How to Minimize Costly Manufacturing Risks | MECCO Blog


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How to Minimize Costly Manufacturing Risks

by Dave Sweet
Dave Sweet presenting on traceability in the IIoT at IMTS 2018

Manufacturing has never been a walk in the park, but today more and more manufacturers tell me they’re thinking of it as a risky business. Let’s look at some of the reasons, and what we can do about them.

First, there’s the impact of counterfeiting and diversion (C&D):

  • Since 2010, the MSRP value of counterfeit seizures has grown by 538 percent.
  • $500 billion in U.S. trade is lost to C&D goods annually.
  • By 2022, counterfeiting will put 4.5 million American jobs at risk.

The impacts of counterfeiting and diversion
At the same time, recalls and warranty claims are escalating:

  • The Takata airbag recall plunged 19 auto makers into “the largest and most complex safety recall in history.”
  • U.S.-based auto OEMs and suppliers reported $10.3 billion in warranty and recall accruals for 2016.
  • Related regulations multiply as the economy goes global and supply chains gain complexity.

Meanwhile, manufacturers contend with across-the-board dysfunctions like:

  • Process mistakes and rework
  • Defective products reaching customers
  • Late deliveries
  • Inventory shortages
  • Legal liabilities
  • Inadequate data

Fortunately, there’s a proven, wide-spectrum remedy for these risky disorders: Traceability in the IIoT, the industrial internet of things.

Defining the Terms

Just to be clear, MECCO defines traceability as “capacity for tracking a component and its relevant history throughout its life cycle.” Helping manufacturers mitigate risk by weaving traceability into the IIoT is a MECCO core competency.

Our process for putting IIoT traceability to work for you is built around four well-tested phases:

  1. Specifying the information that will give each part a unique, permanent identifier
  2. Selecting the right marking technology
  3. Reading and verifying the mark once it’s on the part
  4. Integrating the data with your enterprise

Phase 1: Identification

Marking technology can display all kinds of useful information — part number, lot number, and manufacturing date, for example. But, for IIoT traceability, only serialization is mission-critical, because the mark is just a “license plate” that connects the part to a database where all the details reside. Once you define the information to be coded, we’ll help your team decide which format — 1D linear barcode or 2D matrix code — will best display it.

Format Decision Points

1D barcode

  • A barcode scanner can read it — no decoding required.
  • It grows in size as you add information.
  • Damage to even one bar renders the whole code unreadable.
  • Black/white contrast is critical.

2D matrix code

  • Decoding requires a digital camera and software.
  • Robust error correction and redundancy provide enhanced durability.
  • A smaller space can contain more information.


Phase 2: Marking Technology

Once you define the part’s critical information and choose a barcode format, it’s time to settle on a marking technology. One broad class of technologies is direct marking, which engraves or stamps the mark into the surface of the part. Direct marking is durable and permanent; it won’t wash or peel off in harsh environments. Laser marking and pin marking are the leading direct marking technologies. (RELATED: "Choosing the Right Marking Technology")

Laser etched mark example

  • Laser marking is a high-speed, high-resolution, high-contrast technique suitable for metals, plastics, rubber, and paper or cardboard.
Vibra peen pin mark example
  • Pin marking is relatively fast and creates deep, indelible impressions. It’s cost-effective, and ideal for marking metals and some plastics.

Labels and inkjet example
Indirect marking is an effective option for displaying part information via surface ink, labels or tags, when permanence or long product life are less critical.

Phase 3: Reading and Verification

So far, we’ve identified the part, specified its critical information, and selected the appropriate marking technology. Next, we’ll mark a part, then scan it at critical points in your process.

This phase:

  • Confirms that the mark is machine-readable and that your system will effectively link what it reads to your database.
  • Enables you to evaluate the quality of the mark on every part you produce, so you can quarantine parts you judge unacceptably marked before they can be shipped.

Phase 4: Integration

At this point, it might be tempting to conclude, “The part is identified. Mission accomplished.”

But, in reality, things are just starting to get interesting. Finally, the component is digitally connected to the subassembly, the major assembly, and the final assembly, to achieve complete component traceability. Now you can think in terms of the Connected Enterprise. And that’s what it’s all about.

Now you’re positioned to fight back against counterfeiting and diversion, unnecessary recalls and warranty claims, and obstructions like process mistakes, defects shipped, late deliveries, inventory shortages, liabilities and inadequate data. You’re in control as never before.

It boils down to this: When someone asked a traceability guru I know how he calculates ROI for traceability solutions, he answered, "We stopped doing those calculations years ago. The cost savings always have lots of zeros in them … and at least two commas."

That’s the impact and the power of traceability in the IIoT.


Adapted from a presentation delivered at the 2018 International Manufacturing Technology Show.

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