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Manufacturers Have Always Wanted to Achieve Traceability. It’s Finally Within Reach.

Full traceability enables manufacturers to see every aspect of a product’s lifecycle and understand how each element impacts performance. It’s felt unattainable, until now.

No matter what they make, manufacturers across the industry often face a common problem: When one batch outperforms another, it’s hard to tell why. 

It could be that one supplier provides higher-quality inputs. Or that one piece of equipment is outperforming another. Maybe it has to do with the training of different personnel. It would be incredibly valuable to know any of these things for certain, but this information is hard to access, let alone act on. 

That’s why many manufacturers want full traceability, so they can see every aspect of a product’s lifecycle and understand how each element impacts performance. If they could get there, they’d find new ways to improve operations. But, so far, it’s felt out of reach.

Visibility gaps hold back today’s traceability efforts

One challenge of traceability is the sheer amount of systems and technologies that touch each product’s lifecycle. Often, each of these is a data silo in itself. 

There’s the manufacturing execution system (MES) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, which ideally serves as the single source of truth, but is often not so simple. In some cases, a product’s lifecycle involves multiple ERP instances and integrations. In other cases, the data might feel incomplete, or require toggling between systems to get a full view. The ERP is always a work in progress and making it easier to visualize and understand that data will be critical to achieving traceability. 

But it’s not just about ERP — so many other systems impact a product’s lifecycle and inform traceability efforts. Supply chain management tools could help manufacturers understand where the raw material came from. Maintenance tools and records might show how different pieces of equipment impacted the lifecycle of that product. Even understanding the IT stack and how it’s running might be valuable. 

The data that could power traceability lives within these different systems. The challenge lies in being able to see it all in one place. Historically, technology limitations have pushed traceability out of reach. If a manufacturer wanted to take all those disparate systems and get a unified view of their data for better traceability, they’d face huge costs and a lengthy customization effort. However, that may be changing. 

How technology evolution is making traceability projects easier

Today’s technology is closing the gaps that have made traceability such a challenge.

Closing the gap: Linking systems and customizing data without monumental effort — and spend

Manufacturers generate an incredible amount of data, and some 70% of it goes underutilized. Why? Because for many manufacturers, the work required to connect systems and analyze that data is simply untenable. 

The data integration market is expected to grow at a continuous annual rate of 11.4% through 2027, driven by new tools aimed at harnessing the volume, complexity, security, and coordination of data between the factory floor and the boardroom.

Closing the gap: Projects building on each other, instead of building data silos

In the past, efforts to analyze data across a manufacturer’s many systems were standalone projects. Investments in one project didn’t necessarily make the next one easier.

Now, it’s possible to be in a constant additive state, one where every data analysis exercise builds on the last, incrementally enhancing enterprise-wide traceability. 

GAP CLOSED: Traceability efforts that can leverage insights from existing tools

Manufacturer’s existing technology investments are often deeply embedded in their operations. Replacing a tool so it can “play nice” with a third-party visibility tool would be expensive and time-consuming. But, with advancements in Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and low-code platforms, that barrier is crumbling. It’s easier today to establish sightlines across existing technology investments. 

Technology is catching up with the promise of traceability — having full visibility into entire products’ lifecycles, manufacturers will find new opportunities to improve every step of that journey. 

Traceability might identify new ways to optimize supply chains, streamline operations, and minimize downtime, ultimately improving both quality and profitability. It’s an effort that’s well worth navigating, and it’s exciting that it’s becoming so much easier. 

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