In recent years, traceability has become one of the fundamental themes of global trade, especially for larger industries which use numerous components from different subcontractors in their production processes.
That's why it’s essential for companies to find the most effective way to track their products and ensure complete traceability of all operations involved, from creation to delivery to the consumer.
Another reason companies are looking for the best traceability tools for their products is that traceability is now synonymous with improving brand perception on the market, increasing productivity as well as reducing management and maintenance costs.
Tracing a product involves marking it with an identification code thus making it a unique piece, different from any others in that category. These codes allow you to trace the product, manufacturer, date and place of production of the object, which makes it much easier to manage any malfunctioning problems and to identify handlers throughout the long and complex production chain.
For example, imagine being a company that outsources product assembly. Should a good percentage of these products turn out to be damaged once on the market, the product codes would mean we can find out straight away exactly where and when assembly took place (and consequently, the person responsible for malfunction).
alphanumeric serial codes have been used for decades for traceability because they are simple and easily legible: barcodes, which we all know, provide useful information on retail products and are the forerunner of 2D codes.
They were introduced in the information technology development era of the twentieth century, specifically in the 1940s, and these codes are particularly useful because they can be read automatically, reduce checkout times and also the risk of errors.
However, three decades after the '40s there was a problem concerning the amount of information to be codified, particularly for larger industrial productions that need to identify many more specific products and components. That’s is why two-dimensional codes were introduced to the market in the 90s and this often removes the need for separate external databases.
There are different types of 2D codes, including the QRcode and the DataMatrix, which have different characteristics and significant advantages. The DataMatrix code in particular is widely used in various sectors, such as automotive and medical, due to its ability to contain a huge amount of data in a very small space and its resistance to wear, making it durable and almost impossible to damage.
The importance of using the codes for traceability lies in the fact that they allow all product information to accompany it throughout all phases of the journey, right up to arrival at the final consumer. They are therefore more guarantors of reliability, which makes them the preferred method of tracing products in the industrial sector. Their application can be achieved through different processes, the most effective of which is laser marking.
This system allows you to keep track of your products by creating codes using the extreme versatility of ASCII characters and symbols, which can be modified directly within the software. Marking also places the code at a certain depth, which reduces the risk of damaging it and rendering it unreadable.
A large industrial production process needs to be integrated to save both time and cost. Laser marking systems are designed to be highly dynamic, integrated and configured according to the production chain, and connected to the software.
Laser marking is indelible and almost impossible to damage. This is essential where we need to get information about a damaged product or after a long period of time.
An automated process allows us to monitor data constantly so that we can access any information required for production or to make necessary changes before the next phase.
The laser spot is very small, which means it can also mark difficult to reach parts of the product.
Laser marking is more cost-effective than other traceability systems, given that there are no costs for maintenance or disposal of waste materials.
Laser marking guarantees very high precision even with complex geometric details.
Traceability plays a central role in the Automotive sector.
Although most of us own and drive a car every day, many are not aware of the sheer quantity of activities carried out behind the scenes during the production and diffusion of this type of product. Starting from research, planning and design right through to development, car parts go through many phases before reaching assembly, a process that involves more than 30,000 different parts.
Laser marking offers the best traceability solution for each of the vehicle components: whether they are made of plastic or metal, you can etch a permanent identification code: moreover, thanks to the size of its spot, the laser guarantees an optimal result even on very small or complex components.
Making components permanently identifiable via laser marking means manufacturers are able to follow the product throughout its life cycle. Thanks to the advantages of laser technology, 2D codes, Datamatrix, serial numbers, part numbers and date codes can be marked in a clear and permanent way on any type of component. Automotive companies are always pushing to implement traceability methods, especially since the industry is committed to increasing the safety and reliability of vehicles.
As mentioned earlier, the marked code can quickly and easily determine when and where the component was produced in the event of a component failure or withdrawal from the market. The code can also help make critical withdrawal and warranty decisions relating to other components produced at the same time or place.
Furthermore, the ability to trace parts during production or stock-take can help maintain high production standards, keep factory ERP systems up-to-date and provide "just-in-time" deliveries.