When people ask me what I do for a living and I say “I sell industrial identification equipment and solutions for traceability” it’s not unusual to get a blank look and immediately asked “what’s that?” As soon as I mention VIN identification and car recalls they get it and we talk further about the many places that marking is around us.
Whether you realize it or not, marking is more in demand today than ever before. While automotive and food related recalls may be what people are most familiar with, the marking applied to the products we use every day are vital to business’s bottom line and the safety of us, the users.
Industrial identification helps to insure the correct components are being assembled, or track the material, date of manufacture – even as far as what line or operator was involved in the production. Construction is made simpler when structural steel sections are marked with piece-part identification helping the operator insure beams are correctly erected. And in our personal lives it helps insure medical processes are associated with the correct patient – including the traceability of devices used in the procedures.
Depending on where I am when in these discussions it is easy to find examples of the marks that surround us all the time. At a restaurant, look at the utensils or the condiments; in your yard (where I like to be the best!) look at the shovels, rakes, hatchets; or in your home check out the appliances, door hinges and locks. When you are at the mall you probably don’t give much thought to the way-finding signs or identification for fire alarms, AED’s or other emergency related devices, but without them we would be lost in times of need.
More and more industries are requiring products to be marked with machine-readable codes that can be quickly scanned to obtain critical data, or to minimize liabilities that impact the risk associated from material defects, operational design failures or like circumstances.
How the product gets marked takes into consideration the type of material being marked, the amount of information that needs to be marked, at what point in the production the marking will be done, and the cycle available to apply the mark. While direct-part marking is the most permanent identification, some products may be at risk with these processes. Therefore, labeling or tags may be more applicable. Options for the adhesives and/or retention devices are available, and again take into consideration the application and environment for which the component will be used.
Now that more and more parts are marked with the addition of bar codes, organizations often struggle with how to capture and use the data. Smart devices and bar code scanners that interface with databases allow quicker capture of the data. Recently I worked with an organization that incorporated a laser to mark the metal tag on a valve at their testing station rather than marking where additional part handling would have been required. They were able to apply the bar code with other product details once the product passed the test. And yet another project I was working on incorporated a thermal transfer printer in the testing station. Through the machine communication that was able to trigger the marking details, these organizations were also able to capture the pertinent test information about the product that might arise in the future.
As industry requires marking more often, I must admit that marking and traceability of products has never been more exciting.
How can I help you mark your part and capture the details?