lot CCC-88293-12A.
Lot Report 
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 -12A cookie lot.
Component Lot Report

The Genie Can Save You

So, the bottom line is this: recalls, as nasty and unpleasant as they me be, are bound to happen. The genie can help. What we’re trying to do with ProFicient, is help manufacturers cut down on the damage they do, and even stop issues before they get out of hand. If I know where my component lots are being used, then I know I can quarantine all those finished goods and they won't get shipped out, and then I can maybe do some testing on those to make sure they're okay. Or I know what finished goods have been shipped to what customers and who I need to call.
 
When I can isolate a problem to a component lot, then it truly minimizes the effort of investigation. When I can investigate a problem really fast, I can cut down on the amount of damage and cost an issue may incur…damage and cost that may mean the difference between a company’s life or death.
 
The genie can provide you with the map you need that can lead you to a component in your manufacturing processes that may have been the root cause of the issue…the treasure that can help you mitigate any issue better and faster.
 
 
Take advantage of the technology at your fingertips today: contact one of our account managers (1.800.772.7978 or via our website) for more information.
 
 
Sign up now to begin three free months of Enact software.
 
 

 
 
Steve Wise
By Steve Wise
Vice President of Statistical Methods
See Full Bio


 

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