The concept of traceability has never been as important as in today’s electronic industry.
The risks associated with the increasing complexity of supply chains makes traceability extremely important for producers of electronics, regardless of their scope or size.
But what really is traceability and why is it so important?
Traceability is the ability to trace (reconstruct the history of) the movement of components at every stage of the process chain and supply networks, together with tracking parameters which identify these components and the locations associated with their movement. Traceability solutions allow for a clear insight into each stage of the production process, thus making sure that the right material is used at the right stage of production.
Producers use this information to:
- Improve the transparency of processes
- Detect and eliminate defects during production
- Improve quality and ensure accordance with regulations
- Improve the cost-effectiveness of production and guarantee timely delivery
- Protect the brand’s integrity
Traceability, and more precisely its benefits and influence on the electronics production industry, is definitely a hot topic and has been discussed in many science and research papers in recent years.
The main benefits of tracing PCB tiles and components:
- Lowering the scope and size of losses and product returns
- Allows for the precise tracing of all activities associated with production by registering all PCB assembly points and control points
- Allows the automatic association of suppliers, batches, and date codes with PCB serial numbers, thus allowing you to be 100% certain
- Eliminates assembly mistakes caused by incorrect placement of components by verifying the setups and programming of the machines
- Ensures instant awareness of changes in stock levels, which facilitates planning of supplies
- Having a traceability system can be attractive to potential business clients and opens the door to cooperation with those who list traceability as one of their basic requirements
Even though traceability systems improve production processes and reduce costs associated with product faults or incompatibility, financial costs and the value of the implementation of such a system are equally important business factors when making the decision to introduce one. Nowadays, such systems are relatively expensive, especially if one wants to gather information about all devices on the production line. Thanks to the ever-increasing popularity of such systems, there’s likely to be a drop in their cost in the near future, and thus they’ll become more affordable.
Most traceability systems include three main components:
- Hardware: the available types of hardware differ significantly in terms of capabilities and price. The basic devices, requiring minimal financial investment, are usually limited in their functionality. Speed, data storage, capacity, and connectivity are the most important elements of a hardware system which ought to be considered when adjusting investment levels to the required functionality of a traceability system.
- Software: software plays a key role in the general traceability system. It allows producers to use data gathered from the entire site in order to improve quality, efficiency, and compatibility.
- Labelling equipment: the final component of traceability systems is the method for labelling materials during the production process. The three most common methods are: labelling with barcodes, direct labelling, and RFID technology. Each method has its benefits and limitations.
Due to ever-increasing requirements – industry regulations, and regulations regarding warranties and returns – electronics producers have a lot to gain by using traceability systems. The direct and indirect benefits of such systems can help a producer stand out and compete in the market. Among the benefits of traceability are the improvement of the production process, control over the supply chain, minimisation of the risk of defects, and improved customer service. The value obtained through implementing a traceability system, together with avoided risks and costs, makes it a key mechanism for the producer who wants to improve transparency, efficiency, and the quality of their product. A traceability system can be tailored to a company’s needs and investment capacity. The most common traceability systems are introduced because of a client’s requirements, but the benefits of implementing one go way beyond this.