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The Importance of Traceability in Optimizing Production

Data collection and analysis are imperative to agile manufacturing. Looking forward, especially as production innovates, staying competitive relies on comprehending every aspect of a given process. Collecting the right data enables full traceability and understanding of your process.

Traceability is the capability to find and verify the complete history of production parts. Everything from the moment an employee scans in to start their shift to the product arriving in receiving can be tracked, analyzed, and reported. Traceability provides a “digital receipt” of every product that goes through a given process.


Traceability puts data into context

Modern digital devices are capable of recording all kinds of data ranging from step times to operator IDs, barcode scans, vision results, gauge values, serial numbers, and the dates and times that operators began and completed work.

On its own, this data can be cryptic and hard to understand, but with a full traceability solution, it can be compiled into reports and dashboards that give you a complete picture of your process and the individual products that pass through it.


Traceability improves quality

The reports and dashboards created as a part of your solution can provide a full traceable history of your product. Full traceability helps you to contain defective parts that were caused by a batch of raw materials, a faulty production machine, or a design defect. Once you find the first bad part, you can look up all other parts that might share the problem and proactively find and repair all affected parts.

In addition to making it easier to identify the root cause of defects after the fact, traceability efforts also promote accountability in your process and the operators that help make that process happen.

Having an operator scan their employee badge at the station when they start their shift, for instance, can remind them of their responsibility for making sure that they are performing their job correctly and with the care the product, and your customer, deserve.


Traceability informs better decision making

Data and reports generated to prevent defects can also be used to identify bigger problems with a process. Common problems that are found are excessively time-consuming and costly activities.

Fully contextualized data may also reveal problems that are difficult to identify with the data of a single device alone. Patterns can emerge that display challenges operators face, such as unnecessary actions that harm the ergonomics or safety of a task.

When operators are required to perform unnecessary or overly difficult tasks, they will find ways to make the task easier for themselves, sometimes in ways that are unsafe or cause quality issues. Identifying these problems makes it easier to solve them, meaning that operators can do their work effectively and comfortably.


Traceability makes compliance possible

Some industries, such as aerospace, defense, and medical device manufacturing mandate traceability in all of their processes. It’s imperative to know where a product has been, whose hands it has passed through, and that every step of the process was performed properly and safely.

Even in the case of industries that do not mandate traceability as a part of their regulations, having a fully traceable product promotes trust and improves the reputation of the product with its customers.

In many cases, customers may mandate full traceability of their supplier’s processes to achieve full traceability of their products. An ability to readily comply with these mandates may make a product or business more competitive to potential customers. A fully traceable process can also be used to determine whether or not quality problems may have occurred in other parts of the supply chain, protecting suppliers from liability for problems that they did not cause.

For companies that rely on products from many suppliers, traceability requirements can allow them to better understand where the components that make up their products have been, making them better able to ensure the quality of their products to their customers.


LightGuide Traceability

The LightGuide Systems database collects holistic manual process data that is not available from any other software. LightGuide provides bin pick data for kitting systems, including right and wrong bin picks with timestamps. LightGuide is also the only software that unobtrusively records step and cycle data as a part of the normal production process, rather than through time studies, eliminating any discrepancies caused by observation changing operator behavior.

LightGuide collects data from the digital devices it interacts with, such as torque tools, barcode scanners, gauges, scales, biometric scanning tools, and machine vision cameras, in addition to its own data on the manual processes at the station. This provides valuable context that can be used to provide a more complete picture of how that device was used, where, and any other data that device might provide.

LightGuide also provides the ability to take photos and videos of the station mid-process and stores them for later reference. These photos can be used to verify the quality of a product when leaving the LightGuide Station, or as a way of verifying that the work performed at the station was completed correctly. Operators can also verify personally that the work was performed correctly, providing a digital signature, through manual confirmations and text input.

Finally, LightGuide integrates with many other systems that aggregate data collected from factory floor devices, and from there can be exported to reporting tools and data dashboards, fitting into your existing data analytics workflow.


To learn more about traceability and how to apply it to your operations, please contact us for more information.

Current customers of LightGuide can access additional tips on traceability on the LightGuide Wiki account, on the Database page.