Yesterday I celebrated by birthday. (insert noise makers here) I had a GREAT day doing all the things I like to do best. That is what a birthday is about anyway, isn’t it? But this blog topic kept running through my head of “Lot Expiration” and “Shelf Life.” I know it is a morbid thought but I just had to get it out of my brain and share it with my formula manufacturing friends.
Formula manufacturers, particularly in the food industries, are keenly aware of the issues associated with lot expiration and the financial impacts it can cause when a lot reaches the end of its prescribed useful life. What otherwise was once a perfectly suitable product has become as popular as the last kid picked in the recess kickball game. Not a fun situation… trust me!
So how does a formula manufacturer address the ticking clock that is always running? Here are some ways:
- Build a time machine and go back to a time to address the issue. Not feasible but could be very effective.
- Reduce the time to manufacture and progress toward a make-to-order model. This is very effective for the small batch manufacturers with excess capacity in the manufacturing area. By holding inventory in raw materials you reduce the likelihood of finished good lot expiration – now you have to manage the raw material expiration but managing a fewer number of common raw materials is often easier than many finished goods.
- Monitor lot production/expiration dates and notify appropriate users of lots reaching 50% of their useful life. This is pretty easy with today’s technology. Imagine receiving an email from your system identifying the expiring lots with ample warning to take corrective action. As long as your ERP system data is hosted in an ODBC compliant database (such as MS SQL) then the task is pretty simple.
I feel pretty fortunate because tools are available in today’s technology to deal with lot expiration. Vicinity software is the primary application that I support on a daily basis. It helps my clients to reduce the time to production AND to notify users of aging finished goods lots. So 2 out of 3 is not bad. A little work with your IT group can make this issue a thing of the past leaving time to address bigger issues.
As a footnote: We are still working on the time machine concept – maybe by my next birthday we will have that perfected. Until next time… take care and I look forward to talking with you soon!