Customer Spotlight: Now Where Did We Put That?

Total traceability. The ability to trace something back from the purchaser to the very materials it was made from, machines it was made with and tools used on those machines. Now, that sounds a bit farfetched, even scary. Scary it may be, but farfetched it is not. Total traceability is already enacted in some places, and it is turning up the heat on accountability.

One area that is implementing total traceability is in ball bearing manufacturing. You might be thinking, ball bearings? What are ball bearings? (We had to look up what ball bearings are.) Why would someone want total traceability on ball bearings? Ball bearings are lubricated, perfectly circular balls in rings that allow rotary movement in vehicles, medical instruments and even printers (basically anything that needs to spin in circles). Ball bearing manufacture is a precision-based industry, where the smallest error can lead to large consequences. If a machine does not align their tools with the materials correctly or input the correct measurements and then the bearings were not perfectly made, a product may not operate as intended, leading to a potentially dangerous situation.

EIMINC® was contacted by a local manufacturer that needed to enact a total traceability system, but some of their equipment was so small and exposed to high levels of chemicals that they could not possibly label their bearings in a traditional way―containing all the necessary information―while still being cost efficient. Well what a surprise! (If you know us, then you know it really isn’t a surprise) We had the perfect solution for them―Two-Dimensional barcodes! What an ingenious idea. It was perfect for labeling their shims (those are the small metal inserts that impact the height and width of the ball bearings) and ended up demanding small 3/8th inch round labels. How could we make something so small? Well those 2D barcodes we mentioned can be produced in small sizes because they can hold massive amounts of information in smaller areas. They can even be scanned, with the information being added straight into a database system like Microsoft Access or Excel, analyzed and stored for later use. This is a great cost reducer because recalls on all products―even functioning products―is very expensive. Gee, isn’t technology great?

Label Set

So we went to print… the 2D barcode printed inside a circle. However, because the circles were so small, the labels started to fall off during printing and stick to our machines!   We couldn’t have that happen so we re-engineered them with a round die-cut label printed inside a square label that we swiftly dubbed the “Circle-in-a-Square 2D barcode”! The extra material around the round label can be either be thrown away or later have extra information printed on it in-house by the ball bearing manufacturer. This gave their organization even more information storage options.

EIMINC® has helped this manufacturer achieve total traceability through its manufacturing process by creating a specialized barcode to meet their needs. Total traceability systems―99.9% of the time―act as a normal barcode system by storing the information, analyzing it and keeping it organized. But when that .1% incident occurs, the manufacturer can be ready within minutes to locate the machine, product, or raw materials used in those affected products. This holds specific distributors, employees, and production technicians accountable for their work as well as the finished product. We helped this company keep its accountability high, keep costs low and customers happy. What a nice ending to the story!!

Electronic Imaging Materials