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Product Traceability: A Guide for Locating Recalled Manufactured Goods

Summary: In a recall action, it is critical for a company to be able to trace a product quickly. The cost of a traceability program must be balanced with the costs and risks of recall. The total cost of a recall without a traceability program equals the sum of recall costs plus the product of unit cost times the total number of products. The total cost of a recall with traceability equals the sum of recall costs plus traceability infrastructure costs plus the product of unit cost times the number of defective products. The thoroughness of the traceability program varies with recall risk potential. Therefore, a first step in traceability is to classify the product's potential for recall. Then it is necessary to define the responsibility of supplier, manufacturer, wholesaler, retailer, and customer in tracking the product. It also is important to evaluate the economic feasibility of levels of traceability. This will depend on factors like retail selling price, frequency of product use, and repair costs. If traceability is to occur at the point of manufacture, the program could involve factors such as: engineering changes, model numbers, parts data, raw materials supplier data, serial numbers, and test results. Records management and data collection matters to consider include: bar coding of products; product data retrieval speed; product identification standards; and data retention schedules. Traceability at various levels of distribution is facilitated by systems that identify and estimate the number of suspect product in the possession of retailers and consumers. This paper includes a case study on a bar-coded product tracking system.

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