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The importance of traceability for quality management in the manufacturing industry – Part I


In recent years, the word “traceability” has become widely publicized. However, there are many people who do not yet know the concept and introduction method. Also, its importance has been increased in the manufacturing industry. Traceability is disseminated in two parts, I and II. In Part I, I will tell you the concept of traceability, the opportunity spread in Japan, and so on.


What is traceability?

I think that the word “traceability” has been heard at least once if you are in the manufacturing industry. But, when asked, “What is traceability?”, it is difficult to convey the details.
Traceability (Traceability) is a coined word that combines the English words “Trace” and “Ability (possibility)” and is translated as “pursuit possibility”. It is a concept and method of tracking which parts and products were manufactured by lot number, barcode, etc., “when”, “where”, “who” (by whom) “manufactured. In general, the procurement stage of raw materials from manufacturing, assembly, and handling to the hands of consumers (discarding). This will enable prompt response even if problems occur in food or (industrial) products.


Traceability triggered in Japan

It was the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) problem, commonly known as mad cow disease, that occurred in the United States that triggered widespread traceability in Japan. Due to the BSE issue of dairy cows that occurred in the United States in 2003, it was decided to adopt embargoing measures on beef from Japan and all over the world. (Currently in Japan, embargoes are lifted only on young cows of less than 30 months old)

Traceability triggered in Japan

This is the beginning, cattle are assigned an individual identification number, and information such as birthdate, gender, breeder etc. is centrally managed. The “Act on Special Measures concerning Management and Transmission of Information for Individual Identification of Cattle (commonly known as the Cattle Traceability Law) “came into effect in 2003 (with regulations such as display on beef from 2004). By doing this, the word “traceability” was spread throughout Japan.


Traceability in the manufacturing industry

The history of traceability in the manufacturing industry is old and goes back to before the war. In pre-war Japan, we have undergone production control in a way called serial number management / unit number management. These are still widely adopted today and can be said to be the foundation of traceability in Japan. Manufacturing number management is a method of attaching a management number, called production number (manufacturing number), to products of the same specification, and managing production according to the production number, which is suitable for the individual to order production. On the other hand, machine management is a method of managing each machine (product) with a number. It is an indispensable method in the airline industry that manages parts for each aircraft.


Reason why traceability is attracting attention in the manufacturing industry

Many people have seen the occurrence of accidents and troubles with items such as home appliances and gas appliances reported extensively in the news. In recent years, there are many cases where it develops into a recall from a small problem, and consumers’ consciousness about safety and security is getting stricter year by year even in the manufacturing industry. Especially important is the manufacturers’ responsibility for important security parts of automobiles, and when exporting to advanced countries such as Europe, traceability operation is mandatory. If quality problems such as defects or failures occur in the product, we will discourage consumers, as well as increase consumers’ doubts, unless effective countermeasures are promptly taken. As a result, it could be a case of damages to a company’s reputation that directly affect the survival of that company.

It can be said that traceability is a self-defense measure that protects businesses and organizations, besides offering aspects such as giving peace of mind to consumers.


Next time we will explain traceability introduction and operation methods in more detail.

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Well then, I am looking forward to seeing you again next time.