Automotive style traceability is crucial for manufacturers

Faced with costly recalls, automotive manufacturers must meet complex requirements and stricter specifications. When a single faulty part can have an enormous impact, automotive traceability is crucial. Moreover, the same is also true for many manufacturing processes.

The automotive industry is undergoing a profound change, from e-mobility to autonomous driving and from skills shortages to digitalisation. Automotive manufacturing is undergoing a shift to globalised platforms and standardised vehicle architectures. Production is more efficient, but even a single faulty part can have more far-reaching effects than ever before.

Manufacturers need to keep accurate records of the parts and components that make up a new car. Barcode tracking helps to ensure the use of the right parts, but there can be 20,000 labels on a vehicle. Reading them needs powerful reading and verification technologies and software to make sense of the data.

Also important, is the ability to trace each car part back to its original supplier. In the event of a recall or the discovery of a faulty part, manufacturers must be able to find out where it came from. This needs other information like batch number and date of manufacture to identify the vehicles by a defective part.

Automotive traceability

Automotive traceability has other benefits like minimising counterfeiting by the tracking of genuine parts back to their origin. Furthermore, the management systems can share real-time process information with all tiers in the manufacturing process. Reliable traceability systems also have a role in enabling supply chain optimisation and reduced global lead times.

Barcodes help guarantee that every part carries a unique identifier with it wherever it goes. This is usually a direct part marking (DPM), etched or printed directly on the part itself. Amongst the key pieces of data encoded for traceability purposes in the automotive industry are information such as part, serial, lot or model number. Other information encoded in barcodes can be the source manufacturer, place of origin, production time and date, end date, manufacturing or assembly facility, components used in assembly and software version.

Readers like the OMRON MicroHawk micro cameras can read all types of barcodes and analyse the information within the barcode. On reading a code, the reader transmits that data to a manufacturing execution system (MES) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.

To ensure that every part carries the required data, some barcodes need to be particularly small with high readability. As with damaged codes, tiny codes need high-performance barcode readers that can read data with the required speed and accuracy. With the application of many markings early in the manufacturing process, they may incur damage in the harsh factory conditions.

Barcode verification

Exposure to heat, splashes or caustic industrial chemicals can damage barcodes, even those using a permanent method such as laser marking. To confirm that barcodes are of acceptable quality and remain readable throughout the life of the part, manufacturers can set up a barcode verification system to evaluate them against international standards such as ISO/IEC 29158.

Automotive traceability systems support complex process changes and help analyse the effects they have on the quality of the resulting product. They help identify risks, reduce their impact, and maintain a state of constant vigilance. They are critical tools in automotive manufacturing, but their benefits in traceability make them suitable in a wide range of industries

OMRON’s portfolio of integrated traceability products and solutions provide a complete traceability solution for data management, inspection, and material handling. They complement the company’s complete automation platform featuring programmable logic controllers, motion controllers, machine vision systems, and safety technology.



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