I. Why do we need the product to be identifiable?
The sheet metal parts we produce can be found in a wide range of end products from hairdressers' chair, through the housings of the electronic industry to heavy trailers world wide. Our domestic and industrial customers are manufacturing companies themselves always keeping in mind their strict production schedule. For this reason they need immediate and accurate information on the ordered sheet metal part, the status of manufacturing, where the product is in the manufacturing process, whether the given delivery date can be kept. Informing the customer is only possible if all the parts being manufactured can be individually identified and the data stored on it can be called up right away.
In the competitive situation the quality and the time factor is the most important aspects for the customers. The importance of the tight delivery time and accuracy has increased, the market rewards accuracy and reliability. A variety of identification solutions is gaining ground primarily in order to speed up product handling and recording as well as eliminating human error.
Not a negligible aspect is the cost factor either. At Melior Laser the sheet metal fabrication/manufacturing is defined by processes and there is a sequence set up for each sheet metal part. In order to align the manufacturing capacities it is absolutely necessary that the flow of raw material, semi finished and finished products are constant, without an interruption. There should be no shortages, neither bottlenecks in the process because it can increase the production cost and that is in the long run reduces competitiveness.
In addition, a lot of inconvenience can be caused during production if a semi finished product is not provided with the right information on its packaging/box. It is also important to be aware of the tasks already done after processings which cannot be visually seen.
It also important that we can handle with the customer complaint, if there any, after delivery. However, this is only possible if it is easy to determine who made the part in question, from what raw material, when, with which machine.
II. Introducing the product identification system used at Melior
In our plant the solution to the requirements described above was the introduction of the product identification system. We apply such a system during the entire process from raw material receipt through processing steps up to until delivery.
From the start of the production to delivering the part to the customer when identifing and tracing the part several technologies are used in order to be effective: working sheets, mid-production labels, finished product labels, ERP system, warehouse management software, etc.The identification of the product in our case stars with a Production sheet, then after the completion of different processing steps (laser cutting, bending, punching, assembly, etc.) we label the semi-finished product with a part-label. On the production sheet there are all the necessary information (part data, processing steps and instructions).
The semi-finished products are marked with a label generated from the ERP system after completing each processing step. On the mid-production label not only the semi-finished product article number can be found but also the manufacturing number, date, other data of the finished product and as a bar code a unique identification number too.
The part label and the mid-production label are based on a bar code system. The bar code techniqe is a product identification method to gain exact information very fast. The advantage of this type of label is that it carries the most information on a small place. Also it can be read safely. The bar code system is used in the store management system developed in-house too for tracking. When placing the labels it is important to keep in mind that they are well visible and eligible. If it is not possible on the part than it should be placed onto the box where the part is stored.
Two kinds of bar code system is used at Melior:
- mid-production label
- and a yellow finished product label.
The mid-production label contains a 6 character identification number while the finished product label is bigger, it has a yellow colour and it is a special bar code containing 13 characters indicating the article number of the part and the packed quantity. Its advantages are that it can store 2 types of data at the same time, it can increase effectiveness and can achieve zero error rate.
III. Why is this good for the customer?
The most important result of the product identification system is that the working processes and the path of the sheet metal part both can be monitored, the stored information can be called right away thus the customer can get an accurate, up-to-date information on its order.
Furthermore running the data collection during processings enables the control of the processings and their optimisation. Capacity planning became easier, shortage or interruption due to bottlenecks in production are less likely.
Finally after production completion all the necessary manufacturing data are at hand assigned to the part thus ensuring the traceability of the product and the manufacturing processes.