How to avoid rework in production with a track and trace solution

A recall is the worst-case scenario for any company. It leads to enormous costs and makes for negative headlines. Recalls are by no means uncommon. According to statistics, there are approximately 300 product recalls in Germany alone and over 2,000 Rapex notifications from the European member states each year. The costs resulting from rework can quickly run into tens of millions of dollars. Reducing these scenarios by just 1% can save an enormous amount of money.

The best way to avoid them is to identify quality problems in production at an early stage and take immediate action. If a recall is necessary in spite of everything, it must be fast and targeted. Automated track and trace solutions are needed to ensure quality standards and continuous improvement of production processes, as well as to facilitate product and part track and trace.

Advantages of traceability MES software:

  • traceability in production
  • transparency from the raw part through the production process of the individual parts to the end product
  • linking of production orders with unique serial numbers of the individual parts (track & trace labels, barcodes, FINs, lot, serial and batch numbers, data matrix codes or an RFID chip)
  • assignment of almost any data record to a product through track and trace

We are happy to show you the advantages of our MES software Legato Sapient in a personal meeting and answer your questions in detail.

Track and trace in manufacturing

Product and part track & trace a core function of the Legato Sapient MES solution. It enables seamless tracking and tracing of all products, including all product-relevant data – throughout the entire manufacturing process. In this way, a complete image of each production unit is created – a digital twin. This includes all product data (such as order, type, characteristics, quality status), product-related process data (such as torques, temperatures) and product-related plant data (such as status, malfunctions).

digital image of each production unit for tracing purposes

360° all-round view for track & trace

The MES as a key player enables you to record of raw materials, intermediate or end products via corresponding reading points in the process. In addition to this practicable method, there is more to a fully comprehensive track and trace solution than that.

60% of production companies use tracking & tracing only half-heartedly to avoid rework in the production process. Full potential benefit is only possible in combination with machine data acquisition (MDA) and production data acquisition (PDA). This includes automated real-time data collection from the production process to guarantee high data quality and real monitoring of the actual situation. Furthermore, tracking & tracing via an MES as a global control station has the advantage of being able to view and analyze the complete recording of all product-relevant data over the entire production process (from raw material to end product) at any time – unlike, for example, data stored on local RFID data storage devices. An MES can function as a central data hub for this purpose, providing not only transparency within the entire production area – horizontal data integration ­– but also real-time information from the shop floor for the business level – vertical data integration.

With all the collected and stored data, a variety of aggregated values and key figures can be generated (e.g., processing and transport times, degree of quality), which serve as the basis for the continuous improvement process (CIP) and thus enable an increase in efficiency with regard to costs, time, and quality.

Schematic diagram PU-Coordination

Process locking – more than just track and trace manufacturing

When it comes to transparency, the complete collection of data is essential. In addition, however, a modern track and trace solution should not only be used for prevention and monitoring. Rather, it should also include functions for quality control, in order to be able to initiate appropriate processes when components or batches of insufficient quality are identified.

Control can be automatic, i.e., event-controlled via defined process limit values and monitoring of the actual values from the controls, or it can be conducted by manual identification of a production specialist. If a production unit (PU) in the production flow is assigned a locking status, this process value is documented in its life file. Corresponding entries in the locking list stop further processing of the PU concerned and enable early ejection. Thus, they prevent unnecessary and cost-intensive further processing in the subsequent production process.

Carrier management & PU coordination via skids

For some production processes, it is not possible to transport the production unit itself. For this purpose, special means of transport are used as “work piece carriers”. Carriers or skids have their own ID (carrier ID), which is used for identification at the reading points. The identification of the production unit in the PU coordination is then done indirectly via the carrier ID to which the PU ID was assigned during the merge. This is nowadays a standard method to establish the link between the identified carrier and production unit.

Without a central system like the MES, the identification at a reading point is done exclusively for the upcoming production process to perform the operation, i.e., without tracking the carriers. With an MES, the recorded information of the means of transport can also be tracked. Thus, tracking in real time is possible. Additional information (e.g. route, number) supports the coordination and provision of the means of transport (at the right place at the right time), which in turn improves organizational availability. Insight into deployment duration and frequency also enables improved and predictive maintenance.

