When a product or a component for a product is modified, there are ramifications along the entire process chain and beyond. After the update, it is essential that no components from previous revisions find their way back into the process, as this can lead to waste related to clearing up confusions.
The inherent risks due to Revision Updates causes a negative bias against improving the product.
Direct Part Marking allows for simple verification during critical assembly and packaging steps, ensuring 100% accuracy in detecting and rejecting any out-of-use revisions within operations.
What are the risks when you improve a plastic component?
Improvements happen all the time. A new polymer material is introduced, or a geometry is optimized to solve a practical issue. There can be many objectives to modify a component – reducing material cost, simplifying assembly or improving functionality are typical, but reasons also include new tooling advantages, modifications to assembly lines, changes in quality inspections, faster handling when shipping, etc.
Every component is made to be an exact fit with every other component making up your product. However, whenever an improvement is made, there is a risk that previous versions of that component are not properly purged from all storages, and can re-appear at any time subsequently. The risk is small when supply chains are short, but several aspects of modern production increase the risk.
- Buffering for minimal downtime: Minimizing downtime of the assembly line is achieved by increasing buffer size. Components are produced well before they are needed, and kept in storage.
- Sourcing from subsuppliers: Although communication with subsuppliers is solid, there is always a risk of misunderstandings along the path from supplier mould to assembly line.
- High product mix: The need to meet customer demands for customization can lead to small variations that can be hard even for trained operators to manage.
When revision updates are introduced in this scenario, the probability of receiving the wrong component, due to revision updates or other variations, is compounded.
For a successful improvement process, it is essential that previous revisions do not re-appear, as this could cause costly problems. In best cases, the line stops briefly while the problem is solved, but in worse cases assembly equipment is ruined.
Worst-case-scenarios include the unthinkable: shipment of faulty product to unknowing customers, which must eventually be recalled and replaced, and potential liabilities for damages.
Costs due to lack of revision management can include:
- Downtime for root-cause-analysis: while investigations proceed, the line is stopped. Line stoppage is among the most costly events in automated assembly.
- Wasted resources: All suspected previously assembled and packaged products become out of specification and must be reworked or discarded. Managing such an event can draw down many resources.
- Human: Employees are the heroes – when mistakes arise, they feel strongly responsible, and can become demotivated even though they are not responsible.
These risks arise every time a component is improved. The turn-over effort when updating a component, even slightly, includes the costs of clearing up or preventing all of these mistakes. As these costs can become very large, the cost-benefit analysis of improving a component is inherently balanced against smaller improvements and innovations.
All of these problems are addressed by Direct Part Marking, which strongly reduces the likelihood of mix-ups, by clearly marking every individual part with relevant information. imZERT markings can include information that identifies:
- Mould and Cavity number (implicit revision number)
- Lot number (exchange the imZERT)
- Revision number (explicit)
- Product / component identification
Placing this critical information on the part will enhance your productions capacity for innovation, by reducing the risk of costly mistakes due to mix-ups.