Lot Control is an inventory expiration date management module that works in conjunction with a Warehouse Management System. No two warehouses are exactly alike and not all warehouses need inventory lot control software. That said lot is a valuable feature to have in your back pocket if or when the need arises. The purpose of this article is to offer a brief description of lot, explain when lot control software is important, and offer details about how inventory lot control works.
What is Inventory Lot Control?
Lot control is a relatively simple concept. It gives you the power to track the inventory in your warehouse and group items based on expiration date, batch, and/or date of entry or exit from the warehouse. Let’s use pharmaceuticals as an example:
When a lab manufactures a batch of a certain product, the entire batch is called a “lot”. Each lot has a unique identifying lot number. The lot number is a code identifying the expiration date of all the products from a specific lot in your inventory. When bottles come into the warehouse, all of those bottles are still tied to the same lot number. Because all of the individual products are a part of the same batch, lot control software ensures all bottles leave the warehouse before their expiration date. Without lot software the inventory can die on the shelf in your warehouse. This loses you and your client money.
What Does It Do?
Lot control also gives you an extra layer of control over your inventory. It allows you to “tag” a product with its expiration date, set inventory rotation, and ensure that the products closest to their expiration date ship first. But it can do more than just track the inventory lot expiration date.
With lot control you can manage the serial numbers of your inventory, account for the units of measure you apply to the inventory in your warehouse, and organize your warehouse. Lot control software tells you the exact location of a specific item in your inventory at any time. When you know exactly where every product is, you can pass on assurances to your clients, your clients’ customers, and any government entity expressly interested in controlled substances. Moreover, lot control manages the lot numbers of both inbound and outbound products. This means you are covered for returns and exchanges.
When is Lot Control Software Valuable?
If you ship perishable products, serialized products, or any highly regulated items, then lot is important. Lot is also valuable if you have special locations in your warehouse such as a temperature-controlled area. Maybe you have lot numbers attached to different products across your inventory; lot control software manages all of that. Here are some specific examples of how lot control software can save you:
Lot Control with Expiration Dates
As discussed in the previous example, lot software enables you to manage lot numbers and tracks your inventory’s expiration dates. The lot feature in a cloud-based system allows you to create clear channels between your warehouse and the FDA or any governing body interested in lot numbers.
Two Versions of the Same Product
If you’ve ever worked with steel, paint, wood, or stain, you know that not all lots are the same. Let’s say you fulfill orders for a paint company. You currently have True Berry Blue paint from Batch or Lot Number A. When your client replenishes the inventory it sends you True Berry Blue paint from Batch or Lot Number B. While the inventory is “the same”, the reality is that no two paint lots are exactly alike; there may be slight differences between the two batches.
When you get an order for multiple cans of paint you want to either send all cans from Lot A or all cans from Lot B. Lot Control Software tells you which cans to pick and from which lot. This saves you from a frustrating conversation with an irate customer.
Talk about a nightmare. If you or a customer initiates a product recall, the FDA requires a list of all lot numbers involved within one hour. Hell hath no fury like a government agency scorned. The resulting fees could put you out of business. Lot control software can immediately identify the offending products in your warehouse. You are able to comply with the FDA while keeping consumers and your company safe. If need a refresher on product recall pain, remember the Blue Bell debacle.
How Does Lot Control Software Work?
When either you or your client uploads inventory into the Warehouse Management System, there is the option to add an expiration date, serial number, and units of measure. Your system stores that inventory information. You can also set your inventory rotations. Some examples are Last in First Out, First In First Out, First Expiring First Out, etc. You can also create a custom method if you have something unique in mind for your lot numbers.
If the expiration date passes, the system will alert you. You can then decide what to do with the spoiled inventory in your warehouse. One warehouse may return the product, another warehouse may destroy the product, and your warehouse may do something completely different. If you have a client that needs a lot feature, you should always negotiate what to do with expired product before you accept the inventory.
With lot control software, you can track information for both incoming and outgoing shipments. When an inventory replenishment or return arrives at your warehouse, the information will already be in your system. All you will have to do is consider the product’s condition, put the product away, and Circle of Fulfillment continues.
Is Lot Control Software for You?
Perhaps lot control software is right for your warehouse and perhaps it is not. In either case I hope you now understand the value of inventory lot control, what lot control software can do, and how the lot module works in your Warehouse Management System. If you do not see the value, keep the lot feature in mind as you continue to grow. If you would like to learn more about inventory lot control software, you can contact us here.