Traceability in the automotive industry is becoming increasingly important – and with good reason since it impacts a manufacturer’s ability to succeed in a globally linked economy that is connected by a sophisticated and highly complex supply chain. Moreover, manufacturers that adopt the right approach to traceability stand to benefit by gaining the ability to more rapidly respond to recalls, improve regulatory compliance and ensure supplier accountability. Not to mention, of course, the ability to readily spot problems and quickly correct them to enhance product safety and speed production.
Yet the question is how to ensure the best possible traceability when using printed bar codes? The answer lies in choosing a partner who goes beyond off-the-shelf barcode solutions. Given the critical nature of traceability, a better bet is to look for a partner who brings engineering, design, quality and product development together to ensure cradle-to-grave visibility throughout the supply chain and long after the vehicle hits the road.
Here are three things to look for when sorting through potential barcode label partners:
- High Speed Variable Data Printing and In-line Scanning and Verification Systems:
Check to see if they offer this advanced label verification technology, which is well proven in the life sciences industry where precise labeling has long been used to identify and protect patient data. With variable data barcode labels, each individual component contains a unique serial number with part-centric information linking to large, back-end databases. Ensuring that unique ID numbers are not repeated or skipped can be critical.
A supplier that specializes in providing labels to the automotive industry will typically have invested heavily in technologies that can high-speed print, scan, and verify labels inline for data integrity and readability. A label supplier that employs this type of technology can provide higher quality, reliability, and cost efficiencies compared to doing it in house using more traditional method of using standard thermal transfer systems and manual inspection processes typically found in many factories. In these instances, serial number data is entered into computers manually. The end result is a labor-intensive process prone to errors in printing duplicate bar codes.
- Ensure Initial and Long-Term Readability:
Ask about initial and long-term readability. Probe the supplier about the technology and methodologies used to ensure the label stays put and performs in the harshest of environments over long horizons of time. It’s critical that a label can be scanned and easily read for many years – long after a vehicle leaves the showroom. Selecting a label supplier that has proven engineering and quality system expertise can go a long way in avoiding readability problems by specifying the right materials, manufacturing and print processes, and stringent quality checks.
- Automotive-Specific TS 16949 Certification:
Dig a little deeper into their certification credentials. While it’s rare for a label manufacturer to achieve ISO 9001 and the automotive industry’s stringent TS 16949 certification, doing so ensures that your supplier – and their vendors – provide the level of quality the application demands. These standards encompass failure mode and effect analysis, material flow diagrams, and other industry best practices to improve production efficiencies and meet stringent adhesion, thickness and conformability standards time after time.
Clearly, traceability is a priority for leading automakers. There’s also much more to choosing the best barcode label and variable data printing partner than the three important pointers we’ve outlined. But it’s definitely a good place to start since it can help you quickly separate the wheat from the chaff, which is vital when the goal is to unlock the value that traceability delivers.
Contact TLP to find out more about how High Speed Variable Data Printing and In-line Scanning and Verification Systems can benefit your company.