Achieving higher levels of quality and efficiency with Traceability 4.0

Nov. 24, 2020
Customers are leveraging their traceability implementations beyond simply capturing part-ID information.

By Felix Klebe, Omron Automation marketing manager of advanced sensing

Omron Automation's Felix Klebe

Traceability 4.0 is a term that we define as the current and future phases of traceability in a global context, embodying applications where customers are leveraging their traceability implementations beyond simply capturing part-ID information to also include and leverage additional 4M (Material, Method, Machine and Man) data for continuous process and quality improvement.

Make sense?

Some of our traceability customers across multiple industries have already been doing these things for a while now—essentially capturing 4M data and using this information to optimize their processes. 

So how does Traceability 4.0 affect quality levels?

First we must ask ourselves this question: What if, in addition to part serial numbers, you could also collect process parameters, process-equipment usage data, and production-quality data at each step in your process and then use that information for preventive maintenance and process tuning purposes?

How useful would it be if you could save process and inspection data throughout multiple steps in a complex manufacturing process and tie it all to each product's serial number to ultimately visualize trends, discover differences between populations of OK and NG parts, and identify the root causes of those differences? 

What if you could modify process parameters or machine settings at a process step based on real-time data collected during earlier inspection process steps? Traceability 4.0 lets you do all of these things and more.

It’s also possible to use enhanced traceability functions to tie in information about the operators in each station and identify performance differences and/or training gaps among each employee or re-route products that are backing up in front of a less-experienced operator toward a station operated by a veteran.

Worker safety can be enhanced through the use of critical information such as certifications via their user ID prior to allowing someone to operate a machine or initiate a process.

One benefit of Traceability 4.0 is to significantly enhance root-cause analysis. On which machine was this product produced and at what time? Who was operating the machine? Where is the production bottleneck located? The potential diagnostic scenarios are virtually limitless.

Let’s consider a scenario in which machine temperature and torque are within specifications, and yet seem to have been operating at the upper control limits when a production failure occurred. Having this information lets the manufacturer improve the process yield by adjusting the upper control limits of the machine.

Another example focusing on the automotive industry shows how Traceability 4.0 can go beyond geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T) to achieve extremely high precision and performance. Components that must fit together precisely—such as pistons and engine blocks—are categorized and identified based on their exact GD&T measurements and then automatically matched based on their corresponding IDs.

In another application, consider an electronics manufacturer who has developed a Traceability 4.0 solution (using our technology) to track a product through all processing steps. Each processing machine writes a proprietary direct part mark (DPM) on each product to create a real-time manufacturing genealogy in addition to the machining of the product.