Serial Number Traceability as a Competitive Advantage

The world is consuming electronics at an unprecedented rate, and that trajectory is going nowhere but up. Thanks to the decreased cost of smartphones and the proliferation of new wireless technology in developing nations, more people are expected to log on to the internet for the first time over the next five years than during the previous 30 years. Then consider things like medical devices, electronics used in research, and all of the devices being manufactured for the Internet of Things. From cell phones to 3D printers to MRI devices, and everything in between, handling electronic devices is going to be an increasingly important part of inventory management. And that puts the spotlight on serial number traceability.

Serial TraceabilityWhat is serial number traceability?

Many people think of traceability as being similar to tracking a FedEx shipment: knowing where the product is in the warehouse, when it leaves, and when it arrives at the destination. But true traceability, especially as it relates to electronic devices, is a lot more complex. Serial number traceability for electronics is a step-by-step record of every moment in a product’s life cycle, from the raw materials to the completed product that ends up in the hands of the customer. It means knowing which SIM card ended up in which cell phone, who put it there, where it was shipped, and who bought it.

Why is traceability so important for electronics?

Well, one reason is the high per-item value of most electronic devices. For example, a proton beam accelerator, used to treat prostate cancer, costs around $150 million. But it’s not just a few big-ticket items that are important. Even losing a pallet of smart phones could put a dent in a business’s profit margins. So, it’s no wonder that stakeholders want visibility into what’s going on with their capital investment, whether that means tracking raw materials or the finished product.

Furthermore, the retail giants—like WalMart and Costco, just to name a couple—are demanding this kind of traceability, and hold their suppliers accountable for using the best manufacturing practices. This is because they know that if something goes wrong, the retailer, the last stop in the process before the product gets to the consumer, will be liable unless there’s a documented chain of possession. Organizations that can’t comply with traceability requirements will be shut out of doing business with the major players.

Warranties and recalls are also behind the push for traceability. Warranties equal approximately 5% of all sales of electronics. Being able to control that cost depends on knowing exactly which product is in the hands of a particular customer—not just knowing which pallet it came from. It’s also a much more efficient way of handling recalls. Instead of throwing out one big net and recalling every product manufactured during a certain time frame, businesses can recall only the specific items that are affected. In many cases, traceability allows for defective products—such as those made using materials that were later discovered to have a problem—to be found before they ever leave the manufacturing facility.

And, finally, many electronic devices fall under government regulation. Proving compliance requires impeccable record-keeping, and traceability is an important part of that.

How can QStock Inventory help you achieve traceability?

QStock Inventory delivers barcode and inventory management software that offers both real-time visibility and seamless integration into your QuickBooks or Intacct accounting solutions. QStock Inventory makes it easy to use serialization to track a product through every stage of its lifecycle, right down to details like who received the materials, who assembled the product, and who shipped it out. There are other valuable benefits, too, such as decreased cost of inventory, increased employee productivity, reduced shrinkage, and reduced pick times. Contact QStock Inventory today to learn more about how we can help you turn inventory management into a competitive advantage.

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