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Reader Supply Chain Question: On How to Handle Receipts from Vendors with No Bar Code Labels and Lot Tracking Required?
 
Reader Question

I am curious how automated receiving is handled with products that are lot controlled. We have numerous products where the manufacturer assigns a lot#. Our receiving personnel have to identify the lot#, quantity per lot# and receive the product with a "Date of Mfg" and "Date of Expiration".

We have not been successful in getting our suppliers to bar code this information and in many cases we have not been able to get them to supply this information on their packing slips. We get the lot# information from a "certificate of compliance" provided with the shipment and we have to sort product by lot# to determine the quantity per lot. Once this information is obtained it is manually input into our ERP.

We have purchased Infor's WML warehouse management software that we plan to put into one of our distribution facilities. This warehouse will fulfill our local branches as well as ship direct to customers. I am concerned about the receiving process when it comes to lot control requirements. What have you seen other companies do to address this issue?

VP Operations, Quality & Compliance
Industrial Materials Supplier

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Expert Panelist Response: From SCDigest Editor Dan Gilmore


I am not sure I have a good answer for you.

The easy answer is that many companies receive product from vendors that have bar code information of the type you describe (lot number, expiration date, etc.) or a serial number tied to an advanced ship notice that contains that more detailed information.

You would think your vendors would want to bar code lot number and other information for their own use. It appears there is a lot number on each case, but not in bar code form? Meaning, what are you using to sort by lot number?

If you cannot receive product bar codes from suppliers, your options are limited.

One interesting question is whether suppliers actually know how many of each lot they shipped you or not.

Obviously, the packing slip or some kind of manifest could provide some of this info to you, if the vendor has it.

Assuming that is a dead end, the only thing I can really think of is to use a wireless data collection device (could even be a smart phone app) in which you enter this information as each case is received/processed. That device could be attached to a portable label printer that produces a bar code label with the appropriate information on it. The data collected could be automatically uploaded to your ERP. The Infor WMS should have a capability along these lines, but may need to be tweaked a bit for your specifics.

You might use a simple system to first print out bar codes on a regular sheet of paper from the COA so that workers don’t have to keep typing in lot numbers for each case – they are scanned in from this bar code sheet, if that makes sense.

But regardless of that, scanning or key entry could lead to errors, such as simply scanning the wrong bar code on the sheet for a given carton. Obviously, someone could mistype a lot number. You would need to have an audit program in place to test/monitor this process.

If you are dealing at the pallet not case level this all still basically applies.

Another thought, if the vendors have information but just do not want to label the product in this way, is to create a simple web portal where key vendors are asked to enter this information for each shipment. But I am not sure if this would help much, as while you would have the aggregate information for a receipt, but still not know what is what without the manual effort.

Still, you could use that to create bar code sheets, and it would be information you could use to validate your manual counts.

I might have other ideas if I understood the full process better. Would be happy to talk over.

My experience is that today, companies understand that they can help their customers improve their supply chains. In this case, you might get a meeting together with an appropriate manager or executive at these suppliers, and explain how the lack of labeling/ASNs is costing you money. That means their product is more expensive for you than just the price you are paying for it. This is the whole concept around "true cost" versus just the price paid. Something else for your purchasing managers to think about, and again I think most of your suppliers would at least be open to a dialog about how to help you. This is like a 1980s type situation in terms ofte labeling, not 2014 good practice.

Happy again to discuss in more detail.

This is a question we would really like some other insight on from other SCDigest readers!

Dan Gilmore

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