The Implications of Lot Tracking for Your Brewery, Winery, or Cidery

customer using lot tracking software

What’s the first thing you would do if you found out today that a batch of your product needed to be recalled immediately? Would you be able to distinguish between batches quickly and efficiently? 

Unfortunately, the answer to this question isn’t always a resounding, “Yes!”. 

Now — with lot tracking — your business can easily keep track of raw ingredients, packaging materials, and batches for enhanced quality control from production through distribution.  

What Is Lot Tracking?

Lot tracking acts as a system to properly track product lots from start to finish along the supply chain. Industry experts recommend utilizing a coding system, which allows businesses to trace their products in the marketplace back to a specific package date via the assigned lot number through an internal tracking system. 

There are a variety of lot tracking methods depending on your business’s needs:

  • FIFO (first in, first out)
  • LIFO (last in, last out)
  • FEFO (first expired, first out)

This form of tracking is a recommended best practice not only encouraged by industry authorities to help with risk mitigation in case of a product recall, but also an opportunity to display compliance with government regulations. 

What to Note About Traceability Requirements

The 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act has continually highlighted the importance of lot traceability, affecting all parties who produce beer, wine, spirits, kombucha, cider, mead, or even ready-to-drink cocktails. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expects all food manufacturers — including breweries — to register and conduct regularly scheduled inspections and undergo audits to ensure compliance. This act, in alignment with the Bioterrorism Act, requires companies to provide documentation on their production and supply chain to effectively trace products from the supplier source through finished goods that are distributed. Brewers must keep these internal records of the specific ingredients, including the manufacture lot number that were used in individual batches. 

Another requirement according to FSMA is for breweries to demonstrate that their system can also trace their raw material ingredients, such as malt, hops, etc., throughout the supply chain. 

Other Compliance Requirements Beyond the U.S. 

Recently updated in July of 2020 to include products with alcohol content of 0.5% or above, the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) now requires your business to implement a traceability process in order to be in compliance throughout Canada. 

But beyond compliance, what other motivating factors are available for businesses looking to implement lot tracking?

Primary Benefits of Lot Tracking for Breweries

Perhaps one of the most frustrating issues for a brewery — regardless of size — is encountering a product recall. During a constant production and selling cycle, it can be difficult to identify all products that were affected by a contaminated ingredient or batch in order to quickly make this recall.

These situations are a serious concern across the industry, so it’s important for your business to have the right logistical measures in place to quickly and effectively address the situation. 

Lot tracking offers users a consistent way to conduct quality control operations from production all the way through the distribution process. By assigning expiration dates and following a FIFO, LIFO, or FEFO tracking method, you are ensuring raw materials are used before they spoil, reducing waste. 

How Software Can Help

If there’s ever an issue with a batch, Ekos lot tracking will highlight exactly where something went wrong thanks to batching data by packaging runs for optimum organization. With this clear organization of batch information, your team can easily label associated lots within your packaged goods. If there’s ever an issue with contamination, you’ll have everything you need to quickly pull those products. 

One thing to note: Remember the age-old rule, “Garbage in, garbage out”. No matter how high-tech or fancy your lot tracking system is, it must be set up and used appropriately. It won’t be able to magically identify where that batch is that needs to be recalled if there’s no correlating data in the system for you to pull from!

Lot Tracking for Wineries & Cideries

Wineries and cideries can also significantly benefit from a lot tracking system, since it’s equally as crucial for your business to be able to easily track down a product in case of emergency or recall.

A lot tracking platform like Ekos allows producers to track everything from raw ingredients all the way through customer deliveries, ensuring accurate expiration dates for these finished products. 

And having a lot tracking system in place acts as a kind of insurance for businesses. Labelling lots and keeping clear records will help prove that wine and cider batches were in good condition pre-bottling in case something comes up after delivery. 

Established traceability systems allow you to save an enormous amount of time and resources since it cuts down on the effort spent locating a particular product in case of recall. It also boosts consumer confidence, since the source of the issues is quickly identified, communicated, and rectified.

And since the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has included a focus on lot traceability, wineries are required to closely document all ingredients used in a given batch and adhere to increased inspections and audits to ensure true compliance. 

Think About This

Imagine this: you’ve just discovered that 20% of the batch you just produced was contaminated and needs to be recalled immediately. Without a lot tracking system in place — where do you start?

Ekos’s lot tracking solution will not only give you immediate control over the given situation, but it will save time and energy in being able to identify and locate that 20% of product that was contaminated as opposed to having to recall the entire product line. And beyond saving time and money in the process, a lot tracking system that has been implemented and maintained correctly can save your brand from a PR nightmare by making the right moves quickly and effectively to remedy the situation. 

In the end, an effective lot tracking plan is a crucial part to any quality management system that will appease both the compliance requirements and ensure the overall quality of your products. Regardless of the size of your brewery, winery, or cidery, the FDA will expect you to register and maintain compliance to ensure complete traceability throughout your supply chain. 

See how Ekos’s lot tracking platform can help your business streamline the inventory tracking process at every stage.

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Written by Ekos