Track and Trace Automation is critical in the manufacturing environment, today where constant price pressure requires tracking and control of all inventory items. In previous articles, we have discussed the methodology and process to build product track and trace systems. In this article, we will review the functions and use track and trace systems.

The goals of laser Track and Trace Automation or laser e-pedigree are:

  • Allow for maximum use and efficiency of flexible manufacturing systems.
  • Control the costs related to and maximize efficiency of the rework process.
  • Provide a reliable and consistent method for control of product recalls
  • Provide compliance with regulatory requirements.

Track and Trace Automation and Flexible Manufacturing Systems

Many of the manufacturing facilities today run with flexible manufacturing, which means the different but similar products are produced on the same line. This process can greatly increase manufacturing efficiency and product through put; however, it must be carefully managed to avoid lost products, damaged products, assure that the products being manufactured are in sync with products being ordered to prevent excess inventory. Laser marking systems allow the placement of bar codes (of any type, IE: 2 of 9, EEC, QR, Data Matrix) on products.

Then, as the products move through the manufacturing process the bar codes are read by strategically placed vision systems and report in a real time basis to the production system key data such as:

    • Part number and description
    • Location of the part in the manufacturing process and percentage of completion
    • Estimated completion time for the product
    • Number of specific types and of parts currently in production

The production control systems take this information and use it to control the parts being processed or manufactured on the flexible lines thus assuring:

    • Production systems can match parts being manufactured to part being ordered. Thus assuring that customer orders are filled in a timely and accurate manner.
    • Matching raw materials or BOM (Bill of Materials), assuring that proper raw materials and system components are being used to build the correct parts.
    • Inventory control and the production system can relieve inventory automatically, and even place automatically generated reorders when inventory reach preset levels assuring that companies have enough inventory of the correct parts to build future orders.

Track and Trace Laser Automation & WLSC Flexible Manufacturing

A WLSC end user in the optics industry makes use of a flexible manufacturing system compromised of 15 production lines. All these lines are equipped for and capable of making any product the facility produces over 25,000 different parts (widgets).

There are several problems with this manufacture:

    • How to know what and how many of each part is being produced on each line and in total.
    • Feeding data to a production system, which compares line production to product requirements. These are based on incoming customer orders.
    • Allow the production system to change what is being manufactured to match currently open and unfilled customer orders. For example, tell line XX to run 500 of widget A and then switch to run 500 of widget B.
    • Provide data to the production system for:
      • Assurance that parts are being produced as ordered
      • Tack the parts at various stages of production, so the production system knows if parts are 25%; 50% or 75% finished.
      • Monitor inventory levels of raw materials based on production and percentage of production completed so that when preset critical inventory levels are reached materials can be reordered.

The answer to all these production issues is lasers printing bar codes and text, with six digits allowing for over 1,000,000 different possible combinations of part numbers and machine vision systems. These are installed at key locations on the assembly line, to read the bar codes and provide required manufacturing data back to the production system. This allows the flexible manufacturing facility to run at peak production and efficiency. Laser Track and Trace Automation or laser e-pedigree with data base management and reporting allowed this process to be successfully installed and running.

Track and Trace Laser Automation and the Rework Process

Laser marking can provide major assistance in the control of the product rework and the costs and timeline associated with rework of products. When parts have electronic components and need to meet resistance standards, or pass electronic tests can be laser marked if failure occurs on any of these tests. Generally product test are reported to production data bases. Failure also records the laser mark on failed products. These can act as a license plate pointing to the information in the data base related to the failure. This allows the rework of the products with minimal time and expense as the exact cause of failure is immediately available to the rework department and employees. This timely identification of the failed part, in a manner that will not allow the part to slip unnoticed into the final production system, and provides the fastest possible return to production for the rejected part.

Track and Trace Automation Rework Process & WLSC Customer

One WLSC customer manufacturing electronic components utilized a WLSC rotary dial system. The parts were feed from an upstream production line, into a fixture on the WLSC rotary dial laser system. The first station on the dial table is an electronic tester, which tests the parts for compliance with electronic standards. The results are reported to a data base with a randomly generated serial number assigned. This information is passed to the second station (in this case a Fiber Marking System) where the laser prints a ECC bar code on the product along with human readable text. The bar code contains the serial number assigned by the tester, and text also shows the serial number and a pass of fail mark which is human readable. The third station on the dial table is a vision reader, which reads the bar code and verifies the result against the data sent to the laser. This eliminates the possibility of any incorrect laser printing, and then using a vacuum pick and place arm put the part in either a rejection location for collection and rework, or moving the part to the next step in the production process. For rejected parts, the rework department reads the bar code and can tell from the real time data baser the exact failure reason providing for the fastest and most cost effective rework of the parts. For the accepted parts, testing data and serial number can be easily and quickly picked by a simple reading of the laser printed ECC data matrix code. This WLSC customer was able to reduce the cost of rework inventory by over 75%, provide downstream data to production system, and order entry system greatly easing inventory controls and costs.

Laser Track and Trace Laser Automaton Control of Recalled Products

Electronic components containing Silicon (SI) are installed in many devices and products. Some of these devices are highly expensive, while other are used in highly critical purposes such as GPS and guidance systems. In many of these cases, it is critical that the manufacture can trace the product through not only the manufacturing process but also all the way to the end user for use with recall in the event any product components turn out to be faulty. In these cases, laser Track and Trace Automation system are critical for success. The methodology is much the same marking of machine readable bar codes and human readable text, which functions as a license plate or pointer to a data base [static or interactive real-time] containing all the critical details of the components manufacture. One WLSC customer was able to laser mark 2D bar codes and text on each individual die of a wafer so that if any failure occurred to this customers end product guidance systems the electronic circuits and chips could be traced back to the silicon wafer from which they were. This allows the WLSC to notify all end users with parts containing circuits or chips from the identified wafer that products are subject to failure and need to be recalled. Laser Track and Trace Automation systems using bar codes and/or human readable text to create license plates pointing to data in real time or static data bases, which contains all the manufacturing and source details for the part. This allows manufactures to control products, remove faulty or potentially faulty (dangerous) products from the market place thus ultimately protecting consumers.

Tack and Trace Laser Automation and Worldwide Laser Service Corporation {WLSC}

Worldwide Laser Service Corporation works with our customers and end users to resolve manufacturing issues, bottle necks to production flow, and service issues related to consumers through the use of laser automation. One of the tools WLSC uses to help fulfill our mission of reducing manufacturing costs, protecting consumers and products, and providing eco-friendly green manufacturing environments is  track and track laser automation or laser e-pedigree. We look forward to working with you and your company regarding all product tracking needs.  Contact WLSC for any of your automation needs.