Building Quality through Part Traceability

Automotive supplier ByTec helps a tier-one customer attack warranty costs by leveraging the track and trace capabilities in a Web-based MES


Using Plexus Online, ByTec certifies the quality of each UCB, provides traceability back to each subcomponent and manufacturing step, and delivers the statistical capability of each container of parts. If any problems occur, they can be tracked down, understood and permanently corrected in a systematic way.

The Glyph — Direct Part Marking

The original approach to the ByTec project involved laser-etching an encrypted serial number of each part directly onto the steel surface of each part. However, the laser-etching did not survive a 96-hour salt spray test and other reliability checks. Plexus eventually solved the problem using a specialized Mylar label from 3M with advanced adhesive properties that enabled it to stick to metal. The label approach turned out to be far less expensive (requiring a label printer instead of laser equipment), and, most importantly, the specialized label passed all reliability tests with flying colors.

Each part is identified with a unique serial number. The serial number is encoded into a specialized symbol called a glyph, a unique symbology from InfoGlyph USA. Similar to the standard data matrix symbology, this square, two-dimensional bar code contains the information ByTec needs to identify and track the part, encrypted into a unique mark. One of the advantages of the glyph symbol is that up to 80 percent of the mark can be destroyed and it can still be decoded.

Another advantage to the glyph being encrypted is that it offers counterfeit protection, helping to address another growing problem in the automotive industry. The encrypted serial number allows ByTec and Visteon to verify that it is a genuine Visteon part and not a knock-off. This ability further helps with warranty costs. OEMs are finding it increasingly unpalatable to pay warranty, quality and safety costs on the failure of components that they didn't even make. The Plexus Online solution, combined with the InfoGlyph technology, solved that problem for ByTec.

Control Plans that Actually Control

Inventory control is essential, but quality starts with engineering and quality planning, and it continues with the implementation of process control on the shop floor. At ByTec, the Plexus Online system controls the engineering specifications (dimensions and tolerances), the routing, the approved machines, the failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA), and the control plan, the setup and operation instructions, and all other aspects of the manufacturing process.

In the past, in a typical manufacturing company, the control plan was a piece of paper or an Excel spreadsheet that the quality manager updated the night before an auditor came. It served no real purpose other than to pass an audit or hoodwink a customer. With Plexus Online, the control plan is an integral part of production and actually controls the process on the shop floor. The quality documentation is not an after-the-fact nuisance, but the mechanism by which the parts are made.

With the Plexus solution, operators on the shop floor use a touch screen called the "Control Panel." This acts as a sort of "operator portal," providing the operator an easy-to-use interface with everything he or she needs to do the job properly. The Control Panel provides information to the operator, but it also controls incoming source material and outgoing production, validates tooling and fool-proofs the process.

Via the Control Panel, the information in the control plan is displayed as operator check sheets that provide setup instructions, process instructions, measurement data collection and SPC. The check sheets also support pictures and drawings, color coding and other features to make them even more effective.

"The Plexus Online system prevents us from working on a part unless everything is properly set up, the correct raw material components are present and all our inspections are done," said ByTec's quality manager. "I know it sounds simple and like it's common sense, but it's a big reason why we are not making the mistakes of our competitors."

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