Automated Data Capture for Order Validation, Distribution, Manufacturing, and Regulatory Protocols
When it comes to supply chain, there are several processes experts agree on, and two of those are data capture and reporting. In manufacturing and distribution, you’ll have both. And now more than ever, tracking materials throughout both of these processes are paramount. While collection and reporting methods may differ, data is generated, and it must be collected. And that data, may need to pair with other information within the process since most products aren’t made at one facility. This is why blockchain technology is growing in adoption. While many manufacturing and distribution facilities still perform some or perhaps all data capture functions manually, it’s becoming more tedious. As labor shortages continue, either semi- or fully automated data capture technology is needed.
In many industries, this process isn’t an option—especially when it comes to health and safety regulations. Manufacturing processes within the food and beverage and pharmaceutical industries have long since had to track ingredients. In 2013, U.S. Congress passed the Drug Quality and Security Act (DQSA), and within that act, the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) was born. Now, or at least by 2023, data collection must happen for distribution and recall purposes all the way to the end-user consumer or patient. For the food industry, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) proposes that key data elements be tracked along with critical data events. In manufacturing, many industries need to track each component for product safety failures within the automotive industry.
We’re Only Human, and This is Why Automated Data Capture and Order Validation Makes Sense
As mentioned earlier, data can be captured manually, but it is a tedious task that is slow and prone to errors. Furthermore, it can lead to product integrity issues or, even worse, depending on the industry. This is why so many companies are turning to automated data capture and validation for manufacturing and distribution processes. For manufacturing, it’s the ability to track and trace the quality of the ingredients down to the source. For distribution, it’s the ability to validate what is being shipped to the end-user consumer. While each criterion can vary, scan data capture and order validation are becoming more mainstream as e-commerce grows, and individuals rely less on handpicking items for themselves at brick-and-mortar storefronts. Returns are costly, and the thought of shipping an expired item to an end-user customer is enough to damage a brand.
From Receiving to Packout, Data Capture and Order Validation within the Supply Chain and Distribution Process
Real-time data capture can happen throughout the process. Within manufacturing, it begins with raw materials back to their origin or OEM products that go into making an end-user product. For every product made or ingredient sourced, the information about that product or ingredient is housed within a barcode. The actual barcodes can differ depending on the industry, and while some industries have created standards or regulatory mandates, others have not. However, they all work similarly, information is gathered, and a barcode or radio frequency identification (RFID) is assigned to the information. Once the information on the specific item is assigned, these products are received at the manufacturing facility and recorded for critical events like date and time of arrival—it may even include who received the order. Additional information can be captured, such as expiration date and batch and lot numbers, which gives information down to the location and employee and the date and time the product was made. Scanning can happen in several different ways, but typically it’s with a handheld scanning device, mobile, or with RFID for fully automated solutions. From here, information on where the goods are stored until production and other factors may accompany additional data specifics.
When products are needed for manufacturing, the item(s) are pulled, and the process starts. Pulling the correct ingredients or part is crucial, and this is where previous data capturing helps determine the final key data elements. This data is needed for inventory turns and expiration dates within the food and beverage or pharmaceutical industries. For other industries, it may be just as crucial to get the correct color, size, or material for the end product. Once the manufacturing process is complete, the entire series of information is gathered and recorded in a database. Depending on the industry, these key data elements may be recorded in a regulatory database. The information is paired with a barcode printed directly on the packaging, on a sticker, or a serial number.
As each product is packaged, individual items are pulled to create a case of goods. At least, this is true for consumer-packaged goods (CPG). It differs from durable goods. However, with CPG products, each case also receives a barcode that contains the information of each item within the box—creating a parent-child relationship. Once boxes are assembled, they can be shipped via case or pallet. Again, that data collected on where and when it was shipped is easily captured for reporting.
Within a distribution or fulfillment facility, the process starts the same. Either cases or pallets are received. The information regarding the shipment and products is captured. The information is then used to pair a storage location. Once an order is received with multiple items, the individual items are pulled, and the order can easily be validated within the picking process. Order validation techniques can include a complete order scan as items move through a tunnel or a robotic picking process where a scanner captures the information. Once all the items are consolidated, the complete order is validated against the master list and the order. The validation process can include verification of goods that need to check for expiry dates and that each item within the order is correct. This process virtually makes picking errors obsolete and makes the entire supply chain safer. The final information is recorded along with pairing for when and where the items were shipped. This information is then used for brick-and-mortar store, restaurant, or hospital delivery validation, end-user e-commerce order validation, and in certain situations - product recalls.
Today, SSI SCHAEFER helps numerous companies automate the data collection process. With an array of products that can help scan and perform data capture, picking errors are eliminated. Plus, order verification systems reduce order mishaps. Data is captured within the warehouse management system (WMS) or warehouse control system (WCS) and can integrate downstream for reporting in real-time.
To talk with an expert on data capture and order validation, contact us today.