Tracing Parts, Avoiding ProblemsSat, 09/01/2018 - 10:31
Traceability is crucial in manufacturing processes. Everything from beer bottles and aspirins to electric cables and piston rings needs a code to tell its story. Knowing the history of a defective unit can help manufacturers to identify where things went wrong in the production line, both solving the problem and retiring that batch from the market. “Coding systems are just as important as any other machine in the production line,” says Constantino de Llano, Director General of Domino Printing Mexico. “They better work if the line participates in a critical process that cannot be stopped.”
Domino Printing Sciences is a UK-based developer and manufacturer of industrial printing equipment and consumables. In Mexico, Domino Printing’s native industries are pharma and food and beverage but the company has also entered the automotive industry through its complex printing solutions branch. At first glance, automotive could seem a sour bet for a company like Domino given the difference in production volumes between this and the food and beverage industry. “The number of items that a soft-drink company needs to code daily is greater than the number of components that an auto parts company produces in a year,” says de Llano. However, a system that uses special inks or machines is complex and robust and thus requires a different support structure that not every coding equipment manufacturer is willing (or capable) to offer.
“We started printing on cables and electric harnesses, saw the opportunity to specialize and jumped to printing on auto parts,” says de Llano. Domino Printing has specialized in the automotive industry by developing special inks for labeling, as well as dedicated equipment depending on the product being marked and the specific needs of clients.
Mexican manufacturing companies, however, tend to place minor importance on coding systems in their lines, according to de Llano. “This is a mistake,” he says. “A production line can only be as robust as its weakest link.” Coding systems are secondary production equipment and normally are seen as accessories within production lines. This can prevent companies from harnessing all the advantages that keeping a tight control on processes through digital means can bring.
Contrary to production machines that can offer little data, coders are capable of gathering real-time information on production when connected to a company’s systems. “ERPs and coding systems go hand in hand and should work simultaneously,” says de Llano. This has proven to be a challenge in Mexico though, mainly due to the price-sensitive nature of the market. “Instead of focusing on price, manufacturing companies should be focusing on how robust the system is, how easily its consumables can be supplied and how reliable it is to prevent unwanted stops in production.”
The price factor might not be eliminated but Domino has learned to approach potential customers by highlighting uptime, availability and technical support. The company’s technology has proven to be an advantage thanks to its flexibility in coding different components and materials. “Coding on plastics or metals can be done using laser or ink but components such as cables can only be coded with ink,” de Llano says. Because of the lifecycle of auto parts, de Llano says Domino sometimes needs to create inks that can stand high temperatures, abrasive conditions, dust and other harsh settings.
As Industry 4.0 continues to permeate the Mexican automotive industry, de Llano says Domino has also taken several steps toward taking advantage of this trend and enabling companies to be more flexible through coding solutions. All the equipment the company launched in 2017 is fully compatible with Industry 4.0 needs and de Llano expects to add more digital-friendly features to future products. “Our new equipment can not only connect with other systems but also gather data, upload it to the cloud in a standard format and make it available to clients.”
Domino Printing plans to grow hand in hand with the automotive industry and increase its market share. De Llano points out that as more OEMs start asking suppliers to mark their components, companies will become more open to Domino Printing’s solutions. “We will grow and increase our market share according to the evolving needs of customers,” he says.