Discrete Manufacturing

With today’s technology, visibility to work in process and finished goods inventory within a discrete manufacturing operation is typically accomplished using a manufacturing execution system (MES) where the additions and movement of items are tracked. The points where errors are typically introduced in these systems are related to having the procedures and trained workforce in place to reliably update the system of record at key touchpoints where items are added, moved or consumed.

    • In many cases the movement and assembly touchpoints are not located where data can be easily entered – a factory floor production line for example.
    • The workforce responsible for physically moving or assembling items is typically not trained or expected to perform complex data entry functions.
    • Data entry can be even more onerous and error prone if item-level or lot-level tracking is also required.

As a result, timely and accurate updates to the MES are not always made. The information it contains therefore degrades over time and may no longer accurately represent the physical inventory on hand.  Manual labor-intensive cycle counts must therefore be performed periodically to update the central information system of record with the actual inventory information.

There may also be missed opportunities to “error proof” key material movement and assembly touchpoints where incorrect parts, recalled items/lots, inventory processed out of sequence, or expired inventory can be detected. Detecting and correcting these types of errors immediately at the point they occur can significantly reduce the exception handling and rework processing required to correct them after the fact.

Attributes where discrete manufacturing item-level visibility is most needed

Examples of discrete manufacturing operations where item-level visibility is critical include:

    • operations that involve high value items with many assembly steps
    • maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) facilities that require many processing steps to be done over a period of time in a specific sequence
    • manufacturing of items that require a high degree of regulatory oversight and compliance reporting
    • manufacturing of items that require unit-level identification and tracking during the full assembly process
    • manufacturing of items with high-cost component parts and where an out-of-stock event has an associated large cost/penalty – example, the entire production line shuts down if a component part is not available
    • manufacturing operations that can benefit from mistake proofing the the assembly and finished goods tracking processes
    • manufacturing Items that are subject item-level or lot-level recall processing

How can RFID or barcode scanning help?

A RFID or barcode scanning system can augment the existing MES by automatically detecting and reporting the movement and consumption of items during the manufacturing process – thereby eliminating the need for manual data entry at points in the assembly process. Simply moving an item from one station to another during the normal material processing flow allows the system to track the items.

Timely and accurate reports can be automatically generated based on policies configured in the system for each item. The quantity and location of items are maintained in real-time.  Scanning touchpoints can be located on the company’s manufacturing floor, supply rooms, warehouses, or any other location within a company.  For remote inventory visibility scenarios,  scanning touchpoints can also be installed in remote locations with the remote scanning equipment connecting to a central Spotlight server over the Internet.

Depending on the items being tracked, individual items may be tagged and scanned, or in the case of small items and other consumable supplies, reusable bins may be scanned as items are processed. In either case, the item-level visibility information needed is reported in real-time.

RFID technology can allow “hands free” detection of item movement.  For examples, RFID portals can be configured at choke points to automatically detect the movement of items between one physical zone and another with no operator interaction required. RFID-based kiosks can installed at manufacturing stations to scan items as they’re processed. Minimal or no staff training is required to use the system.  Barcode scanning, while not completely hands free, is a simple operation that also requires very little training or data entry skills.

“Error proofing” logic can be added at key manufacturing touchpoints. For example, an alarm can be signaled immediately if an incorrect part is scanned, an item is moved to the incorrect location, a recalled item is scanned, or an out of order manufacturing step is performed.  Alerting the staff to correct the error immediately at the time it occurs can significantly reduce the exception processing and related overhead that otherwise results to correct errors later in the workflow.  Real time metrics and key performance indicators are also available from the tracking system to support continuous process improvement.

In summary, RFID or barcode scanning can augment an existing manufacturing execution or MRO system by automatically detecting and reporting the movement and processing of items.  Depending on the client’s specific discrete manufacturing requirements, S3Edge can deliver a turn-key tracking solution that meets their needs.

Business Benefits

Reduce assembly errors

Reduction of errors associated with attaching wrong components on the assembly line

Improved finished goods handling

RFID and barcode scanning can Improved quality, efficiency and productivity during the finished goods shipping process

Reduces exception processing

Real-time item visibility allows timely and accurate reporting of errors so they can more easily and cost effectively be corrected.

Reduces staff training and labor for data entry

RFID and barcode scanning replace much of the manual data entry for regulatory reporting.

Enables ``error proofing`` the manufacturing process

Allows errors detected at key points in the manufacturing process to be immediately detected and corrected.

Reduces component parts inventory and floor space required

Allows smaller quantities of component parts inventory to be maintained on hand without the risk of stock-out

Example Discrete Manufacturing Projects

Do you have a discrete manufacturing project you’d like to discuss?