Article originally posted in Engineering Subcontractor May 2017 Page 62 - 63.
The evolution of Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things has seen an increasing number of manufacturing sectors embracing component traceability and expect the same of subcontractors. Alastair Morris, sales director at Pryor, looks at how developments in technology are simplifying the adoption of this smart way of working so firms at every stage of the supply chain can enjoy the benefits Industry 4.0, big data and the Internet of Things, these are all very much the buzzwords of today in the world of manufacturing, and for good reason as they are having a transformative positive impact on businesses throughout the sector. Similar to the way in which having a smartphone can enable people to be more efficient and organised by having a wealth of information at their fingertips, these concepts along with cutting edge digital technologies mean that data can be captured, managed and shared globally to boost productivity and, ultimately, profitability.
Perhaps the biggest changes that are occurring, thanks to the growth of digital and networking advances, are in traceability capabilities. Once enjoyed exclusively by a small number of sectors, such as medical and military, the ability to track and trace individual components within an assembly throughout the entire manufacturing process is now more accessible than ever to markets across industry, especially in aerospace and automotive, as the practice becomes simpler and more cost effective to implement.
Furthermore, contractors at every level of the supply chain are increasingly being expected to adopt comparable traceability that will allow manufacturers to be able to drill down into the data that can be made available to find the exact history of each part and material. Firms that are not prepared to look beyond the immediate short term tasks of engineering and delivering components risk being left behind and overtaken by competitors who are taking a proactive approach and evolving in line with the technological developments.
Why is traceability important?
Manufacturers don’t want a fragmented supply chain and it is critical for contractors to acknowledge that all components form part of a bigger puzzle that is not complete without every one of its individual elements. Being able to identify the origin of each part in real time is key. Indeed, manufacturing is increasingly becoming a data-driven sector and clients want full traceability of components and process information to be able to better control, analyse and improve the entire life cycle of products.
Traceability also cuts the risks, cost, waste and time associated with recalls when something goes wrong. By tracking individual parts and storing various parameters and big data, firms throughout the supply chain can instantly access information to identify exactly how, when and where the problem occurred. The issue can then be investigated and fixed rapidly and efficiently to prevent damage to credibility and reputation.
This level of intelligence and the ability to share it globally can also be the difference between having to recall an entire month’s production and just the changing of the individual faulty parts. For example, traceability means it is possible to know exactly which individual component is affected, precisely where it is mounted in an assembly and in which aeroplane engine so that it can be replaced quickly and easily.
Equally, traceability and the effective management of big data can also help to identify and monitor trends and bottlenecks in methods. The information gathered can be audited and used to implement efficiency and manufacturing process improvements for greater productivity, business performance and profitability. This proactive way of working helps to identify issues before they become major problems that are far more challenging to tackle.
How traceability works
Coding and data capture are at the heart of effective traceability. The process begins as early as possible with a specially designed marking device giving raw materials a unique identification tag, which can be a barcode, typically 2D or Data Matrix, or readable serial number, that they will keep throughout its service life.
Once the part enters the machining and manufacturing stages the ID is recorded by vision equipment. Data is then added before and after each process to ensure no steps are missed and that they are completed in the right order to build up a history for the part. When the parts reach assembly they are all scanned and crosschecked to the bill of materials to ensure nothing is missed and that the correct assembly process is followed. Full traceability is now possible as every part in the assembly has a unique ID and quality risks can be instantly located.
Implementing traceability and effective data management
Although sophisticated solutions that enable traceability have historically been viewed as high price items, it is important to note that they are now extremely cost effective to implement. Furthermore, the resulting expense and time savings that come with ensuring traceability of individual parts throughout the entire manufacturing process and beyond far outweigh the initial outlay.
The most straightforward way to introduce data-driven practices and traceability is by partnering with an established permanent marking, identification and traceability systems specialist that offers a holistic solution. Pryor, for instance, provides a complete package that incorporates everything needed to ensure full traceability, including equipment that applies the ID to parts, readers and data management software.
The technology has been developed to fully integrate easily into existing processes, machines and systems within an operation, including everything from SAP and manufacturing execution systems software to Excel spread sheet-based setups. Equally, the system allows data to be accessed and shared securely throughout a facility, as well as with other locations and organisations in the supply chain for inventory management and total traceability.
As effective component tracking, data capture and networking becomes more important and accessible in the digital age it is critical that businesses throughout the supply chain adopt this smart way of working. Implementing systems and technology that enable traceability not only help to achieve maximum process control and optimise performance, but also can be a key factor that customers are looking for when awarding contracts. Track and trace capabilities can help firms to stand out and get an edge in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace.
For further information please visit us at our CONTACT page