Traceability is the process for locating components and their appropriate history throughout their life.
Implementing a traceability system allows for tracking all WIP and reports production, verifying processes, providing complete lot traceability, and links operator and machine to part being made.
Do you need to implement or improve traceability for your processes? There are four components to consider:
What type of mark will best I.D. your part? - Serial number, 1D or 2D bar code
What method will make the best mark on your part? - Ink, label, chemical etch, laser, dot peen
How will you read and identify the mark? - Visual, scanner, camera
How will the data work within your system? - MRP, Error Proofing, Inventory, Quarantine
It's important to standardize the process so that the identification method, mark size, data content, and mark location are uniform across the board. Let's explore each of these components in more depth.
What type of mark will best I.D. my part?
The first step to accomplishing traceability is selecting the appropriate method of part identification. It’s important to standardize the process so that the identification method, mark size, data content and mark location are uniform across the board.
Part identification can be accomplished using serial numbers, 1D bar codes or 2D bar codes.
While serial numbers provide a simple means to identify what a part is and where it came from, bar codes offer the ability to mark that data in a much smaller area while also enhancing the ability to track the parts being marked.
Instead of relying on user input, automated systems can scan and use the information stored in a bar code, eliminating the chance of human error. Bar codes also allow for automated systems that can locate where a part is within the production process.
1D Linear Bar Codes
In 1D codes, bars and spaces are measured to determine information. These codes use black and white machine readable parallel lines of varying thickness to encode the data. The most popular examples of this type of bar code are Code 39, Code 128, and UPC/EAN.
2D Data Matrix Codes
2D operates a little differently, in that the cells code the data based on their relative position in the matrix. This code requires a camera-based system to decode and provides robust error correction for greater mark durability. 2D Data Matrix has gained popularity due to the fact that it can encode data in smaller areas compared to stack linear codes.
What technology will make the best mark on my part?
The next step in setting up a traceability system is choosing a marking technology to mark your parts. The efforts to become more efficient and save money can be undermined by the wrong technology.
Because of this, it is important to look beyond the cost of the initial investment and calculate life cycle costs. A lower upfront cost can be appealing, but look at the cost of consumables as well as quality of the mark. In order for a traceability system to be effective, the mark must be permanent.
Also consider the characteristics of your part in order to make sure that the marking method is capable of making a readable mark. Some technologies are better for marking deep enough to be read after painting, or for making a contrast mark, etc.
How can we ensure the mark was made correctly?
Reading and verifying the marks produced is an important step in error-proofing your processes.
A camera reader is used to capture the image of a mark and send its data to the software in order to be decoded. These fixed-mount or handheld readers can have built-in quality verfication software to grade marks, ensuring only highly readable marked parts will move on.
Not only can reading be used to input data into a system, but it can also be utilized for automation by scanning documents such as work orders, which can then tell the marking device what to do next.
How can we use the data within our system?
Implementing readers throughout your entire manufacturing process allows for tracking every step that the part goes through after its been marked. This data can be used for inventory accuracy, traceability, automatic part identification, and quarantining bad parts.
This real-time data collection offers automated reporting, tracking and accountability with the goal of removing the possibility of human error. Every scan of a bar code can report production data to your ERP automatically, and it becomes possible to link a part in any given step with the operator.
Grades can be kept in your database for future reference. When a mark receives a low grade, it can be flagged as ‘unacceptable’ and quarantined by software so that it doesn't move on in the process until corrected.
Ultimately, the development of a traceability system can help you remove the consequences of human error and attach data to your production process. The result is a company that can work smarter and save money by increasing quality control and eliminating unnecessary recalls.
To learn more about how one company implemented a system of marking and identifying parts to reduce counterfeit items and to do quality checks if issues arise, read this case study.
Contact Mecco for help on getting started with your traceability system: