The importance of full traceability and country of origin in industry

Transforming iron into alloys and other products for different purposes is a very complex process both in terms of resource planning and production.

Full traceability: what is it and why is it important?

One of the concepts that often goes hand in hand with logistics is “traceability,” a term that first appeared in Europe in 1996 in the wake of the mad cow disease crisis.

Among the many existing definitions, we understand “traceability” as the procedures that allow you to know a product’s history, location and the route it’s followed. But, in addition to providing the itinerary from its origin to its final destination, traceability has other benefits, such as safeguarding the reputation of a brand, since it allows rapid and exhaustive monitoring of products in real time, detecting incidents at any point in the production chain and allowing action to be taken immediately.

Achieving full traceability

A traceability solution provides insight into the operation of a supply chain by answering the following questions:

  • Where are the products?
  • How much is produced, where and when?
  • What ingredients and processes have been used?
  • Quality control data
  • What quantity of products has been shipped or received, where and when?
  • Who supplied the raw material and when?
  • Has this raw material been used in other products?

To allow comprehensive monitoring, the required automated tools must be in place, as manual traceability leaves room for human error. Automated solutions, in contrast, allow for real-time data to be made available and for quick action to be taken.

Types of traceability

There are different types of traceability:

  • Backward (or Ascending): This looks upstream to detail the origin of the raw material.
  • Process: This tracks how materials are transformed by industrial processes.
  • Downstream: This refers to traceability in logistics, i.e. the delivery of the product to the customer.

Traceability in ULMA Forja products

In the case of companies such as ULMA Forged Solutions, where materials may undergo various treatments and/or machining, markings must be kept visible for identification and traceability.

In the process of manufacturing forged parts, we guarantee product traceability using reception terminals and data capture tools by inserting identification codes. In our case, we replaced friction marking systems with percussion marking systems, which are more flexible and agile. We also incorporate a color code that helps to visually distinguish similar flanges.

Country of origin

The country of origin concept has gained great importance in recent years, to the point of becoming a requirement. In addition to having a great influence on consumer opinion, it is a determining factor for a product to be eligible for special rights or free trade agreements, among others.

According to customs regulations, “country of origin” means the country of manufacture, production or growth of any article of foreign origin, including natural resources such as metals and minerals.

How is the country of origin of an industrial product determined?

This is a subject that raises complex issues, sometimes ending in lawsuits due to a lack of consensus around its precise definition. For an industrial product to be considered to be “from” a given country of origin, the work or material added to the article in that country must constitute a substantial transformation; that is, a new and different article must emerge, with a distinctive name, character and/or use. Therefore:

  • Moving the final production or assembly of a product from one country to another may not be sufficient to change the country of origin.
  • There must be raw or basic materials that can be converted into a new component.
  • Packaging by itself is not sufficient to count as a substantial transformation. A complex process or skilled workers need to be involved.
  • To be considered a substantial change, time and cost are important factors.