As a handmade seller, it's important to be aware of your responsibilities as a manufacturer of products designed for human consumption. One of those responsibilities is ensuring that you have traceability throughout your production process.

Let's start by defining what "traceability" actually is. It is, as the word suggests, the capability to trace something. For handmade products, this is the capacity of your business to be able to trace your specific use of an ingredient through from purchase to sale.

Why do I need to trace my products?

Traceability for your products is important for a couple of reasons - it allows you to:

  • Undertake swift product recalls when you become aware of a fault
  • Ensure that you are compliant with industry regulations (GMP, CPSC, FDA etc.)
  • Gain certification for your products (if this is something you are aiming for)
  • Manage the expiry dates of your materials and products to plan your production runs better
  • Understand your manufacturing process so you can continously improve your products.

Recalls

Recalls should be done promptly if you:

  • discover a fault in your manufacturing process or
  • a customer informs you of a faulty product you have created or
  • a vendor informs you of a faulty material batch that you have purchased (via their own traceability process)

In this situation, you'll need to be able to quickly create a list of products and customers - if you don't have traceability records, this task would be extremely difficult or potentially impossible. This leaves your customers potentially exposed to faulty products and can damage your business reputation.

If you make products that fall under the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) jurisdiction or FDA, then you will be required to respond efficiently to recall faulty products you have been involved in making.

Documentation & Record Keeping for Traceability

Your written records need to be robust enough to be able to quickly generate:

a) Who you purchased a specific batch of materials from and when AND
b) Which products were manufactured using this specific batch AND
c) Who you eventually sold the products to

This essentially means that at a bare minimum, you need to create or be using a system that can track:

  1. Individual purchases of materials, including the vendor and lot number
  2. Manufactures that include the lot numbers of each ingredient used to produce the product
  3. Orders that include the batch number of the manufacture sold and customer details

Some small manufacturers start their traceability journey using written logs and excel spreadsheets, however as tracking the exact relationship between purchases, manufactures and orders can be quite complex, the use of a spreadsheet can lead to errors and inconsistencies as your business grows.

It is best to use a database as then the relationships can be mapped together correctly - you can either attempt to design this in Access or similar, or purchase specialised craft lot tracking software like Craftybase.