Wherever inventory is involved, products go through all manner of sales channels and fulfilment centres before reaching your customers. Working in certain industries, however, requires an extra level of tracking – particularly when it comes to products with expiry dates, multiple components and regulated products.
Businesses dealing with food and drink, medical supplies, and other perishables or component parts will need more specialised storage and tracking, especially where the health and safety of their customers or legislative requirements come into play. Should improperly stored or out-of-date products be sent out, then identifying the reasons why is going to be vital. Your customer service, as well as your product control, hinges on being able to do so.
Warehouse inventory management software linked to or operating alongside your ERP system lets you identify the origin of your products, where they’re stored, when they have been dispatched, and who arranged it.
By the end of this article, we’ll get you up to speed on what batch tracking is and how it can benefit your operations, as well as some batch tracking strategies for determining the best approach to use in the future.
What is batch tracking?
Also known as lot tracking, batch tracking is a system used to trace products with similar production characteristics, such as expiration dates, manufacturing date and location, and any specific raw materials that are used.
Using batch tracking allows you to know where your inventory came from, where it went, how much of it was shipped, and when it will expire, all from raw materials to finished goods. By using batch tracking, you can improve inventory accuracy, provide faster tracking of specific batches of items after they’ve been sold, and support a variety of delivery sequencing strategies – more on this later.
Batch tracking is essential for the following products:
- Food and beverages
- Vitamins and supplements
- Medical supplies
- Household cleaners
- Certain electronic devices or components
What are the benefits of batch tracking?
By tracing your products from end to end, you’ll open yourself up to a host of benefits, including:
1. Safety and compliance
With batch tracking, your customers will receive products with optimum shelf-life dates. In industries where expired products can put your customer’s health and safety – not to mention your company’s image – in jeopardy, the stronger safety and compliance batch tracking provides is essential.
2. Expiration date tracking
By assigning an expiration date to an entire batch of items, as opposed to individual items, it’s possible to track stock that’s soon to expire. By identifying their remaining shelf life, you can ship these out first. And from a marketing perspective, you can use offer promotions to speed up the sale of such items too. All of which means you reduce spoilage, wastage and losses that end up affecting your bottom line.
3. Smoother recall process
Faulty products can be a PR disaster for businesses of all kinds, especially if they’re slow to respond. Since batch tracking can easily track products based on specific attributes, it’s possible to trace which products are recalled, when they were produced and where they are located. This allows you to quickly remove the problem items or batches from your fulfilment centre before any more end up being shipped to your customers.
4. Greater product quality
Should you receive items that are of poor quality, you can identify the reasons for their inadequate condition based on things like source, batch or transport paths. Using batch tracking, you can pinpoint who sent your particular inventory or which batches have similar quality issues. The result? Tighter quality control that ensures nothing of an inferior nature ends up slipping through the net.
5. Improved supply chain
Greater product and quality control has the added benefit of being able to identify suppliers who have a habit of delivering poor-quality materials. By only working with suppliers you know can provide high-quality products, you’ll be able to strengthen the supply chain from end to end – and ensure your customers only receive the best quality products as a result.
6. Facilitates advanced reporting
Through real-time, accurate data, batch tracking provides you with advanced reporting that can improve your overall operations. For instance, by creating batch-specific reports, you can then identify any batches of inventory that are resulting in increased returns – and unhappy customers.
What is weighted average cost and why do we recommend it?
If you want to get a clear idea of your business’ stock value, calculating the weighted average cost could be a good way to go. This approach to valuing inventory stock gives an overall picture of the amount that goes into your inventory and the cost of goods sold – without the need to assign costs to individual units.
How do you calculate weighted average cost? It’s a matter of dividing the cost of goods available by the number of units. In doing so you’ll have figures that reflect costs between both the oldest and most recent inventory items purchased, so you can more easily track inventory cost.
From an inventory management perspective, we recommend the weighted average cost approach for a handful of reasons. First, the calculations needed are much simpler, with minimal steps needed to gain an understanding of inventory value. That means less paperwork and admin, not to mention less opportunity to miscalculate.
Consistency is another key advantage of using the weighted average cost approach to calculate inventory value. Because you’re using the same approach across all stock, there are fewer discrepancies and improved overall efficiency.
We hope you’ve found this introduction to batch tracking useful. Looking for supply chain management software that’s scalable, accessible anywhere and provides a seamless flow of real-time information and insights? Intact iQ does all this and more. Head to the homepage to see how we can help.