In the automotive industry, traceability requirements are nothing new, of course.
Thanks to a number of high profile cases and subsequent regulatory requirements, automakers have been addressing the impact of recalls for decades. But what began as a fairly narrow focus on critical components such as tires and safety features has broadened in scope.
Today, there is a clear expectation that automotive manufacturers must be able to narrow the field of vehicles impacted by a recall quickly. According to the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG), to achieve this goal all parties in the supply chain must improve traceability tools and systems.
As tier suppliers assume responsibility for larger and more complex portions of vehicles, automotive brand owners are exerting more pressure to ensure they have traceability systems in place.
But for tier suppliers, the track and trace system of choice hasn’t been clear.
Shorter automotive development cycles have forced suppliers to speed innovation and devote scarce resources to retooling. Unrelenting price pressure plus an unpredictable market have translated to limited budgets for capital expenditures.
Given available resources, a typical tier supplier finds it difficult to justify deploying a traditional Manufacturing Execution System (MES) – and the extensive underlying infrastructure and IT resources to support it.
Thanks to advances in fit-for-purpose software solutions, tier suppliers can now choose from more cost-effective traceability approaches than ever before. Needless to say, all options are not created equal – and establishing evaluation criteria upfront is critical to any successful implementation.
Here are three benchmarks tier suppliers should include when evaluating a track and trace solution:
1. Scalability and Future Proofing. Will the application meet today’s requirements cost-effectively? And will it expand easily to address future needs?
For example, these scalable software solutions address specific manufacturing challenges – and can start at the machine or work-area level with a single application.
The FactoryTalk Production application addresses the challenges associated with enforcing processes in manufacturing. It integrates with ERP – and tracks the order and recipe parameters necessary for production. The application not only provides functionality for track/trace and genealogy – but also supports end-to-end production management within a facility and offers a platform for continuous improvement.
And the solution can scale to an integrated MES as Return on Investment (ROI) is realized, thanks to additional applications built on a common platform.
2. Infrastructure Requirements. What IT resources are required for deployment? Are there options that can lessen the impact on capital and/or operational budgets?
Minimizing IT infrastructure investment is essential for any tier supplier. And fit-for-purpose applications require far less infrastructure than a full-scale MES. But determining the most cost-effective deployment option – in-house, cloud or hosted – is also an important part of the equation.
To meet suppliers’ diverse requirements, FactoryTalk Production can be deployed using in-house IT infrastructure or via the cloud to avert impact on capital budgets.
3. Usability. What skills are required to use and maintain the system once it is in place?
As any plant manager can attest, a system that is easy to use quickly reaps dividends. However, all too often, applications are selected without sufficient scrutiny regarding their impact on existing personnel. How affordable is a new application if additional skilled staff are required to maintain it?
For ease-of-use, FactoryTalk Production features graphical plant layouts that are fully configurable from a web-page type environment. And thanks to drag and drop functionality and build plan wizards, applications are designed to be maintained by operations personnel, not technical teams.
Take a new look at traceability.
Learn how you can achieve smart manufacturing with a scalable approach.
And discover how Rockwell Automation is helping automotive tier suppliers rethink production strategies.
Co-authored by Todd Montpas
Product Manager, Information Software, Rockwell Automation