PU coordination with skid and carrier management
Identification and storage of workpiece carrier IDs as a basis for PU coordination with skid and carrier management.

Click-Demo: Track and trace solution

In the example, you can see the use of a track & trace solution to avoid rework of production units. The aim is to obtain information on identified production units for the production area “final assembly” in plant 2, to check the quality status and to change the Q status of a PU.

  • Initial situation: Due to problems detected with a tool (screwdriver) in the final assembly of line 1, the production units affected by this must be identified in the sense of “tracing”.
  • Goal: Identifying the affected production unit(s), check and, if necessary, change the quality status in order to lock corresponding products for further operations (eject, separate quality check, if necessary, rework, reject or reinsert).

Step 1: Selection of the track & trace dashboard “overview“

The dashboard provides all information on the T&T reading points (identification points) and the production units identified via them. The navigation tree (logical production structure) is displayed in the left pane. There are no read points for the currently selected node “Plant 3” and therefore no information is displayed on the “Read points” and “Production units” boardlets.

track & trace dashboard-overview

Step 2: Selection of the relevant production area

With selection of the relevant production area (final assembly, line 1) in the navigation tree, the contents of all boardlets are updated. On the “Reading points” boardlet, all reading points of line 1 and the PUs (production units) last identified via them including the identification time, are displayed.
On the “Production units” boardlet, all production units are listed that were registered at the reading points shown above, with details of each PU-ID. As an additional filter criterion, the time range can be set (e.g., temporal occurrence of the assembly problems and thus possibly affected production units).

track & trace dashboard of a production area

Step 3: Selection of a reading point

To narrow down the search radius of affected PUs, the list of production units identified here can be filtered by selecting a reading point. The production units now identified (in the example, only one PU with ID “PU0000002”) are displayed.

track & trace dashboard of a reading point

Step 4: Selection of a PU

For the PU with ID “PU00002”, all important data at the current time are displayed in this view (e.g., last identification, status). Double-click on this PU to open a detailed view.

track & trace dashboard of a production unit

Step 5: Detailed view of the PU

The detailed view shows the complete tracking history of the PU, which is based on the identification at the individual reading points, in combination with automatically recorded process/machine data and operator inputs. Thus, in terms of tracing, the entire logged process can be viewed and analyzed. For better analysis, the view of the “Production Unit Details” boardlet can be maximized and the side navigation tree can be hidden.

track & trace detail view of a production unit

Step 6: PU coordination analysis

With appropriate rights, tracking data can be added or changed. This can include changing a quality status in order to block the part for further follow-up processes when it is changed to n.o.k. (not O.K.) and to trigger follow-up actions (e.g., divert, rework). Selecting the data record by double-clicking activates a processing mode.

track & trace with PU coordination analysis

Step 7: Analyzing the PU history

In edit mode, it is possible, among other things, to change the PU status (e.g., released, locked) or the Q status (e.g., n.o.k. for quality inspection). A preconfigured selection list with the possible states enables easy selection of the parameters. When the changes are accepted, this PU history is updated or extended.

track & trace with PU history analysis

FAQ: Important questions about track and trace solutions

Here you will find answers to frequently asked questions about avoiding rework by track and trace in manufacturing:

What is track and trace in manufacturing?

Track and trace enables traceability in production. With the proper MES software, you can retrieve the exact production steps and status messages at any time. The term “traceability MES” has also become established for this.

In order to trace components, the production units are provided with a so-called PU-ID. Machine data acquisition in real time allows you to see at various levels how a particular production unit is performing and to manage measures.

Why is it important to avoid rework in production?

Rework includes all processes that take effect when products are defective. All measures to eliminate these defects so that a defect-free product can be delivered are part of rework.

Rework in production can involve considerable additional effort and costs. With the help of a suitable and powerful MES software solution, plant and production managers can track production units and minimize scrap and the resulting costs.

Why is product and part track and trace essential?

By tracking production (track & trace or traceability), you can determine at any time when and where a product or unit was manufactured and where defects occurred. This allows you to find the cause of scrap and recall products when unexpected problems occur.