Traceability is quality control
Traceability can be defined as the ability and opportunity to review the product flow throughout the manufacturing and supply chain. The word Traceability combines Trace and Ability, which means the opportunity to track something. Therefore, traceability is a solution that enables safe and responsible manufacturing.
Losing visibility of the material´s or product´s origin can cause production disturbances in manufacturing, costs for the producer, and even serious hazards for the end-users. For example, one of the biggest European steel manufacturers has estimated that the cost of losing traceability during the manufacturing process can be one million euros per hour.
Having a good traceability system helps the manufacturer to improve quality, reduce costs, optimize processes, and ultimately improve the time-to-customer throughout the supply chain. The most common reason for losing traceability are nonfunctional marking systems and non-permanent markings. Or even the lack of any marking system.
When considering the factors that are influencing to the capability to ensure full traceability, the physical and mechanical solution for marking the parts and products comes into serious consideration. Current marking systems such as inkjet, engraving, painting, electrochemical etching and even laser markers have several drawbacks such as cost, process speed, maintenance and marking quality that do not comply with current standards. Also, their integrability is weak.
Also, long marking times shouldn’t result as a production bottleneck. To keep up with today´s production pace while still ensuring the full traceability we need to pack more information into limited space in a limited time.
The two-dimensional codes (2D codes) like data matrix, can hold tens to hundreds of times more information than a traditional bar code. 2D codes are also more secure, when ensuring the full traceability is critical and the code must be readable no matter what. For example, a data matrix can be read even when 30% is damaged or when the contrast between the surface and the marking is as low as 20%.
Writer Jan Mäkelä is Sales Director of Cajo and knows well the challenges that the companies in the manufacturing industry are facing with product traceability