You have a terrific new recipe to make and are all set to go. Looks like the product is just what you want and the scent you’ve picked smells divine. Paperwork and record-keeping is probably the last thing on your mind at the moment … but NOW is the time to get out your notebook or file!
The recipe that you are following, whether it is new or a tried-and-true favorite, is generally referred to as a Master Formula or Master Recipe. In a perfect world, it should contain not only the amounts or percentages of the ingredients, but also the exact step-by-step directions on how to make the product. It is what should be done.
The records you keep when actually making a batch of product from a Master Formula are called your Batch Record. It should contain the details of the batch, what ingredients were used, the amount of each, and how you made the product. It is a record of what was actually done.
So, what sort of information should be included in your Batch Record?
1. Batch Number
Every batch should be assigned a unique number. You could use the date or a sequential numbering system – whatever works for you, just so long as it is a unique identifier for that batch. Putting the batch number on the label of the finished product is a good idea so you can look at a finished, labeled bottle or jar and know which batch it came from. Keep in mind that while putting the batch number on the finished product is required as part of good manufacturing practices, it is not required to comply with product labeling regulations.
2. General Information
Somewhere (usually at the top) of the Batch Record, note down the general information about the batch. That should include things like the name of the product, the batch size, how the product is packaged, date the batch is being made, etc.
Since the ingredients used in your batch are a key component of the success of the product, keeping accurate information about the ingredients is very important. Several different types of information about the ingredients used should be noted:
A. Ingredient Required. Your Master Formula should have the name of the ingredients. Each one should be recorded on the Batch Record.
B. Amount Required. If your Master Formula is in terms of percentages, you’ll need to calculate the amount of each ingredient and note that down (otherwise record the amount specified in the recipe).
C. Ingredient Actually Used. This is the place to record what ingredient was actually used. If the Master Formula called for “fragrance,” this is where you note down exactly what fragrance you used. If you have details to more closely identify the ingredient used in the batch, write them down. That might include:
• Name of the supplier.
• Supplier’s lot or product number
• Date of purchase
• The lot number that you assigned to that particular purchase of that ingredient (if any)
D. Amount Actually Used. Write down the amount of the ingredient that was actually measured out and used in the product. Of course, it should be exactly what’s called for in the Master Formula, but if it ends up being a little under or a little over (by choice or by accident), this is the place to write it down. Be honest here, even if it’s hard.
4. Production Details
Record how you followed each step of the Master Formula, and keep track of any specifics. For example, if the Master Formula says to “Warm the oils to 100° – 120°,” make a note of the actual temperature of the oils when the step is completed.
If anything unusual happened while you were making the batch, it’s important to note that as well. If you were interrupted for some reason, or if there was anything odd about the way the product acted, record that in your Batch Record.
5. Quality Checks
The Master Formula may contain checks (or you may have developed ways to check the product) to verify quality of the finished product. For example, you might check the color, scent, texture or consistency of the product to make sure it’s right. Note down what you find, so you have a record.
Keep a record of what packaging was used for the batch (bottles, caps, wraps, etc). If you know where you purchased the packaging items, record it. Attaching a copy of the label to the Batch Record is often helpful when you refer back to it later, especially if you created a new or revised label for the batch.
Keeping a record of your product batches is more than just a log that lists that the product was made. It should include all of the details listed above so you have an accurate records of what was actually done.
If, heaven forbid, later on there is a problem with the batch, you’ll be able to go back and review your batch record and see what might have gone wrong.
Maybe even more importantly, if you discover that the batch was even better than expected, you’ll be able to determine why and improve your product accordingly. After all, some of the greatest discoveries were accidents … and the only way they could be reproduced because accurate records were kept of what was actually done.
Marie Gale (www.mariegale.com) is the author of Soap and Cosmetic Labeling; How to Follow the Rules and Regs Explained in Plain English and Good Manufacturing Practices for Soap and Cosmetic HandCrafter’s. She has been actively involved in the handcrafted soap and cosmetic industry for over 10 years and is Past President (2004-2009) of the Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild (www.soapguild.org).