There are two main causes of product recalls: engineered defects and manufactured defects. In an engineered defect, the product was specified to be built incorrectly in the first place. For manufactured defects, the parts or products weren’t made quite to specifications.
Of course, there are dozens of subcategories under each of those but generally, all product recalls can be traced back to one of those two issues.
What traceability does to mitigate designed-in issues is provide information to the engineers so they can make adjustments to the product design and specification based on real as-built data from the factory floor.
When it comes to the manufacturing side, traceability systems stop bad parts in their tracks from having value added to them while they are still in the production process. This is done by validating components against the bill of materials, product flow against the routing, gauge and machine readings against engineered specifications, and environmental factors against specified limits.
Feedback loops and interlocks are employed to stop operational activity on specific piece products. By doing this, you’re preventing passed on defects from continuing through the process.
In worst-case scenarios where products are shipped out the door and later found to be potentially flawed, recall exposure can be strictly limited to only those specific units which are considered to be suspect.
Product recalls are obviously very costly from a financial standpoint because all of the logistics, labor, and replacement involved with parts or products that will have to be destroyed or shipped back to the manufacturer for repair – all of which is very expensive.
However, the biggest fallout from product recalls that you may not even be considering is risking the integrity of your brand.
We’ve all seen examples of reputable companies who had their brand name ruined or tarnished because of a product recall. It takes years and years to build a good brand reputation and that can be destroyed overnight if consumers believe your brand is poor quality or unsafe.
The number one key to removing the risk of product recalls is preventing defective materials from leaving the plant in the first place. That has everything to do with quarantining production until it passes lot acceptance testing prior to shipping, as well as checking the integrity of the product at every step prior. Finally, make sure that produced parts are identified properly so that customers don’t pull the wrong part out and use it in an improper situation.
It falls back even further to validating test results and measurement results in line so that materials or products that fall out of spec are stopped in their tracks. It’s all about making sure you’re building the right parts, the right way, at the right time.
Traceability also helps validate that the exact right components are used when you’re producing the parts by comparing what’s getting introduced in the line versus the bill of materials. It’s important to make sure the coinciding vendor lot has been approved for those materials. Using vendor certification and inbound lot testing together with in-line lot validation can eliminate defective production before it occurs.
Ultimately, traceability systems enable a long chain of validation along the way to make sure that you’re doing everything you can to prevent defective material from leaving your plant, and thus reducing the risk of product recall.