Enhancing Quality Control with Part Traceability Systems

September 25, 2023


When it comes to quality management in manufacturing, the ability to track parts and products back to an original design is key. But with so many parts and products to keep track of, end-to-end traceability is only possible with the right traceability systems in place.

To help you find the right solutions for your manufacturing process, let’s take a look at what part traceability is, why it matters, and how to choose the right product traceability system.

How does part traceability work?

Part traceability (also known as manufacturing traceability) is the ability to track the location of both components and finished products throughout every phase of the hardware development and production process. It tells you which parts go into a product’s design and gives you the ability to find the initial designs.

By using traceability software and serial numbers, manufacturers can create a unique digital identity for each part and product so they can track their locations in real time.

This ability to easily track products and parts can provide many benefits in the manufacturing industry, including a more streamlined and transparent supply chain, better quality control, and a more efficient product recall and evolution process.

Challenges to solve

One challenge part traceability helps manufacturers to solve is that engineering teams often lack visibility into what happens to a product after its built. 

Part traceability gives engineering and manufacturing teams information about what happens to a product throughout its lifecycle. Being able to track a product enables engineers to identify the relevant design and quickly find the root cause of defective products. This information is needed to inform future product designs.

Without easily accessible information regarding what happens downstream, including testing, assembly, quality control, and maintenance, engineering teams can struggle to adapt and improve products over time.

How Duro assists with the part traceability process

Duro streamlines and simplifies part traceability. Engineers, supply chain managers, and manufacturers can track every component in a design and see what’s changed within a BOM as designs evolve. 

Additionally, Duro highlights the differences between revisions in terms of BOM structure, documentation, and sourcing with easily visible color coding so engineers can understand changes at a glance and make informed decisions about adapting designs.

Duro automatically captures all engineering changes into revisions and nested sub-revisions, providing a full report of all changes. This history log includes a timestamp and the author of the edits and captures this information for every part and product.

By enabling end-to-end part traceability, Duro empowers companies to take control of their manufacturing process and enjoy all of the valuable insights real-time traceability and visibility provide.

The two types of traceability

Part traceability includes both external and internal traceability. Which type you require depends on the location of the part or the product in the supply chain.  

External traceability

External traceability is the ability to track products, components, and raw materials after production. It helps identify quality issues that arise during transportation, storage, or handling. What’s more, it factors in product usage and customer feedback. Insight into a product’s lifecycle once it gets into the hands of customers is essential to enhance the product.

Internal traceability

Internal traceability involves tracking parts and products within the hardware development process, including both design and manufacturing. This type of part traceability is key for both process optimization and quality control. By having the ability to trace parts back to their source, companies can quickly identify and resolve problems and improve efficiencies in production.

Key benefits of part traceability in manufacturing

Traceability solutions like Duro help companies ensure product quality, speed up production times, and achieve supply chain transparency.

Here are some more benefits that companies can look forward to when implementing end-to-end part traceability:

1. Better control over the manufacturing process

Part traceability provides a comprehensive view of each component’s movement and utilization throughout the hardware development process. 

By tracking the origin and progress of individual parts, engineers can identify bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and potential quality issues. Using the real-time data provided by part traceability, companies can optimize their development and manufacturing processes to reduce waste and enhance overall productivity.

2. Reduced risk of legal penalties, recalls, and damage to the company’s reputation

2022 marked the second consecutive year that the United States recalled more than 1 billion units of food, drugs, medical devices, automobiles, and consumer products. 

Quality issues are never ideal; they present the risk of reputational damage. When a lack of quality assurance leads to recalls and legal penalties, the financial and reputational damage a brand incurs is especially costly.

Along with helping prevent recalls through better quality control, part traceability also enables companies to quickly identify and isolate affected products in the event of a recall so they minimize the impact on consumers.

3. Enhanced supply chain management

Part traceability enables companies to monitor the movement of parts from suppliers to the production line and, ultimately, to end-users. 

This end-to-end visibility empowers better inventory management, optimized logistics, and improved coordination with suppliers. As a result, part traceability allows companies to identify and eliminate supply chain inefficiencies, shorten lead times, and create a more agile and adaptable supply chain.

4. A streamlined recall management process

In the event of a product recall, it’s important to be able to quickly trace the origin of issues. 

Having the data to understand which parts are at fault, reduces costs and minimizes disruption to the entire production line. It also enables companies to be accurate and transparent when communicating with customers and regulatory authorities.

5. Valuable insights for continuous improvements efforts

Part traceability gives you a wealth of data which can help guide continuous improvement efforts. 

By analyzing traceability data, manufacturers can identify patterns, trends, and areas for optimization within their hardware development and manufacturing processes. This information can be used to improve product quality, reduce waste, and increase operational efficiency.

6. Faster product iterations

Part traceability speeds up the hardware product development lifecycle by enabling rapid iterations and prototyping. With part traceability, hardware organizations can precisely track the performance of individual parts and components during the testing and evaluation stages of product development. 

This allows for an efficient and data-driven approach to adjustments and refinements that can lead to accelerated product development timelines. As a result, companies can bring products to market faster and respond more quickly to evolving market trends.

Strategies for improving part traceability

Part traceability can offer plenty of benefits, but only when companies do it right. If you would like to improve your company’s ability to track parts and products throughout the supply chain, here are some strategies for improving part traceability:

Use the right tools and technology

Implementing tools such as RFID tags, serialization, barcode systems, and managing these details with traceability software all help with gaining full part traceability. These technologies enable manufacturers to monitor the movement of components throughout the entire production process.

Duro’s Product Lifecycle Management platform allows engineers and manufacturers to track parts back to original designs and clearly view historical information about the BOM. To see if Duro’s part traceability tools are right for your organization, book a demo.

Set up processes to help improve information flow from design engineers to manufacturers

You’ll need to establish effective processes that facilitate communication and data exchange between design engineers and manufacturers.

Setting up processes that enable collaboration between departments makes it easier to track part origins, production details, and any modifications. This may include centralizing product and part data as well as alerting team members to BOM changes via Slack.

Implement a standardized identification system

Assigning unique identifiers such as serial numbers allows for easy tracking from design to production, distribution and beyond. It makes it easier to link each part to its respective manufacturing processes and quality control checkpoints.

Collaborate closely with suppliers to ensure accurate information about parts

Working closely with suppliers is an important factor in achieving part traceability. You’ll be reliant on your suppliers for up to date information about the parts that you procure. 

Establishing communication channels with your suppliers will enable a reliable flow of information regarding part specifications, origins, and any changes to a part’s pricing or availability that might occur. 

Training and educating employees

Provide workshops for your employees. These training sessions should focus on the importance of part traceability, how to use software to track parts, and employees’ roles in maintaining accurate data.

You can ensure everyone within your company is committed to making part traceability a part of the company’s daily operations.

Find out how Duro can help improve traceability

Part traceability provides the clarity and transparency engineers and manufacturers need to make swift, informed decisions. If you would like to achieve end-to-end part traceability that is simple, automated, and reliable, Duro can help.

Duro makes tracking every component in a product effortless, giving you the information your engineering team needs to adapt and build products. 

To see how Duro empowers part traceabilitysign up for a demo today.

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