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How does ERP help turn barcoding into the assembly worker's best friend?

Bar coding saves a lot of time for manufacturers

In a previous blog post on the value of ERP-powered lot tracking processes in the electronics manufacturing industry, we talked about quality control and assurance. Integration also made the cut, since advanced ERP solutions allow businesses to share valuable lot tracking information with everyone who needs to know about it - QC investigators, inventory managers, production supervisors, repairpeople, even the number-crunchers in the finance office.

That's all well and good, but how does barcoding - the tool that makes lot tracking with ERP so effective for upper-level strategizing - help assembly workers on the production line? Plenty, so long as employees have a trusted ERP system backing them up.

Smarter time management

The punchclock is dead. Long live 21st-century time management tools.

smarter time management for fabrication assembly

Barcoding beats traditional time reporting any day.

Lean manufacturing practices are all about standardization to reduce variability. Manufacturers focus too narrowly on production, however, and not the gray area between work and non-work - lunch breaks, the end of a shift and the like. In the precious seconds employees take to clock out, their employers lose small but valuable opportunities to reclaim efficiency in an industry plagued by tight margins and fluctuating demand.

Barcodes change all that. With the ability to clock out right from the station, production lines take advantage of the full potential of their teams. But with ERP, this technology does far more. It has the power to give businesses data-driven insight into how each assembly worker performs, how much time they take to perform a given task, where common hang-ups lie, etc. and identify top performers so they can be evenly spread across shifts to promote stable, reliable production 24/7.

Barcoding as bookmarking

When it comes to staying organized when assembling consumer electronics, the odds are not in the production line's favor. Trends like miniaturization push builds to the limit - according to Electronic Products, holes and line widths on printed circuit boards have experienced drops in size as high as an 80 percent and processor dyes fell from an average of 90 nanometers to 14 in the last 10 years.

Trends like miniaturization push builds to the limit.

That makes for some itty-bitty product components. But consumers constantly expect new tech to do more with less, so as the pieces shrink their numbers per product grow. Furthermore, as businesses push into emerging markets, there is no precedent to base assembly SOP around. As exciting as it is to blaze new paths, the potential for assembly error is high when workers lack the guidance necessary to carry out tasks efficiently.

By scanning a barcode after every step, workers track exactly where they are in the process, what pieces have already been added, what comes next and which assemblages have undergone testing. For that kind of accuracy in the past, workers would have had to keep meticulous, handwritten or typed notes, which decrease time spent doing the thing that needs doing. An ERP system is what organizes all the scanned barcodes into actionable sequences.

Take human error out of the equation

Accidents happen. While there's no foolproof way to insulate such complex assembly processes from any minor hiccup, barcoding helps reduce one significant risk to uptime: human error.

No matter how well employers train their assembly staff, keying mistakes, "fat finger" typos and other common issues with manual entry will always affect their bottom lines and the quality of the data. Scanners and barcodes take this threat off the table while also reducing the time needed to report defective components at the assembly stage. ERP provides the end-to-end integration required to disseminate this important data through the right channels.

In the end, pairing barcodes and ERP helps production improve throughput and take time without sacrificing quality or drowning in a sea of big data. But most important of all, this innovative combination empowers assembly workers to perform at their utmost and contribute real value to both their direct team and the company at large. 

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