Traceability in the Apparel and Textile Industry

Danielle Lobo

When people hear the term "lot traceability software", most immediately think of it in terms of the food and pharmaceutical industries – and for good reason.  Take any bottle of ketchup or package of pills and you will find a lot number stamped on it, usually alongside the expiry date.

Within the food and pharmaceutical industry, lot traceability is not discretionary, but a required component due to the potentially dangerous nature of products in those industries.  It is required in order to meet ISO standards and remain in compliance with the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act and the CIFA’s Safe Food for Canadian’s Act.

However, what many people don’t realize is that lot traceability software can be valuable in other industries as well, and more specifically in the apparel and textile industry.

Lot tracking refers to the ability to properly track production lots along the entire supply chain – from manufacturer through supplier to customer.  This can be done manually, although is most often automated with the implementation of proper lot tracking software.  Unlike serial numbers, which are applied to individual items, lot numbers refer to a specific quantity of an item. The process of lot tracking is designed to identify units belonging to the same manufactured lot, and to keep track of which customers received what specific lots when shipments were received.  Lot tracking software allows users to:

  • Assign lot or batch numbers to one of many units of product that are produced or purchased on various dates and according to specific requirements
  • Account for product movement through the supply chain with auto-generated reports
  • Track product lot numbers for additional purchases
  • Record and track the date in which items were purchased and then shipped
  • Tie lots numbers into expiry dates
  • Effectively facilitate recalls, reducing the overall negative impact they have on a business

Tracking Dye Lots

In the apparel and textile industry, lot numbers are allocated in order to track dye lots with the focus on tracking colors (and not expiration dates).  A dye lot is a record taken during the dying of textiles to identify pieces that received their coloration in the same vat at the same time – this ensures the color of the textile used for certain end products will be exactly the same every time.  Not only are recorded dye lot numbers important for manufacturing and distribution businesses, but also for the end consumer when purchasing material from retail locations.

Failure to track which dye lots are being used when manufacturing products such as clothing, bedding, drapery, carpet, flooring and tiles can result in mismatched colors.  This is because slight differences in temperature, dyeing time and other factors can lead to different shades of the same color between dye lots of an otherwise identical production process.  It is not uncommon for businesses to have multiple “versions” of the same color due to slight differences in the dyeing process.

Even though it is not a required component for businesses in the apparel and textile industry, lot traceability software is ideal for tracking dye lots per product in order to keep colors consistent and customers happy.