The biggest challenges hi-tech facing manufacturers today revolve around product variety. Producers not only need to keep up with existing production requirements, but ensure that they maintain backward compatibility in order to support device repairs as they arise. This is in a landscape where product specifications change continuously, with design cycles and selling shelf lives reduced to between 12 and 18 months to drive demand.
The TV market is a prime example, with the move from plasma to LCD, to LED to smart TVs and now to curved screens. And every time there is a design development, there is a need at a production level to accommodate and factor in the changes in the product manufacturing process.
And as we all know, the world of hi-tech manufacturing is like no other, with a myriad of small parts being merged together to create new entities. With the need to protect brand image and offer higher levels of customer service, there comes the requirement for a level of detail on each component of that larger entity. This is the only way to provide an effective replacement service, and understand what is driving failure rates and fallouts in service.
At the point-of-assembly, then, there’s the need to be able to define and identify every part and component, in order to develop a database for the product on the line, for the relevant serial number or date range of manufacture. The benefits of this go way beyond manufacturing and the assembly zone – if something breaks and you can’t repair it, your brand suffers and people won’t buy your products.
When components are traceable and you understand fall-out rates early in the cycle, it becomes easier to adjust production output and carry inventory on the shelf to cater for hot swaps and swap-outs to reflect in-service life.
Track and trace capabilities throughout the factory enable better planning inventory of warranty stock, along with service and replacement, given the items are serviceable and those that are non-serviceable. These are the things that drive costs and brand image. If a manufacturer experiences a screen blackout on a TV, they need to be able to bound the issue in terms of who has the inventory and what product recall needs to happen.
As more devices become connected, this starts to have an impact on in-field service technicians using mobile computers to carry out maintenance and repair work. For example, with a smart boiler that self-diagnoses, a technician can carry out a repair with the right parts on-hand, enabled by a prior understanding of the model number and its component parts. Mobile computing, scanning and print mean the technician can give the customer a printed job sheet and provide a label showing the next service interval. The failed part is returned to the manufacturer for MTTF or MTBF, driving more accurate warranty parts manufacture.
In this way, products and processes are known and covered right from point-of-assembly to in-service life and spares requirements. Track and trace gives manufacturers the ability to comply with the processes of engineering change and quality management, and print, scan and mobile computing capabilities connect at every point in the product lifecycle. The result is a watertight warranty process and a reliable service infrastructure that supports a robust brand image.Find out more about how Zebra can help you implement more effective track and trace.