The Ultimate Guide to Traceability in Manufacturing
Traceability is more than just a “buzz word” in manufacturing. It has become a necessity in order to provide suppliers with the data they need to ensure their Product has been created as designed, with the quality and the accuracy of their material and processes validated.
Having the ability to not only harness your data but also to utilize it in analysis is invaluable. This data can provide you numerous opportunities for continuous improvement, cost savings, improved efficiencies, etc. Think of your data as the forensic proof that your product is produced as expected and to spec each and every time.
A solid Manufacturing Execution System (MES) can not only provide you with this data, but the peace of mind that your facility is executing best practices and producing solid quality products. Having the ability to capture defects at the point of failure and product recall control are huge assets when you consider the ROI for an MES system. The options and possibilities for any manufacturing organization are endless.
In this paper you will understand more about:
- What is Traceability?
- Why is Traceability Important?
- How has Traceability Evolved?
- What is an MES?
- Why would my organization need an MES?
- Component Traceability
- Traceability Protecting your Brand
Happy Learning! Now let’s get started.
What is Traceability in Manufacturing?
Simply put, traceability in manufacturing is a combination of the content record and process history of any given product, combined with the ability to then act on that information.
There’s a lot of talk currently around the idea of a digital twin, a common reference to the digital representation of a product specification or design. Traceability takes that digital twin concept to another level and builds an exact record of each piece or batch produced – including actual measurements, content, and specifications. It then utilizes that information to make sure that the producer is making the right parts, the right way, at the right time.
What Makes Traceability so Important?
Using traceability in manufacturing is important to maintain and gain a competitive advantage. How does traceability do that? Through cost reduction, improved customer scorecards, responsiveness to market conditions, delivery of value-adds, and brand protection.
A well planned traceability system leads to increased piece part and batch quality. When you increase quality, you’re reducing rejected production and rework, reducing scrap, and increasing yield, which directly impacts cost. Ancillary costs like expedited freight or machine downtime are also improved through the use of traceability systems. Traceability is also used to optimize order processing and minimize inventory buildup so that you’re making the right parts at the right time. Higher inventory turns, better work in process inventory visibility, and precise execution-to-order yields higher efficiency and lower costs.
The highest occurrences of negative customer scorecard entries can be mitigated by using a traceability system. Issues like on time delivery, proper labeling and identification, order fulfillment accuracy, and product quality are managed and controlled with a traceability system. Once the precise facts are known about the products being made and the processes which they go through, those facts can be utilized to make sure the right parts are being made the right way at the right time.
Traceability will also help with the mitigation of liability and recall exposure. Rather than dealing with statistical population methods to estimate the impact of a product issue, traceability allows you to identify the exact products which may be suspect, and narrow the exposure exponentially. This allows you to quickly identify products by serial number or by lot that might be subject to the same conditions and recall very limited quantities to address those issues. Smaller recalls lead to lower costs and higher brand impression.
How Traceability Has Evolved
These days, as materials arrive at the manufacturing facility they’re identified, validated against orders, validated against accepted lot numbers, and validated against vendor inspection protocols. Inbound products that require further inspection are then routed to inspection areas. If no further inspection is required, then they’re routed to an inventory store or directly to the production line.
As those materials make their way to the line for use in production, they are typically either barcode scanned or RFID scanned and validated at the point they enter the line to make sure that the right parts are used for what is being built at the time.
This level of sophistication and automation wasn’t always the case, though. In fact, in recent years, traceability has evolved in three key areas:
Business systems are more interconnected to traceability systems and traceability systems are more interconnected to the industrial controls. Data is more connected to the product life cycle management systems, so now you have a more cohesive ecosystem from design, build, and post-build analysis.
2. Performance Dashboards
The introduction of performance dashboards has allowed plant management to view in real time the performance of their manufacturing facility. They can hone in on specific lines or even specific stations so that any bottlenecks can be quickly identified and addressed.
The proliferation of data with systems becoming much faster and storage becoming much cheaper has changed everything. The amount of processed data together with real evidence – video, photo, or logs – now provides the ability to get a much more accurate digital twin in place.
What is Manufacturing Execution Software (MES)?
Manufacturing Execution Software, or MES, provides a computerized tool to enforce, track, and record data related to manufacturing processes. In today’s world, it’s an absolutely essential tool for making sure that your production environment is operating at maximum efficiency.
The best MES solutions offer granular genealogy data about the entire manufacturing build process from the incoming raw materials to the outgoing finished goods. Certain features, like Bill of Materials and Routing Enforcement, ensure that your products are being built as designed while at the same time capturing the data to guide analytics and the decision-making process.
This level of data, or traceability, can empower you and your team to make informed decisions in real-time that analyze trends, solve problems, and move the business forward..
Manufacturing is all about consistency, and a good MES will guide your workforce with the consistency and standardization that delivers results.
Here’s how it works:
MES provides real-time data to capture defects as they occur at the point of failure. The error-proofing layer will ensure that the parts recipe – or Bill of Materials – is followed as well as the route the part must take in order to be a completed assembly.
As a leader in your manufacturing environment, having that peace of mind that your shop floor has a tool that helps eliminate human errors and reduces waste is invaluable. You’ll be able to understand everything that affects your production so you can:
- Reduce scrap
- Understand why you are getting scrap
- Increase visibility to downtime
- Understand the reasons for downtime
- Better tooling
- Greater machine efficiency
- Greater employee efficiency
- Continuous improvement
Manufacturing Mistakes to Avoid
If you aren’t using MES in your plant, you’re risking having little to no visibility into your shop floor and no data from which to draw important insights.
For example, the lack of defect containment at the point of failure can unleash lasting damage on your brand reputation, not to mention the financial fallout that can come from a product recall.
Without real-time data from employees, machines, and tooling to understand your efficiency levels, your management’s ability to make informed decisions that guide the business is severely reduced.
MES vs ERP
Many people use the terms MES and ERP interchangeably, but they are in fact distinctly different. Yes, these systems should work seamlessly together. However, one should not be confused with the other. An MES or Manufacturing Execution System, should provide real time data and as the name states provide the execution tool and validations to guide your shop floor systems, machines and processes. Whereas an ERP, or Enterprise Resource Management System, is for organizations to manage daily business activities such as accounting, procurement and supply chain management.
An MES should integrate with your ERP as well as your shop floor equipment and operations. These systems should work together to provide an accurate picture of your manufacturing environment. The data an MES provides to your ERP ensures that your inventory, planning and purchasing decisions are made with the most accurate data possible.
If run properly, an MES should handle your shop floor’s execution, shop floor connectivity, and necessary error-proofing validations while providing real-time production data. An MES can also save you money. When you have the ability to identify problem areas and ensure that you are only shipping good parts that are identified properly, then the cost spent on expedited shipments because of manufacturing issues or misidentification is no longer at the top of your issues list.